Past Player Interview | Jani Uotinen

Past Player Interview | Jani Uotinen
by Jonathan Mitchell

Former Morton favourite Jani Uotinen revealed that the biggest regret of his career was failing to put pen to paper on a three-year contract offered to him in his time at Cappielow.

The Finnish midfielder spent two seasons at the club between 2002 and 2004, in which time he made 64 appearances and scored 11 goals as well as helping the Ton to the Third Division title.

He has always kept a keen eye on the club’s fortunes and made his first return to Greenock since leaving over a decade earlier in order to take in a crunch top-of-the-table clash with Stranraer back in February 2015.

The 40-year-old was delighted to see Ton claim an important victory and told how many fondly held memories came flooding back while sat watching the action from the directors’ box beside chairman Crawford Rae.

Uotinen said: “It was an exciting match. Both teams needed the points, especially Morton – and they won it, which was the most important thing.

“Everybody was happy at Cappielow, and I was happy and even got a little bit involved during the game, supporting Morton because they are my former team, of course.

“Everything happened so fast when I came here. Janne Lindberg told me Morton wanted a midfielder and he had recommended me. I came over, had a trial, did well and signed for two years that summer.

“Being back at Cappielow again brought up so many memories, and my best memories come from 2003 when Scotty Bannerman scored and we beat Peterhead 1-0 to win the Third Division.

“I still remember it all very well. There were 8,500 here and it was a great atmosphere. I came on as a sub and I remember how nervous the last five minutes were.

“We were kicking the ball anywhere, but we survived. I can still remember the feeling of excitement waiting for the trophy to arrive in a helicopter. It was a good night!

“I was 24 or 25 at that time, my best age as a footballer, and realised how much I had developed as a player when I returned to Finland. I saw a difference.

“The tempo was higher here and we had a good team with good players at Morton. We played good football and the training was of a high standard. It was good times, good memories.”

Uotinen eventually left at the end of the 2003/04 season and his departure is a source of regret for him. He explained: “Sometimes I think I should have stayed in Scotland longer. That’s the one thing I regret as a player.

“I had a chance to sign here at Morton for three years during my first season, but for some reason that I can’t remember I didn’t just sign it. Maybe that extra year could have made the difference.”

At that stage Uotinen returned to his homeland and played for the likes of MyPa 47, Rakuunat, VPS Vaasa and VIFK before retiring in 2009.

Since hanging up his boots, the former Under-21 cap has gained his UEFA Pro Licence and worked as a head of youth at VPS, FC Jazz, for whom he also had a spell as caretaker first-team boss, and current club SJK.

He added: “My confidence was down when I left Morton and I just felt like maybe it was time to go back home and try and play some football again.

“I did well and actually helped MyPa win the Finnish Cup in my first season back there, and then moved to VPS and won our version of the Scottish Championship with them.

“When I stopped playing I moved into coaching and I really enjoy everything about it. It’s so different to playing; it’s a 24/7 job.

“Even when I am on a holiday in Scotland, I have watched football all the time. I wanted to see old friends and to see football.

“I went to watch Morton’s Under-20s play Ayr on the Tuesday, I went to see Celtic against Inter, I watched the Morton first-team and youth teams train and finally the Stranraer match, of course.

“But I love to do that. To be a good coach you have to educate yourself all the time, because there are a lot of good coaches and the competition is getting higher.”

 

Image: David Bell