Finnish national team stopper Hannu Tihinen, known in his homeland as ‘The Iceberg’, will have to be circumnavigated with care by the attacking crew of the good ship England when the two countries meet in a World Cup qualifier at Anfield this month.
Tihinen should certainly be confident about facing England. Since joining West Ham on loan from Norwegian side Viking Stavanger last December, the 24-year-old has proved himself more than a match for the cream of Premiership strikers.
He was particularly impressive in his side’s against-the-odds FA Cup fourth round win at Manchester United, who were continually repelled by a heroicHammers defence in which a resolute and unflappable Tihinen was quite outstanding.
‘To playat Manchester United was a dream come true for me, but to win there was fantastic,’ said Tihinen, who won the Finnish League with HJK Helsinki in 1997 and played in the 1998-99 Champions League before moving to Viking in December 1999.
‘I would very much like to stay at West Ham when my three-month loan comes to an end. Things have gone well for me. West Ham have some brilliant young players and it’s so exciting to play in the same team as them. I’d like to play a part in West Ham’s future, as this side can only get better.
‘In my opinion, West Ham have as good a midfield as any club in the Premiership. I’m not surprised Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Michael Carrick were picked for the England squad against Spain and it would be great to meet up with them internationally.’
No doubt West Ham manager Harry Redknapp would like to take Tihinen on permanently. However, there are complications. Apart from the current uncertainty over transfers, a number of other Premiership clubs – with Middlesbrough reportedly at the head of the queue – as well as Milan are said to be interested, too, and Viking have been revising his price-tag accordingly. Before moving to West Ham, the defender was said to be worth œ2million; now Viking want double that.
If fortune seems to have smiled on Tihinen since coming to England, it has made a change from the misfortunes of recent times. Brann Bergen pipped Viking to the runners-up spot in last season’s Norwegian championship, then Odd Grenland beat them 2-1 in the Cup Final, with Tihinen giving away an own goal.
So, there were no Viking conquests for Tihinen. But anyone who can emerge victorious from the gladiatorial arena of Old Trafford is no mean warrior.
Club West Ham (Eng)
Born July 1, 1976, in Keminmaa
Previous clubs HJK Helsinki, Viking Stavanger
International debut June 1999, v Turkey
International caps 15 (1 goal)
Honours Finnish League 1997; Finnish Cup 1996