Antti Niemi (footballer)
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|Full name||Antti Mikko Niemi|
|Date of birth||31 May 1972|
|Place of birth||Oulu, Finland|
|Height||1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)|
|1999||→ Charlton Athletic (loan)||0||(0)|
|1999–2002||Heart of Midlothian||89||(0)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
Antti Mikko Niemi (born 31 May 1972) is a retired Finnish footballer who played as a goalkeeper. He also worked as a goalkeeping coach at Brighton & Hove Albion during the 2014–15 season. Niemi spent much of his playing career in the Scottish Premier League (with Rangers, Heart of Midlothian) and the Premier League (with Southampton and Fulham), and in 2008 announced his retirement due to injury. However, in 2009 he returned to sign for Premier League club Portsmouth, although he did not make any appearances before leaving in 2010.
Niemi was born in Oulu, Finland and began his professional career with HJK Helsinki, where he made over 100 appearances in four years, before transferring to FC Copenhagen in 1995. Impressive performances over the next two years saw a transfer to Scotland with Glasgow club Rangers, where he became the first and only player to wear the number 13 shirt for the club in their Scottish Premier League history.
Niemi moved to Edinburgh to join Heart of Midlothian in December 1999. He became a hero for Hearts fans in the three years he played at Tynecastle. He put in some fantastic performances which helped Hearts maintain their status as one of Scotland's best teams outside the Old Firm. Niemi also became famous in Scotland for his ability to save penalties, demonstrating this skill when saving from Dundee United's Charlie Miller and Dunfermline Athletic's Scott Thomson. Niemi also played in European competition for Hearts against opponents such as Stuttgart.
Upon his retirement, Niemi recalled his time at Hearts, quoting: "it was all good. Looking back, everything went so well – it was a lovely club, the team was doing well, I was playing well and we had a good manager in Jim Jeffries".
After three seasons in Edinburgh, Niemi moved to Southampton in 2002. He played for Southampton in the 2003 FA Cup final against Arsenal, which the Saints lost 1–0; Niemi became the first goalkeeper to be substituted in an FA Cup final when he was replaced by Paul Jones during the game due to a calf injury. In a game against Fulham in the 2002–03 season, he came up for a corner in injury time with Southampton trailing 2–1. The ball fell at his feet and he crashed a shot against the crossbar, and Michael Svensson was able to turn in the rebound, salvaging a draw. In March 2004 he saved a Michael Owen penalty to help his team to a 2–0 win over Liverpool. There was much speculation regarding Niemi's future at Southampton with a host of leading Premier League clubs rumoured to be interested in his services, such as Manchester United and Arsenal. After Southampton were relegated in 2005 and failed to challenge for promotion in the following season, Niemi decided to return to the Premiership with Fulham, for whom he signed in January 2006. Niemi would describe being relegated as a "first bad experience in British football".
Niemi was badly hurt in a freak accident during a match against Watford on 1 January 2007 when rushing out to head the ball; he toppled over his own defender, Carlos Bocanegra, and landed on his head. He was taken from the field of play on a stretcher after ten minutes of treatment, but was later cleared of any spinal injury. He was released from hospital later that night with only ligament and muscle damage to the neck.
He remained Fulham's first choice keeper until 1 March 2008, when, following injury, he was replaced by Kasey Keller. On 3 September 2008, it was announced that he had retired from professional football due to a wrist injury.
Despite announcing his retirement from the game the previous year it was confirmed on 28 July 2009 that Antti Niemi was in talks with Portsmouth. On 7 August, Niemi confirmed he had signed for Portsmouth on a one-year deal as backup to David James and to work with the goalkeeping coaches. On 24 March 2010, he was released from his contract, without making a single appearance for Portsmouth's first team. It was reported that Niemi earned almost £450,000 during those eight months with Portsmouth.
Niemi was first choice for the Finnish national team for almost a decade, before announcing his decision to retire from international football in 2005, but returned to the roster in 2007 playing a friendly game against Spain (0–0). He was capped 67 times by his country before this. On 2 March 2010, Niemi joined Finland's national team as a goalkeeping coach.
Niemi began his coaching career as the goalkeeping coach for the Finland national team in March 2010. On 3 January 2013, his first club and reigning Veikkausliiga champions HJK announced that they had appointed Niemi as the club's goalkeeping coach and that he would continue his duties with the national team.
- "Antti Niemi". Barry Hugman's Footballers. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
- "Hyypia Appoints Backroom Team". Brighton & Hove Albion F.C. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
- "United and Hearts end all square". BBC Sport. 7 April 2001. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
- "Hearts keep Euro dream alive". BBC Sport. 19 April 2002. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
- "Antti's Farewell". Fulham F.C. 3 September 2008. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
- "Svensson saves Saints". BBC Sport. 15 March 2003. Retrieved 16 August 2009.
- "Southampton 2–0 Liverpool". BBC Sport. 14 March 2004. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
- "Fulham expect quick Niemi return". BBC Sport. 3 January 2007. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
- "Keeper Niemi announces retirement". BBC Sport. 3 September 2008. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
- "Niemi completes Portsmouth move". BBC Sport. 7 August 2009. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
- "Niemi paid £450k for 90 minutes on bench". Eurosport. 31 March 2010. Archived from the original on 5 April 2010. Retrieved 31 March 2010.[dead link]
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 22 February 2012. Retrieved 2010-03-31. (in Finnish)
- "Antti Niemi maalivahtivalmentajaksi" (in Finnish). hjk.fi. 3 January 2013. Retrieved 11 February 2013.
- Antti Niemi at Soccerbase
- Profile at ESPNsoccernet.com
- FootballDatabase provides Antti Niemi's profile and stats
- Profile at londonhearts.com