Mixu: Players and I are in same boat so statement involved me
DUNDEE United manager Mixu Paatelainen admits he felt his chairman’s damning statement was directed towards him as well as his players.
Stephen Thompson branded United’s performance in a 3-0 home defeat by Motherwell on Tuesday “abysmal” and claimed the players had 13 games left to “redeem their professional reputations” after falling 13 points adrift at the foot of the Ladbrokes Premiership.
Ahead of today’s visit of Hearts, Paatelainen refused to state whether he agreed with Thompson’s comments, but stressed the Tannadice chairman was entitled to his opinion and that he and his squad were open to criticism.
“Obviously the chairman is the head of the club and is totally entitled to say whatever he wants,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s a surprise to anybody that he is not happy with the situation because none of us are. The players are not happy, the coaching staff are not happy, the supporters, the board. So it’s not a real surprise.
“It’s not for me to judge what the chairman says at all. I just get on with the job. The players and coaching staff work together. We try to improve the team, performances and results.”
For many, Thompson’s statement undermined Paatelainen and the United boss was unaware of the content of Wednesday’s update.
“He mentioned to me that he was going to put out a statement,” he said. “I didn’t know exactly the wording of the statement.”
There was no reference to Paatelainen and Thompson admitted the board had made some unspecified mistakes over the past 18 months, but the manager put himself firmly in the same camp as his players.
When asked if he interpreted the statement as “having a go” at himself as well, the former Kilmarnock manager said: “Absolutely. As far as I’m concerned we are in the same boat. We work together. The coaching staff, the players, myself, we are together.
“We are the ones who do the work every day, it’s us who prepares for the matches, it’s us who go out there and do our best. It’s a combined effort.
“We work together, we fight together, we win together, we lose together, we draw together and improve together.”
United were second bottom when they sacked Jackie McNamara, although they had slumped to the foot of the table by the time Paatelainen was appointed in October.
The anticipated lift did not come, but the former United striker insists they have improved despite taking only nine points from a possible 45 during his reign.
“Of course we hoped there would have been quicker improvement, absolutely,” he said.
“It’s not that simple to turn the ship. We knew at the time when we came in that there were problems. Unfortunately, the ship hasn’t turned as quickly as we wanted.
“There are many reasons for it and I won’t list them in the media.
“The last few weeks’ results and performances have been better. Tuesday was a setback. There are always setbacks.
“If someone says there hasn’t been improvement since we came in, I totally disagree with that. There has been big improvement, unfortunately the results don’t show that.”
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson, meanwhile, was part of a Tynecastle team that was threatened with the axe by owner Vladimir Romanov.
The Lithuanian’s warning that the players would all be for sale if they failed to beat Dunfermline back in October 2006 triggered a statement from the Riccarton Three that revealed ‘significant unrest in the Tynecastle dressing-room’.
But Neilson admits he has no idea how United will react to being publicly condemned by their chairman.
Neilson said: “The chairman has made a statement and he has every right to do that.
“Whether he gets a positive or negative reaction, time will tell.
“I don’t know what the dressing room is like up there so it’s very difficult to say how United will react.
“I went through some difficult periods here but we were lucky that we had a strong dressing room.
“When the players step across that line on match day, it doesn’t matter what anyone says about them.
“You can talk about what will affect them but it’s about playing.
“There was a lot of negatives at that time (under Romanov), but at the end of the day he was the owner. It’s the same at Dundee United. “The owner can say what he wants.” Asked if he had sympathy for United counterpart Mixu Paatelainen, whose side are 13 points adrift at the basement following Tuesday’s 3-0 drubbing at home to Motherwell, Neilson replied: “It depends how Mixu spins it when he is in the dressing room. Does he spin it as Mixu and the team? Or as the team itself?
“Mixu is a clever guy and I think he will spin it to get them all onside.”
BLAME GAME: Paatelainen admitted he was also in chairman’s line of fire