Thursday, March 31, 2011

Kilmarnock: Finnish for Mixu?

Tabloid reports suggest that Mixu Paatelainen is set to be unveiled as the new manager of Finland this afternoon.

While this might not be as galling for Kilmarnock fans as losing him to a lower league English side, it's still and absolute kick in the goolies after a season that has surely surpassed the hopes of even the most optimistic of supporters.

There was a tendency to write Mixu off when got the job. My own reaction was:

"Stubborness, even the ability to ignore the aesthetics and revert to the long ball, will be plus points for Kilmarnock next season. Where touchline arguments were a distraction at Hibs they might, if they're well chosen, prove an inspiration in Ayr." (July 2010)

We were all wrong, although he has proved an inspiration. Mixu brought pleasingly eye catching football to Rugby Park. He has given the SPL Alexei Eremenko. He turned Conor Sammon into the goal scoring machine that even Sammon himself suspected he might not be.

Kilmarnock currently sit fifth, assured of a top six place and still very much in the fight for fourth.

Their experience last season and their financial turmoil saw many people tip them as relegation strugglers this season.

They've shown that up to be a load of codswallop.

And now they pay for their success.

Perhaps the lure of his national team job carries an emotional attachment for Paatelainen. It's a new challenge that has more attraction than leaving Kilmarnock for the glamour of Scunthorpe.

Good luck to him. He's a decent bloke and he's given us a rare good news story in the SPL this season.

But even as they wish him well, this must be scunnering for the Kilmarnock fans. Talk this morning that, if his departure is confirmed, he could remain in post until the end of the season.

His assistant Kenny Shiels will not be going to Finland with him and might provide Killie with a ready made replacement.

There's still likely to be uncertainty and anguish among the fans today though.

Football, just when you think your team's getting the hang of it, it turns round and whacks you about the jowls.