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Page last updated at 10:20 GMT, Tuesday, 2 June 2009 11:20 UK

Will Hibs miss Mixu?

Mixu Paatelainen lasted just 16 months at Easter Road
Paatelainen lasted just 16 months at Easter Road

By Keir Murray

Mixu Paatelainen's exit from Hibernian was the third managerial departure in five days from a Scottish Premier League club.

With Gordon Strachan walking away from Celtic and Aberdeen's Jimmy Calderwood ousted at Pittodrie, half of the top-six teams go into the close season without a manager.

The pressure of delivering success at a football club is evident.

The suddenness of Paatelainen's exit from Easter Road was such that some of his players have said, publicly at least, that they were shocked by the news.

Perhaps, then, we should not read too much into assistant manager Donald Park's decision on Monday to take up the post of head of coach education at the Scottish Football Association.

Hibs fans were willing to give Paatelainen a chance when, in January 2008, he took over the Easter Road hot seat vacated by John Collins.

These were supporters who had watched their team play with an attacking brio, often bordering on the reckless, under previous incumbent Tony Mowbray and with fond memories of Alex McLeish's reign, when Russell Latapy and Frank Sauzee were pulling the strings.

Collins embraced a similar philosophy and, although performances were patchy - as they were under Mowbray, his crowning moment was a bravura performance in the final of the 2007 League Cup when Kilmarnock were demolished 5-1.

Paatelainen's efforts as a player in the green and white allowed him some breathing space in which to deliver attractive, winning football.

His 12 goals in his first season after signing from Wolves helped the club win promotion from the First Division.

MY SPORT: DEBATE

And when he scored a hat-trick in a 6-2 thumping of Hearts in October 2000, at times defying gravity to launch himself at balls - though his return to the Leith turf would worry seismologists - he was on his way to legendary status.

There are many groups more virtuous than football fans, but most supporters would accept this without blinking if it meant their new team boss produced thrilling football within a fortnight of his appointment.

Paatelainen steadied the ship and quelled the dressing room unrest that bedevilled Collins' latter months in charge.

Like this term, Hibs finished in sixth place at the end of Paatelainen's half season at the helm.

This season was when the fans would judge their manager and it got off to an awful start, with two 2-0 defeats by Swedes Elfsborg in the Intertoto Cup before the opening drive had been struck at The Open.

Subsequent defeats in friendlies by Barcelona, Middlesbrough and Wigan did not offer the fans much by way of a yardstick to measure progress and pre-season losses at Clyde and Cowdenbeath spread the whiff of panic.

A mixed bag of results in the league and a Co-operative Insurance Cup exit at the hands of Morton did nothing to ease the anxiety.

Hibs did enjoy two league wins and two draws against Hearts in the league campaign, but their interminably long wait to win the Scottish Cup was extended by their fiercest rivals in January.

Mowbray had to sell Garry O'Connor and Derek Riordan as Gary Caldwell and Ian Murray moved on under freedom of contract. Collins waved goodbye to Kevin Thomson, Scott Brown, David Murphy, Steven Whittaker and Ivan Sproule.

Derek Riordan and Steven Fletcher
Riordan and Fletcher are among the best strikers in Scotland

Neither man was given a sniff of the substantial funds raised and this prompted an exasperated Collins to quit.

Paatelainen saw talented midfielders Guillaume Beuzelin and Dean Shiels depart for higher wages in the Championship, while Steven Fletcher and Rob Jones are almost certain to be sold this summer.

That should once again raise a significant sum and it is understood the hulking Finn would have seen little of the money to rebuild his squad.

This apparently enraged the manager, who demonstrated his volatility with regular puce-faced outbursts on the touchline, in sharp contrast to his passive demeanour in media interviews.

But with just 19 wins from his 62 matches in charge, would Paatelainen have been trusted to invest wisely and take the team forward?

He did some good business in bringing Murray and Riordan back, while John Rankin was a useful addition and Sol Bamba has become a fans favourite in the role of midfield destroyer.

There is more than a nagging feeling that a team with arguably Scotland's best striking partnership, Fletcher and Riordan, should have fared better, and, with season-ticket renewals sluggish, chairman Rod Petrie and his board did not bend over backwards to keep Paatelainen.

And so he walked, bringing broad smiles to the faces of many fans who had grimaced at the primitive, long-ball tactics on offer in the past 16 months.

But for others, reflecting on occasionally stirring home performances against the Old Firm and staring blankly at the list of candidates from England's lower leagues, they may feel 'Paatelainen' is the last big name they'll see at Easter Road for a while.



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see also
Paatelainen parts with Hibernian
29 May 09 |  Hibernian
Park exits Hibernian for SFA job
25 May 09 |  Hibernian
Hibs braced for more player bids
21 May 09 |  Hibernian
Hibs boss cool on Jones exit talk
17 May 09 |  Hibernian
Burnley, Lokomotiv track Riordan
15 May 09 |  Hibernian
Paatelainen backing Hibs recovery
27 Feb 09 |  Hibernian


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