Muurinen returns to HJK Helsinki
José Mourinho could feature in Portuguese coaching squad against Finland
One of the worst-kept secrets in Finnish sport was formally revealed on Thursday with the announcement that Antti Muurinen will be taking over the helm of HJK Helsinki, currently languishing dangerously close to the bottom of the Finnish Veikkaus League.
Muurinen therefore makes a return to HJK, the club he took to the Finnish title in 1997 and into the group stages of the European Champions League in 1998/99 - the one and only time a Finnish side has achieved this feat.
He comes back to the capital from Lahti, where he has been managing FC Lahti since he was dismissed as head coach of the Finnish national team in 2005. He held that job for five years, trying unsuccessfully to guide Finland to the finals of two World Cups and one European Championship.
Muurinen will have plenty of work to do at HJK: the 100-year-old club has not enjoyed the best of seasons, and this culminated in the recent sacking in mid-campaign of their British-born coach Keith Armstrong.
One interesting detail of the move is that Muurinen's present and future charges must meet in Helsinki on October 7th.
Defeat for HJK is not really an option, as the club are only a few points clear of the relegation zone. FC Lahti, meanwhile, are in 5th place and still harbour some hopes of grabbing a chance to qualify for European football next year.
Just over a thousand miles away, another football coach whose name begins with M (and sounds not unlike "Muurinen") was also preparing to move. José Mourinho, the Portuguese manager of Chelsea, has received his marching orders.
Officially the club and its highly successful manager parted company "by mutual consent", but there has long been friction between Mourinho and Chelsea's Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich.
A mediocre start to the Premiership season and a downright poor first European Champions League match against Rosenborg of Norway apparently proved the catalysts leading to Mourinho's departure.
What makes the announcement interesting and worthy of comment in this paper is that many are speculating it could have a "Finnish dimension".
Pundits have suggested that Mourinho could be drafted in to coach the Portuguese national team in their last four UEFA 2008 qualifying matches. The Portuguese head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was given a four-match ban by UEFA for improper conduct after an incident in Portugal's recent 1-1 draw with Serbia.
Finland's last qualifying match is against Portugal in Lisbon on November 21st.
Previously in HS International Edition:
HJK sack manager Keith Armstrong (6.9.2007)
HJK Helsinki (site in Finnish)