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16 of 032 Bruno Aguiar 41 L SPL A

Paatelainen recognises value of players with derby passion

Published Date: 18 October 2008

Hibs fans in the team add an extra ingredient in derby, says manager

SO HOW do you go about winning the Edinburgh derby? What is the best way of getting on top in a game which is played in a frenzied atmosphere?

Do you try to ride the tide of emotion or resolve to remain rational? Do you go for the calm or the kamikaze, for insanity or serenity?

Earlier this week, Gary Mackay, the former Hearts player who grew up supporting the Tynecastle club, said that although at first he had actually been too emotional to play to his best in the fixture, a commitment to the cause was crucial. Those players who did not understand the importance of the game, the midfielder insisted, would be lost.

Yesterday another ex-player from the other side of the capital's divide offered a similar analysis. The Hibernian manager Mixu Paatelainen played for his employers for four seasons, and experienced the highs and the lows of the derby. He is convinced, like Mackay, that while it is possible for some of the participants to become too frantic, a willingness to match the opposition for physical endeavour is critical.

Above all, Paatelainen argued, that willingness comes from having men in your side who support the club and therefore have an innate understanding of how much the match means. "You want local boys in your side," the Finn said. "I certainly do.

"You don't want the foreign legion. They don't have that passion. It's great we have boys in the team who are Hibs supporters.

"Obviously the game means everything to them. It does to all the players, but they know what it's all about."

Ian Murray and Derek Riordan, both in their second spells with Hibs, grew up as fans, as did Colin Nish. The determination which arises from that background could help give the home side the edge, according to Paatelainen – and certainly is more likely to make the difference than any finer technical aspect of the game. By contrast, it is difficult to pick out a lifelong Hearts fanatic from within the Tynecastle squad.

"Ability doesn't come into it. It's the psychology and mentality of the players," said Paatelainen.

"As soon as the match starts it's the ones who perform on the day who win the game, simple as that. You need a strong mentality, as always.

"If we have enough strong characters we do well. If we have players who fall by the wayside when the supporters start screaming and the crunching tackles start flying, we get beat."

Having said all that, Paatelainen added that every player, even those to whom victory tomorrow would mean most, must maintain some self-possession. To that end, he has approached this match in the usual way, not deviating from the routines adopted in training.

"It's been a normal training week. The application is always there.

"Maybe they feel a bit more excited, but we've prepared as we did against Aberdeen, for example, in our last game. Nothing changes.

"I don't treat it in any other way. If you do something else, maybe the players will get a little bit edgy or nervous.

"It's very important that the players don't get carried away. You must stay calm and make sure you concentrate on the game only, and to be honest you don't realise the crowd. You focus on your passes and your runs and what you have to do.

"We want to take away their aces, if you like, their better players, and try and stop them playing and being influential for them. It's important we realise the players in their ranks who make them tick, and if we can stop one or two of them we're halfway there. On the other hand we want to use our strong points."

The message about staying calm was then echoed by Dean Shiels. Having been sent off in a derby for a push on the then Hearts goalkeeper Craig Gordon, the attacking midfielder knows well how damaging it can be if you fail to maintain some level of self-control.

"You want to be ready for the challenge, but (also have] ice in the head, as they say," he said. "You need to be focused on how you're going to win the game.

"There's no good in running about like a madman. You need to think about how you're going to break down the opposition, how you're going to hurt them. That's how you win the game.

"It is a big challenge to know the best way to win a game in the derby. It is difficult at times, because emotions are running high and tempers flare. But the team that has the most quality and stays composed will win the game."

With Riordan, Nish and Steven Fletcher vying for the two striking places up front, it remains to be seen if a starting place will be found for Shiels. Having been on international duty with Northern Ireland this week, however, he made his eagerness to play tomorrow known by returning to Easter Road as early as possible.

"I flew back in on the seven o'clock flight on the Thursday morning so I could train with the boys," he continued. "When you've got a big game coming up you want to prepare as well as you can."

But preparation, however meticulous, can only take a player so far. The fierce, committed mentality which Paatelainen believes is a prerequisite of winning can only be honed in the heat of battle.

Taken from the Scotsman

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