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Killie job a formidable challenge for Mixu Paatelainen

New Kilmarnock manager Mixu Paatelainen
Paatelainen will have to rebuild a small squad at Rugby Park

By Fraser Wilson and Stevie Miller

Mixu Paatelainen was far from subtle during his days as a battering ram of a centre forward for Finland and a host of British clubs.

And there is no grey area when it comes to his new job as Kilmarnock manager.

With the Ayrshire club in a precarious financial position, survival in the Scottish Premier League is the only remit for the 43-year-old former Hibs boss.

The mission is simple. However, it promises to be a tough task.

There are only 14 first-team players on the books and those same ledgers show a debt of about £11m.

And having narrowly avoided relegation last term, the player budget has been cut by 25% to £1.5m for the forthcoming campaign.

The drop to Division One is not an option chairman Michael Johnston or the Killie fans can contemplate without real fears for the club's future.

And that is one of the reasons Johnston was so thorough in his search for a replacement for Jimmy Calderwood.

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Since losing their short-term manager at the end of May, Johnston interviewed no fewer than 12 candidates for the vacancy.

Paatelainen was not the first choice, since Steve Kean proved to expensive to lure from his coaching post at Blackburn and Thomas Haessler rejected the opportunity for family reasons.

Gus MacPherson was hotly tipped to return to the club he served so long as a player but it is to the big Finn that Johnston has turned.

Paatelainen had two spells as a player at Easter Road and replaced John Collins as manager at Easter Road, leading the Edinburgh side to two consecutive sixth-placed SPL finishes in a 16-month period.

However, there was much grumbling from the fans, who bemoaned his long-ball tactics, and he left at the end of the season 2008/09 season by mutual consent.

His first taste of management was with Cowdenbeath where he won the Division Three title at the first time of asking.

He then resigned his post at Central Park to take over at TPS Turku, and steered the Finnish side to third place before moving to Edinburgh.

Quietly spoken off the field, his time in the Easter Road dugout was marked by several nose-to-nose confrontations with other managers and there is no doubting Paatelainen has not lost the passion he displayed as a player.

Mixu Paatelainen during his Hibs playing days
Paatelainen was a popular figure as a player at Hibernian

"I'm not naturally an animated character and I'd like to think I have mellowed," he said on his first day in the job.

"But I'm sure there will be times where I get over-excited. Football gets into your blood, it's hard to contain your feelings."

Inheriting such a threadbare squad may be an advantage, since the new man will have the chance to stamp his mark on the team but he will need to replace reliable defender Simon Ford and top-scorer Kevin Kyle, who have moved on under freedom of contract, along with several others.

"There's a great opportunity for players to come to the SPL and play," explained Paatelainen. "I have contacts down south and in Europe and I'll look to use these when we're looking at players."

And Killie fans can take heart from their new man's track record in spotting talent.

During his time at Hibernian, he signed Sol Bamba, now at the World Cup with the Ivory Coast, and Colin Nish from Rugby Park, as well as bringing former heroes Derek Riordan and Ian Murray back to the club.

But cash on that level is unlikely to be at his disposal this time, so he needs to use his tactical and motivational skills to get the best out of the players he can find.

His success at Cowdenbeath suggests he has skills in those departments but his so-so record when stepping up to the top flight will leave a few supporters worried.

More than 10,000 attended's Killie's tense relegation decider against Falkirk in May, about double their average attendance.

He will require the backing of as many of these fans as possible during what promise to be testing times.



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see also
Paatelainen named as Killie boss
23 Jun 10 |  Kilmarnock
Calderwood splits from Kilmarnock
31 May 10 |  Kilmarnock
Paatelainen parts with Hibernian
29 May 09 |  Hibernian
Paatelainen is new Hibs manager
10 Jan 08 |  Hibernian
Paatelainen makes Finland return
25 Oct 06 |  Cowdenbeath


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