Match Preview: Looking for the Third Promotion in Three Years

Tomorrow our long season will come to its climax away at Rauma, when we play for promotion in a single-match playoff. The home team FC Rauma finished second in Nelonen in the Satakunta district, and are serious about wanting to move to higher divisions. Two busloads of supporters will travel from Tampere to the match, a distance of about 140 km (80 miles), and when those who travel by cars are added, the full size of the group might very well exceed 100 people. In any case, it will be the largest away contingent that we have seen in the TamU-K era.

Many have said that this is the biggest match in the short history of TamU-K. For me it is a toss-up between this one and the promotion match two years ago, when we got promoted from the bottom division Kutonen. Back then getting promoted was more crucial for the future of the club – some might even argue it was important for the mere survival of the club – but this time the tantalizing prospect of getting three promotions in three years is a big factor. In addition, Kolmonen is the last division that is not a national one. Getting there is a big deal, because it would mark the end of phase-one in moving our club higher – and of course the start of phase two, which will inevitably be much slower.

But we should not get ahead of ourselves. There is practically nothing that allows us to compare the strength of our team against that of FC Rauma. We can only assume that the teams will be pretty evenly matched, and that small margins will decide the result on Saturday. If the match is tied after 90 minutes, it will go straight to a penalty shootout without any extra time. The mere thought makes me shudder.

We go into the match after two weeks of training very well. Word from the practice field is that attendance has been high and everybody has been very motivated to work hard. We will also have almost all of our best players available for the match, and word is that there might even be a surprising come back after a longer absence. Who that player is has not yet been revealed.

For me tomorrow is all about having fun. About enjoying the ride. And the result too, hopefully. Matches like this do not come along that often, and it is important to savor these moments. Recently with TamU-K it might have seemed they do, but should we get promoted tomorrow, who knows when the next one will happen.

For one player this will be the end of the road. Namely, Ilkka Innola has told us that this will be the last match of his career. The majority of his career was played in Kakkonen (third tier): 108 matches in total. He even had one match in the second tier Ykkönen and 49 in the fourth tier Kolmonen. Before 2012 he had not played a single match in the lower divisions, but with TamU-K his tally was six matches in Kutonen, sixteen in Vitonen, and six this year in Nelonen. His importance to TamU-K’s success in the past three seasons is beyond comparison in my opinion. Innola is also hugely liked and respected among the team, and will wear the captain’s armband on Saturday. I doubt any of our players needed additional motivation for the promotion match, but I’m sure that playing for Innola and helping him win his final match provides some.

The match kicks off at 5 pm on Saturday at the Äijänsuo Stadium in Rauma. The buses from Tampere leave at 1 pm, giving plenty of time to prepare for the match after the two-hour ride to Rauma. We will get together at a bar, and then march together to the stadium. Fun times ahead.

For the supporters the fun starts tonight at Klubi, where we will have another TamU-K Support Night with a great lineup of bands. Unfortunately the players won’t be able to attend this one, but even in their absence both the club and the supporter group Sinikaarti are planning to announce the recipients of a number of awards for the best players in 2014. After that the bands will play. Going to be a blast!