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The manager is not for turning insists Hibs' Mixu

THE old playground jibe "sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me" could easily have been coined just for Mixu Paatelainen.

The Hibs boss has found himself the target of much vitriol following his side's Homecoming Scottish Cup exit at the hands of Capital rivals Hearts, with some fans going as far as to demand that the Finn leave Easter Road either by force or through his own volition.

But, to paraphrase former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Paatelainen today made it clear he is not for turning, that while he hears the voices of dissent he isn't listening.

Don't get Paatelainen wrong, he's hurting just as much as every other Hibs supporter but he remains convinced that, a year into the job, the rebuilding process he set in place when he succeeded John Collins will continue under his guidance.

The fallout after Sunday's disappointment has created an atmosphere of negativity, one which Paatelainen views, somewhat paradoxically, is borne out of fans' positive feelings for the club.

In an exclusive interview with the Evening News, he said: "The fans are desperate for Hibs to do well, as we all are. They believe, as do the supporters of every other club, that they have the God-given right to win every week. Unfortunately, football doesn't work like that.

"They think the players and me aren't disappointed when we are beaten but that is not the attitude here. Hibs are very close to my heart, everyone who knows me knows that.

"So if anyone is disappointed when we do not win it's me – and on top of that it is my job."

Twelve months into that particular post and some question whether there has been any progress made under Paatelainen, his side having fallen at the first hurdle in both cup competitions and currently sixth in the SPL table.

However, he counters by pointing out Hibs were eighth, with just one win in 12 matches, prior to him becoming the surprise choice to take over the Easter Road hotseat following Collins' shock departure. And he claimed the scale of rebuilding Hibs has been vastly underestimated by some. He said: "When I came in I realised it was not right, you don't go that long without a win unless there's a massive problem.

"I'd love to have the likes of Scott Brown, Kevin Thomson, Steven Whittaker, Garry O'Connor and Gary Caldwell here, to have Merouane Zemmama, Guillaume Beuzelin and David Murphy.

"But they are no longer here, that's a fact, and that's why the level of performance week in, week out is not what it was in those days. People should understand a rebuilding process takes time.

"It happens at every club but I cannot remember many clubs which lost ten or 12 quality, top-class players in such a short space of time. To replace that and get the quality up to standard that gives you consistency and the level of performance everyone enjoys week in, week out takes time.

"That motivates me, makes me work even harder and that is what I am doing."

To that end, Paatelainen has been active throughout the three transfer windows which had opened during his tenure to date with, he accepts, varying degrees of success, a situation he insists isn't unique to Hibs.

He said: "There's always an element of risk with every transfer. Some are successes, some are not. Did it happen for Diego Forlan at Manchester United? No, but he goes to Spain and suddenly the goals start coming.

"When you have an established quality team, the Manchester Uniteds, Real Madrids and Barcelonas only take one or two players a year into their squad. If it doesn't work out no-one says anything because the successful players keep playing and keep the performances right.

"But, if you take in seven players at a time as we did last summer, then there are always going to be a few for whom it does not happen. Then you make decisions and move on, that's the way of football."

To underline his point, Paatelainen recalled when he joined Hibs from Wolves in 1998. He said: "The club was sixth in the First Division, had just been beaten 4-0 by St Johnstone and, in my first match, we lost 2-0 to St Mirren.

"I thought . . ." His voice trails away, the grimace on his face telling you exactly how he felt. But he continues: "At one stage we had something like 40 players, it was amazing.

"Alex McLeish built a very good team but it took two-and-a-half years, players came and went until the jigsaw was complete."

It was during those years Paatelainen developed an affinity with Hibs which far outweighs his feelings for his other former clubs, Dundee United, Aberdeen, Bolton Wanderers and Wolves, although at each he generated a close bond with fans.

His passion is clear, particularly on match days when Paatelainen can be seen prowling his technical area barking orders and on occasion becoming embroiled with officialdom.

However, he countered any suggestion that he oversteps the mark by insisting: "How am I different to any other manager? How am I the bad guy? If I am disappointed with the way things have gone I might show it but I never let my emotions get the better of me.

"Would people rather I sat in the dug-out throughout the 90 minutes disinterested?"

One big difference Paatelainen has found from his days as a player, however, is the pervasive power of the internet and supporters' message boards, of which Paatelainen is clearly not a fan.

Having endured a similar slaughtering during a pre-season in which results were poor to say the least, what has happened this week is nothing new to Paatelainen. He insisted he isn't influenced by what is written on such boards, claiming he never reads them. He said: "When you make strong comments you need to take everything into account or not bother. You need to know the whole situation, the whole picture. But people make these comments then go back behind the tree. I have people I talk to, people I keep posted with what's happening so I can bounce ideas off them and that is important. However, I don't let outside influences get to me, if you listened to every piece of 'advice' offered you would go berserk. You don't know how thick my skin is."

Paatelainen was keen, however, to make it clear he doesn't see himself as some sort of know-all, someone who is, has always been and will always be, infallible.

He said: "It's always easy with hindsight, that's how you learn. You cannot be indecisive but there always has to be reasoning behind every decision. There isn't a single person who gets everything right all the time. Everyone makes mistakes, sometimes the coaches, sometimes the players. I am a young manager, I've been in management a very short time but I have learned a lot and I am hungry to learn more.

"I knew exactly how big this job was, exactly what to expect."

So just how much progress does he feel Hibs have made over the past year? Paatelainen replied: "There have been ups and downs, that's the case every season. I feel we have progressed a little bit but it was always going to be a long process, it does not happen overnight or with the change of one person.

"It's a development that takes time, you have to be patient. There's plenty hiccups and disappointments along the way but you need to go through it, learn from every one of them and then you are better off.

"We have plenty to improve but I am not a negative person. I'm not someone who has huge ups and downs, I don't get depressed or go shoving my head under the pillow for two days when there is a setback. I am not like that, I look to do something about it and improve, that's the way I am. So while I am disappointed, it motivates me to do something about it."

Taken from the Scotsman

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