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"Derby beat Sunderland and Leighton James scored off the underside of the bar. I stood near the corner flag towards the Normanton End and had a great view of the goal," he said.

in 1976 and still recalls the game at the Baseball Ground.

"It is of Kevin Hector," added Arto. "I remember thinking he looked a good player in the picture and I liked the battering Ram (Derby's badge on their shirts).

Nike Lebron Xiii Low Black

Nike Lebron Xiii Low Black

"I enjoyed my first visit very much and we worked it so we could watch three games.

"Maybe that was the spark for me because no one where we lived really knew about Derby back then.

They watched three consecutive home matches against Birmingham City in the FA Cup and Preston North End and Swansea City in the League.

flying visit: Arto Keisalo (above left) and Jari Vaine, travelled from Finland to watch Derby County play at Pride Park. Nike Zoom Elite 7 Women'S

Arto, now 50, was a footballer in Finland from the ages of 19 to 31 and spent one season in the top division with HJK Helsinki.

"There was also our compatriot, Simo Valakari, who played midfield for Derby. He might not have been a star but he did a good job for the team," added Jari, who is 49.

"I have been following the Rams since 1975. Derby were the best team in England at the time and my friend, Arto, already followed Derby. At school, we started to discuss the Rams and then one day I realised I was following Derby too," said Jari.

"That was my position," he said before adding: "Derby's team has settled down now, mostly at centre back with Shaun Barker and Jake Buxton, which is very important."

Little did Kuqi realise how much he upset two fellow Finns when he headed Swansea's winner.

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They do not discuss the fortunes of HJK, Finland's biggest and most successful club, nor does the conversation turn to Manchester United, Arsenal or Chelsea despite worldwide interest in the English Premier League.

Arto Keisalo and Jari Vaine have been following the Rams since the 1970s, an era when the club were twice champions of England in four seasons, first under Brian Clough in 1971 2 and then Dave Mackay in 1974 5.

Arto cannot remember how he became a Derby fan.

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"I think the club chose me," he said before telling me about a special picture he still has from his younger days.

" It was more Manchester United and Leeds, even though Derby were one of the most dominant teams in England."

And that's what they did last week and they popped into the Derby Telegraph offices to tell us about their visit.

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Nike Lebron Xiii Low Black

Nike Lebron Xiii Low Black

Arto has been over many times but for Jari it was his first visit.

first impressions of Pride Park Stadium? It is amazing and the atmosphere I couldn't believe. It was great.

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"That season HJK finished third, which was not good because the expectation is that HJK should win the League," said Arto, who spent most of his career in the First Division, the second tier of football in Finland.

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Some years later, Arto and Jari hatched a plan. They decided they would celebrate the year of their 50th birthdays by travelling to Derby together to watch the Rams.

The only other time Jari had seen Derby live was in a pre season friendly when Jim Smith's team visited Finland ahead of the 2001 2 season.

He started out as a striker, dropped back to midfield and then Nike Lebron Xiii Low Black to centre back.

"For me, Derby have always felt like a family club. It is not an institution like Manchester United or Arsenal, it is interesting in that way," said Jari, who picks Dean Saunders as one of his all time favourite Rams players.

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The club they discuss and the one closest to their hearts is Derby County.

Kevin Hector (left) holds a special place in their affections . Kevin Hector (left) holds a special place in their affections . Their fellow countryman Simo Valakari (right) played in midfield for the Rams.

Arto first came over to watch Derby Nike Lebron James Xiii Low

"We saw Derby play well against Birmingham and Preston, and there was added interest for us in the Swansea game because our compatriot, Shefki Kuqi, plays for Swansea."

Finnish friends are keeping tabs on the Rams from afar

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Nike Lebron Xiii Low Black

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