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3.5.2005
10 things I learned in the Premiership

ďItís a different world, you can do whatever you like now, your life will never be the same againĒ, everyone said when we got promoted to the Premiership. I feel bit cheated because itís been nine months, yet the story is still the same: I can see from the mirror the same old ugly duckling. The Premiership doesnít make you a beautiful swan. Fairy tail or not but it teaches you many things though. ďWhat are the differences?Ē, Iíve been often asked. Probably many. But here are at least ten things what I have learned in the Premiership so far.
1. You get punished harshly.
Donít mis-kick it or give away a half chance, donít be out of shape even for a second, never loose your concentration. Mistakes are not human in the Premiership, they are crucial. You just canít get away with anything, there are no second chances. So many times we have felt weíve played well and been as good as the opponent but still have left with nothing. Unlucky is not a word you like or believe anymore when you hear it too often. 89 minutes of good play counts for nothing, any sole situation can crucify you. That is why a Premiership striker costs so much more than Sunday league wannabes, because he delivers every day of the week.
2. ďDonít you know who I am?Ē, wonít get you in to night clubs.
I was told that the Premiership status will open every door. Maybe my name or face is too difficult but people are not even giving it a second look. Me neither. I donít think and donít even want to know if the ďIím a Premiership playerĒ Ėcard works. There are no other priviledges either: parking attendants donít respect your higher division status and mercilessly clamp your car and you have to queue in the supermarkets as normal. So donít believe anything about the Footballers wives Ėprogram.
3. Team shape and defending are crucial.
Even the champions, Chelsea, base their game on this, actually are best at it. You need to be a compact unit, you need to have a good team shape and game plan in the most competitive modern football, and it all have to start from defending if you want to succeed. Not conceding goals makes your season. The inventive, lovely and attacking pure football is not likely to win anymore, it remains an admirable utopia of Arsenal.
4. Youíll have more friends.
True friends are found out when you play against the big boys. They call you out of the blue, tell how nice you are and how well youíve played in the Premiership and more importantly that they are free when you are playing against Man Utd or Arsenal. They think they are so kind volunteering coming to see a game and they want to discuss with you about Rooney or Gerarld. Didnít hear from them when we were playing Rotherham. They are Premiership friends.
5. You canít hide.
Every game, every small incident and feeling is widely reported and debated. There are too many cameras and eyes watching, no matter what you do, it can and will end up at the spotlight. A nasty tackle, a rude word, a great game or a skilful goal will not be unnoticed, they are all in the television, papers, radio, wherever youíll go, and you have to answer to it. There are no hidden corners, everything is found out and highlighted.
6. Set pieces are extremely important.
Free-kicks, corners and penalties are key moments. When the margins are small, little things decide the winners. Open play and possession are unlikely to win you a game. But if you can bend it like Beckham you already have an advantage. The crucial points are won or lost at set pieces and by specialists of them.
7. You can sometimes get Molton Brown -body wash with your bath.
In the Championship you were lucky to get warm water and a toilet that didnít smell like last months Chinese takeaway but in the Premiership there can be luxuries you donít have at home. Stadiums, players, dressing rooms, car parks, shampoos, everything are bigger and better in the Premiership. You can smell the work of money everywhere.
8. Donít give the ball away.
The Premiership you have more time with the ball than other English divisions. The game is more European, based on possession and organisation. If you give the ball away there is every chance you wonít see it for a long while. I think sometimes against teams like Arsenal you should play a multiball system: give another ball for the weaker team so they could also feel they were actually playing football.
9. You get your name related to weird things.
You live like in a constant Big Brother House, camera is on all the time. Your name and life is a public property. Whatever youíve done or even tried is going to be noticed and published. Normally by whatever magazine for whatever reason. Just because Iím a blond foreigner, writing for a paper and an average Premiership player I have been chosen for at magazines for example top 100 craziest footballers of all time, starting eleven of gamblers and most eligible men from Finland. Why? I donít know.
10. It is still football.
Football can be played and seen in many different ways and levels. Still no matter what division or park game it is, the feelings, the rules and the starting score are still the same. You donít go out there thinking that you are a Premiership player. You go to play football. You play passionately and compete no matter what game it is. Because every game is competitive, fun and unpredictable. That is why it is the best sport in the world.
These are not the only things Iíve learned in the Premiership. Or the most important ones. Donít read them like ten commandments, they are just what an average, blond Premiership player with a clamped car and too little points on the table has experienced this season.


Aki


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