DUNDEE United chairman Stephen Thompson said Mixu Paatelainen was the “first person we spoke to, and also the last”, as the Finn was appointed head coach of Dundee United yesterday.
The 48 year-old’s first match is on Sunday, when Hearts are the visitors to bottom-of-the-table United. Thompson revealed that Paatelainen’s desire to return to the club where he spent five years as a player early in his career “was clear from the first minute we spoke”.
Although Paatelainen admitted he had expected to continue his managerial career “in England or Europe”, he was delighted to be made aware of United’s initial interest.
He is officially described as head coach, with Thompson explaining that “there are three of us here now who run things day-to-day – a head coach, a general manager in David Southern, and myself overseeing everything. It’s just a modern way of doing things but it’s no real change.”
Thompson considered a variety of names, including St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright, former West Bromwich Albion manager Alan Irvine and John Hughes of Inverness Caledonian Thistle. He confirmed a request to speak to Hughes earlier this week was turned down by the Highland club.
Thomson said: “The thing that gets me is, just because you approach a club to speak to a manager, it doesn’t mean you are going to appoint him. How on earth do you know they are the right person if you don’t speak to him?
He is credited with bringing some of the best football seen in years to Rugby Park ”
“Ideally, you want to speak to as many candidates as you can,” he added. “Some of them will be in jobs and clubs are entitled to turn them down. We just took our time. I learned a lot from my father’s experience of appointing someone the next day.”
Four managers quickly came and went when Thompson’s late father, Eddie, was in control of the club before he finally landed a satisfying incumbent in Craig Levein. It is hoped Paatelainen can have a similarly steadying influence after signing a two-and–a-half year contract.
The Finn has already appointed former Motherwell youth coach Gordon Young as his assistant. A goalkeepingr coach will follow imminently.
A controversial contractual agreement with Jackie McNamara where the manager received a percentage of players’ transfer fees was not even mentioned in discussions this time around. “There is no sell-on percentage for the head coach, no,” Thompson said. “It is not in the contract. It wasn’t even a discussion. And if it had been it wouldn’t have happened.”
Despite the manner in which his reign ended with the receipt of a pre-written letter confirming he was sacked following a 2-1 defeat to St Johnstone last month, McNamara phoned Thompson last week to calm the waters. “He did phone me to thank me for giving him the opportunity, and to say it’s a great club,” revealed Thompson. “There were a lot of good times. But now is a fresh start.”