HIBERNIAN manager Mixu Paatelainen is preparing a clear-out at Easter Road just eight days before the start of the new season.
The Finn has lost patience with up to nine members of his first team squad after a troubled pre-season campaign. The latest setback came in the shape of an embarrassing 3-0 defeat at Clyde on Wednesday night. The result precipitated an extraordinary public outburst from Paatelainen yesterday.
"There are eight or nine players I believe are not good enough, simple as that," he said. "I have spoken to each of them and told them it would be better if they were to seek a position elsewhere."
He did not name names but striker Clayton Donaldson, who signed a three-year contract under then manager John Collins last summer, has already been told he is available for transfer. Thierry Gatheussi and Brian Kerr, two other players brought in by Collins, have also been under-used in Hibs' matches this summer, and are clearly not central to Paatelainen's plans.
Hibs have now gone nine games without a goal, a run stretching back to the fourth last game of last season. Elimination from the InterToto Cup by IF Elfsborg was forgivable, as was an admittedly heavy defeat against Barcelona at Murrayfield last Thursday night. But successive losses at Cowdenbeath and Clyde this week have provoked a serious level of dismay among Hibs fans. Hibs have two further friendlies – against Premier League sides Middlesbrough and Wigan – before they kick-off their SPL campaign at Kilmarnock next weekend, but Paatelainen has already seen enough. He has told "eight or nine" players that they will not be considered for first-team action as he seeks to trim down his squad. It currently stands at over 30 players and Paatelainen wishes to bring it down to nearer 20, although he does intend to bring in one new face before the season begins. The Easter Road board have already given him the green light to sign the striker Hibs desperately require.
Paatelainen has already added midfielder Joe Keenan as well as defenders Steven Thicot and David Van Zanten to the squad this summer. But he is as keen to weed out those he has decided are not of the standard required for Hibs, and had already told them their futures lie elsewhere. "They will not play for this football club and (having them here] does not help anyone because we have too many players," he said.
He acknowledged that some still have considerable time to run on their contracts. However, he stressed the onus was on them to save their own careers. He stressed that simply running down their contracts should not be an option. "If they want to sit it out for a year or two, their careers may be finished, so those players should look to themselves because they will not play here," he said.
Paatelainenalso insisted he saw signs of improvement in the opening stages of Wednesday's 3-0 defeat to First Division Clyde."The way we passed the ball was good," he said. "I thought it was starting to come and I am sure it will come."