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Viljami Sinisalo: One Special Year ❤️

Hear from City's No.1 ahead of his final appearance

24 April 2024


Viljami Sinisalo: One Special Year ❤️

Hear from City's No.1 ahead of his final appearance

24 April 2024

Saturday’s match against Oxford United will draw the curtain on Exeter City No.1 Viljami Sinisalo’s season-long loan at Exeter.

Vil joined the Grecians back in the summer from Premier League side Aston Villa and quickly became a fans’ favourite for his performances between the sticks, and his passion for the club through thick and thin.

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Saturday will be the 50th and final time that Vil will put on a City shirt, and he goes into the match with 14 clean sheets under his belt, looking to make it 15.

The Finnish international brought a sense of calm to the backline that has gone on to Finnish the season in incredible form, nine unbeaten ahead of the visit of Oxford.

Ahead of Saturday, we caught up with Vil to chat about a season of consistent performances, dressing room unity and his love for the City fans.

"It’s been the most enjoyable time of my football career to date, said the Finnish shot stopper. "It’s been a time I will always remember and be grateful for to all the people who made it possible.

"It’s been a season of ups and downs; we started incredibly well and went on a run that me and a lot of others in the changing room have never been on and we came out the other side of it looking to Finnish the season on a high."

21-year-old Vil joined City in July 2023, cancelling his holiday to come down after international duty. He turned up at 6am on his first day full of energy and excitement, having done his research on his new club.

"I knew quite a bit about the club having spoken to Ollie Watkins at Villa and others before signing and I didn’t hear anything bad about the club, it was all positive. I came and trained for three days in pre-season and the welcome I received from the players and coaching staff was incredible. I felt 'this is it' that it could be a really good season for me as I’ve been given the platform to come and develop and I instantly felt the love from the whole club."

Vil had previously been at League One side Burton Albion for a season-long loan during the 22/23 season, but after finding himself third choice, his loan was cut short in January 2023.

"My loan at Burton was cut short so I was so eager to come and show that I can perform at this level and even higher, said Vil.

"My aim is to play in the Premier League one day and however I get there I need to go through some certain steps, so I was grateful to be given the opportunity and platform to develop and play and learn from mistakes. From day one I was given that opportunity."

"I want to play for Aston Villa, that is my dream, and I won’t shy away from that. Playing for Villa in pre-season was brilliant and just makes you think 'this is what I want' and hopefully one day I’ll be lucky enough to play for them."


Vil’s first taste of action in goal for City came in a pre-season friendly against Torquay United at Plainmoor on July 22. A fiery encounter saw Pierce Sweeney sent off with City losing 4-1 to their National League South rivals.

"It was a difficult start; I trained once before the match and was getting to know the lads. It’s never nice to lose in the manor we did against local rivals. It was fiery and set the tone, it wasn’t the best start but I’m glad it came in pre-season and wasn’t the first game of the league season."

Pre-season allowed Vil to settle in with his new teammates, and he felt at home in Devon quickly, thanks to the warm welcome from everyone at the club.

"I had only been to Exeter once before with Burton, but I’ve loved it here. It's a lovely area and I've never been in such a good changing room. Even though we went on a 13-game winless run in the league, everyone is in it together and buying into everything we are trying to do, and I think now, since the turn of the year it shows that hard work was worth it."

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Vil was joined by friend and international teammate Ilmari Niskanen in pre-season as he signed with City. It was the first time Vil had played domestically alongside another Finnish player and that really helped him to settle in.

"Ilmari’s smile is infectious – he’s such a professional and does everything right, he is one of the nicest men I’ve ever met in football. He comes in with a smile on his face every day and it was great having another Finnish player in the team with me.

"It’s special to see the City flags on away days. I saw them first at Burton and felt ‘wow’ they’ve really brought into us. A couple of weeks ago when we had the Finland flag up and black armbands after the terrible shooting, I felt this is so special."

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The season kicked-off with a trip to Wycombe Wanderers. Quickfire goals from Jack Aitchison and Will Aimson found City 2-0 up after just four minutes, going on to win 3-0 and getting off to a dream start.

"It was an amazing start to the season, and I feel it set the tempo to how we hit those first ten or so games. It was brilliant, the travelling support on that day and every single away game was amazing and I thought at the time we had a chance of doing something special."

A month later and City headed to Vil’s former side, Burton Albion, where a 1-0 win saw City go top of the league.

"Me and Ilmari flew to Kazakhstan the next day and the whole journey we were wondering what we can do here, but not getting carried away, we were loving our time. I remember it was roasting that day and it’s always special going back to your last club and getting a clean sheet made it sweeter."

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What followed, no one would have predicted. A win-less run in the League ran to 13 matches, with things just not going for City, but the team didn’t panic during this tough period.

"It was a difficult period; I’ve never experienced that and hope that anyone in the changing room doesn’t again. It just felt like things weren’t going our way. Football is a mental game and when you get into the spiral of not winning it’s difficult to get out of it, you almost need something special to get out of that, but we all stuck together, and you can see from the run since New Year’s Day that it’s brought us a lot closer.

Sandwiched in the run was an incredible night under the lights at St James Park, as City battled with a back six for the first time against newly promoted Premier League side Luton Town.

Demetri Mitchell’s strike in the 83rd minute and some heroic defending from the whole team saw a famous 1-0 win and sparked incredible scenes at the Park.

"The Luton match will always be one of the highlights of my career – playing a team two divisions above you under the lights. It felt special. After the game I was in the car with Ryan Trevitt just listening to songs, letting it all sink in on what we had just achieved. I’ve never felt that pleased after a game, it was special, the fans were special that night."

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With the highs come the lows, and November 25 was a day to forget for City, but also one that they were keen to make sure did not define the season, as Bolton Wanderers scored seven without reply at the Tough Sheet Stadium.

"It was the toughest day of my career; you want the ground to swallow you up. We were on that difficult run, and it was just after the international break where I had made my competitive debut for Finland, and two days later you are losing 7-0 away at Bolton.

"We weren’t at the races that day and it felt like we hit rock bottom. We got together and dug deep, and I remember three days later we played Shrewsbury at the Park and got a 0-0 draw which was important to get that clean sheet.

"You felt guilty towards the fans who made that long trip to Bolton, they support us through thick and thin. You learn so much from it and hopefully no one at the club experiences anything like it again.

Christmas is a time for celebration and City came into Boxing Day looking to give the Grecian faithful a late present. After three months without a win, Academy graduate Sonny Cox netted in the 65th minute. Some resolute defending saw City hold on until Harry Kite was adjudged unfairly to have fouled in stoppage time, and the referee pointed to the spot.

Time stood still at the Park as City fans braced themselves to see the unbeaten run continue. Wycombe’s Luke struck a strong penalty low to the keeper’s right – but it was no match for Super Sinisalo who went the right way and saved the penalty with an outstretched hand, heroics at the St James Road end which sparked wild scenes around the ground.

"I think we saved that penalty as a group. What we had gone through for the previous 100 days, I felt like everyone in the stadium deserved it.

"The first thing that went through my head was that it was never a penalty, then you are thinking 'this could be a bit of a moment here' and luckily enough my research with Kevin Miller and the goalkeepers paid off.

"I was speechless at full time as I’ve not experienced anything like that, and I remember Cheick pushing me towards the Big Bank and I felt I’ve come a long way. We did it together and we certainly deserved it."

Having picked up a strong point to league leaders Portsmouth on December 29, City would go on to lose to Reading and Blackpool on the way to facing Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Stadium in a match that is remembered for the conditions on the day – and Sonny Cox’s winner!

"It's part of coming on loan – I’ve never experienced conditions like that, the wind really helped us that night and we showed a lot of character to hang in there second half against the wind! We dug deep and that set the tone for the rest of the season. It was another moment that I’ll always remember."

The win at Bristol Rovers sparked a run of three straight wins which started to push the club up the league table and towards safety. A crucial win over Shrewsbury Town and Burton helped the cause even further.

"Even during the poor run we never thought we were in trouble, there is so much quality in the changing room, which you’ve seen since the turn of the year, so I never really worried about that side of it.

"I always had the confidence that we are good enough, the management side are good enough and the fans are good enough to achieve way more than that, it was nice to officially be safe though."

City hosted Burton Albion on March 16, with City going a goal to the good through Reece Cole, before having Zak Jules sent off during the half-time break. City would hold on for a fantastic 1-0 win and three points, and the manor of the win showed just how far the team had come.

"It’s mentality and shows how together we are and are willing to help if someone makes a mistake, you help your mate out, and that’s all from how the win-less run helped us out, we are one big family and I’ll cherish that I’ve played with people as good as I have. It’s a special group of people which is in to me the most important thing.


City head into the Oxford United match on Saturday on a nine-match unbeaten run, having last suffered defeat away at Peterborough United on March 2. This run is a testament to the club’s backing of the manager and the players and has been achieved by the whole club pulling together.

"We’ve always said it’s the process and it’s always the next game that we focus on and how we and Exeter City want to play. The process of getting there has sometimes been difficult but with that you get the highs and that is what we are seeing on the pitch now, it’s come from the bad things we experienced, and all the good things come from learning from that spell."

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One true constant for Vil was the support of Goalkeeper Coach Kevin Miller, a man who has played for City and at the highest level and someone who believed in Vil from day one.

"Kev has been massive for my development. We have pushed each other. I want to go into every game with as much information as I can. I’m in the office with Kev going through clips Monday to Friday. That way there are no excuses ever if you know everything about the opposition.

"Kev has been brilliant with me in installing confidence, especially after the tough year last year. I’m going into games feeling brilliant and that I should play well, and that is massively down to Gary too. Having a manager that believes in you and gives you a platform is massive, and I can’t not mention our GK Union. I’ve worked with Shaun, Harry and Woody who have been so supportive."

At St James Park this season you will have heard 'Super Sinisalo in Goal' being sung from all home areas of the ground as Vil struck up a real friendship with the fans.

"I think there have been four songs over the season. It’s been brilliant and it will be a bit emotional on the final day. I can’t believe how the fans have been with me, from the first moment. I’ve never had anything like it and hopefully I can get more of it in my career, but it’s a special football club I’ll always remember and always be grateful for.

"I’ll go back to Villa and when people ask me about the club, I’ll only have good things to say, there is not a single bad thing about this club. It’s the most enjoyable time in my career.

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Ahead of Saturday’s final match of the season, Vil has a message for the fans that have supported him and the whole team on this roller coaster of a season.

"It’s been amazing. I look at this place and all I see is happiness and those moments after wins when we are celebrating with the Big Bank and hearing those songs. It will my last time clapping the Big Bank and it’ll feel emotional.

"It’s a football club I’m forever grateful for and the least I can do is say thank you on Saturday for how much support I’ve had this season."

Watch the full interview ⬇️

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