Interview: Sakari Mattila

Image: Fulham FC

Sakari Mattila played a handful of games for Fulham during the 2015/16 season. The Finnish International struggled to make an impact in SW6 & quickly found himself in limbo as Kit Symons was replaced by Slavisa Jokanovic. Daniel Smith spoke to the midfielder to learn more about his Fulham experience…

DS – Did you always want to be a footballer & who were your footballing heroes growing up?

SM – Yes, I’ve always wanted to be a pro since I started playing at 5 years old. I have always liked Beckham and Zidane.

DS – How did the transfer to Fulham materialise, had they been scouting you beforehand & was it an easy decision to move to England?

SM – My agents first phone call about the Fulham interest was one week before the actual signing. As far as I know, at least one game had been seen live in Norway. It was a really easy decision for me and a dream come true.

DS – What was Kit Symons like as a manager and how would you describe your relationship with him?

SM – Kit Simons was really friendly and easy to approach as a person and as a manager. His training was nice, and I feel like he was a good manager to have, especially for me to get to know English football. We had a  normal professional relationship.

DS – Were you frustrated by the lack of opportunities at Fulham?

SM – Of course there was frustration when I didn’t play. This is normal and I always tried to do my maximum so that I can look back saying it wasn’t because of lack of trying. We had a massive squad with a lot of pressure and the manager situation wasn’t the most stable at that time.

DS – Some quickfire questions for you now Sakari. Who was the most talented player?

SM – Emerson Hyndman.

DS – Player that stood out in the academy?

SM – Luca De La Torre.

DS – Biggest joker?

SM – Ross McCormack.

DS – Biggest moaner?

SM – Ryan Tunnicliffe.

DS – The leaders in the dressing room?

SM – Scotty P & Richard Stearman.

DS – How does Fulham’s facilities at Motspur Park compare with what you are used to at your other clubs?

SM – I felt that Fulham’s training ground was really good and to a high standard. It’s really hard to find something similar in any other countries I have played in.

DS – When Kit Symons was sacked, there was a large period until Christmas where we didn’t have a manager. How unsettling was this for the squad at the time and did the players discuss it amongst themselves?

SM – Like I mentioned earlier, it was a confusing time in the club. Of course there was lot of questions in the air and people talked about possibilities. But I think it ended up well for the club and Slavisa Jokanovic was worth waiting for.

DS – What was training like under Jokanovic?

SM – Jokanovic’ training was good. Ball related drills even when it was about physical work. It looked like his football philosophy was highly influenced by Spanish football.

DS – Who were your closest friends at the club and do you keep in touch with anyone?

SM – Obviously Joronen, Kacaniklic, Madl and Bodurov, Lonners (Lonergan) as well, just to mention a few.

I am in contact with some, we mostly communicate on social media.

DS – Have you experienced a football Stadium like Craven Cottage before?

SM – I feel that the Cottage is a very special place, nothing compares to it. I have played in bigger stadiums but not in as historic as CC is.

DS – How about the standard/style of Championship football? How does it compare with the other leagues that you have played in?

SM – The Championship is physically demanding in terms of the number of games but also because of the size of the players and intensity. Also set pieces played a big part. In italy for example, it was much more of a tactial focus than in England.

DS – What’s it like to represent your country and is there a particular highlight in your international career so far?

SM – Finland games are special. I have personally been able to share this experience with lots of good childhood friends so that has been bigger than any result itself. Maybe, the biggest highlight was the first time to play in “our version of Wembley”, the Olympic stadium in Helsinki. That was massive.

DS – What are your ambitions for when you retire, do you hope to remain in football in some capacity?

SM – I hope I can keep on going for a long time, but when the time comes I feel like I could give much to younger hungry footballers and teach what being a professional means. Something related to that maybe.

DS – Finally Sakari, pie or pasty, which filling?

SM – Apple pie