SEAN Dillon claims to have closed his ears in the dressing room when conversation turned to potential candidates to replace sacked Dundee United manager Jackie McNamara.
But now Mixu Paatelainen is firmly in place, the skipper has already pledged his loyalty to the Finn – as well as agreed with his view about what is needed to bring about a change in fortunes.
United host Hearts tomorrow and depending on results today, they could have the chance to lift themselves off the bottom of the league.
That is where they were deposited after being beaten by nearest rivals Partick Thistle a fortnight ago. Paatelainen believes United need to become a tougher, harder-to-beat unit if they are to begin clawing their way back up the league.
Whatever happens elsewhere today – Thistle are away to St Johnstone – something is guaranteed to be in United’s own hands at Tannadice tomorrow – the opportunity to secure a first home league win of the season, which would be the perfect way to welcome Paatelainen. But they will need to rid themselves of a tendency to concede avoidable goals.
Paatelainen had already identified softness at the heart of the team before he clocked on for work earlier this week after watching United struggle to overcome Dunfermline in the League Cup last month.
“His message was that we need to be more solid,” said Dillon. “He has seen some of the goals we have conceded and that is an issue, but that has been an issue for a while.
“He will be looking to put that right so we can stop conceding the sort of goals we have been losing.”
Although the process took more than two weeks to complete, Dillon tried to remain distant from the talk of who might replace McNamara. A number of names were bandied around, including Tommy Wright, Alan Irvine and John Hughes. “The lads talk, that is what happens,” he said. “I don’t like to get involved in what ifs. There have been a lot of different names floating about.
“I don’t get involved,” he added. “When somebody comes in you give them all the respect you have. You listen to what they have to say, word hard and give them everything you have. Lads will say this was how it was at other clubs but that isn’t important. It is about what his plans are for us and we have to roll with them.”
Dillon has already been impressed by Paatelainen and his assistant Gordon Young in the short time they have been at the club. “He spoke really well and addressed everyone as a group,” he said. “When we went into the session Gordon started it and then the manager took it after that. He was very clear and precise and made it simple to understand. He definitely had the respect of the boys.”
Dillon admitted there was some trepidation in the dressing room prior to a new manager being appointed. Even now players cannot be certain if they figure in Paatelainen’s plans for the future.
“You are always going to get a mix of emotions,” he said. “If you are playing under the manager and he gets the sack you are going to be uncertain whether the next guy is going to want you in his team.
“We just have to buy into what he wants and then we have to work our nuts off for him. He is the manager and you have to give him everything.”