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18 of 027 Bruno Aguiar 61 ;Hristos Karipidis 80 L SPL A

Ex-hero Paatalainen becoming the villain of the piece

Inconsistency leaves Hibs manager on the brink
* The Observer, Sunday 18 January 2009

Opinion is no longer divided among Hibernian supporters. Mixu Paatelainen should do the honourable thing and resign as manager. A trawl through the fan website,, leads one to conclude that as many as 75 per cent of correspondents have lost faith in the Finnish coach. The Scottish Cup defeat by arch rivals Hearts last Sunday appears to have been the final straw for most.

But, hold on a moment. It has been 107 years since Hibernian last claimed Scottish football's oldest trophy. Not even the "Famous Five" were capable of doing so in the halcyon days of the 1940s and early 50s when three league titles were won in the period of just five seasons, due largely to the exploits of a forward line that had few equals then or since.

One suspects, however, the current unrest has more to do with Paatelainen's failure to achieve greater consistency of results rather than the loss in the cup, albeit one made more unpalatable given that the 2-0 victors have earned bragging rights over their city rivals for the next two months at least. Patience has worn increasingly thin on the back of a topsy-turvy sequence of results at the club following on from the team's Intertoto Cup exit to Elfsborg in the second round.

Barcelona's 6-0 victory at Easter Road may not have been altogether unexpected in last year's friendly, but defeats by one of Paatelainen's previous employers, Cowdenbeath, of the Third Division, and Clyde, of the First, were simply unacceptable. Still, it seems reasonable to assume that the former Hibernian striker would have been forgiven had the club regained their composure when the season proper got underway.

Regrettably, home wins over Celtic and Dundee United, successive draws with Hearts and yesterday's 2-0 victory over St Mirren have not compensated for league defeats by Kilmarnock, twice, and Inverness Caledonian Thistle, and by Morton in the League Cup.

Having signed 14 players in the 53 weeks since he succeeded another former Hibernian favourite, John Collins, as manager, Paatelainen has not established a set pattern of play or appeared capable of getting the best out of those he has brought to the club.

But the 41-year-old, who endeared himself to the supporters in two spells as a player and with his hat-trick in Hibernian's 6-2 victory over Hearts in October 2000, remains defiant in the face of mounting pressure.

Paatelainen declared recently: "Criticism does not affect me in the slightest. It motivates me. When I am asked how I am coping with the pressure, I reply that I create the biggest pressure because of the demands I make on myself."

Despite his claims, there have been signs that the pressure has been getting to Paatelainen. His frequent spats with referees, increasing truculence with the media and pained expression in the dying moments of last week's cup-tie are evidence that he is feeling the strain.

The Hibernian chairman, Rod Petrie, has maintained a discreet silence in recent days. There has been no dreaded public vote of confidence in the manager, but perhaps that has more to do with the fact that Paatelainen was awarded a four-and-a-half-year contract when he was appointed last January.

Paatelainen espouses the opinion that it may take two to three years to fashion a team capable of matching his exacting standards. But 12 months into the job he is clearly already running out of time. He is perhaps close to discovering in the same way as several of his predecessors – notably Pat Stanton, Franck Sauzée and Collins – that a distinguished playing record does not guarantee immunity from managerial persecution.

When the time eventually comes to appoint a successor to Paatelainen, those who oversee the club's fortunes would be well advised to cast their net wider. Otherwise the curse that has afflicted Easter Road players-turned-gamekeepers will begin to rival that other jinx: the one that has out-lived all of those who witnessed the 1-0 victory over Celtic the last time Hibernian won the Scottish Cup.

Taken from the Guardian/Observer

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