JJK Jyväskylä are targeting a campaign of continued progress as they begin their second season in the Finnish top flight.
Promoted to the Veikkausliiga for the first time in autumn 2008 – becoming the first club from central Finland's Keski-Suomi region to appear in the First Division – JJK escaped relegation last term thanks to two play-off wins against Kokkolan Palloveikot. However, they have made a bright start to the 2010 campaign with victories over Tampere United and VPS Vaasa.
"In the first season after promotion, everything is new and wonderful and that often carries the team through, whereas the second year tends to be more difficult," said coach Kari Martonen. "Last year, however, was difficult and we feel we're now starting our first season in earnest."
Martonen succeeded Ville Priha over the winter, when JJK also moved to reinforce their playing staff – signing experienced centre-backs Juha Pasoja and Jarkko Okkonen, midfielder Touko Tumanto and forward Mikko Hyyrynen. "They are all important recruits who have good experience and will bring a lot to our squad," said Martonen.
"We are at the beginning of a process and our goal this season is to stay in the league. Gradually we're trying to create our own style, so we can raise our level and become permanent members of Finland's top division. This takes newcomers maybe three years and we're just starting our second season."
As recently as 2006 JJK were in third tier. Their two promotions have caused widespread changes on and off the pitch. "It's been a rapid development and a challenge for the whole organisation – three years is also our estimate for the club to adapt," said chief executive Joni Vesalainen. "Since we came up we have had a long-term plan to be able to challenge the top clubs, but we don't expect that to happen before 2012 – maybe 2013 or 2014. There is also a danger in things going too well, too soon. We may not be sufficiently prepared for success."
JJK's growth spurt has resulted in increased attendances, although Vesalainen is not satisfied yet. "The budget has risen considerably, but the attendances even more – from an average gate of 600 a few years back it was over 3,200 last season," he said. "That was the third-highest figure in the league, even though we won only two home games. The support is good already, but people like winners and the more success we have on the pitch, the bigger the crowds will be."
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