Dundee United have confirmed that Mixu Paatelainen’s troubled seven-month reign at Tannadice has come to an end.
A formal statement was released as United begin the task of restructuring after Monday’s 2-1 defeat by Dundee sealed their relegation to the Championship. Paatelainen, who agreed a two-and-a half-year contract when he replaced Jackie McNamara in October, won only five of 25 league matches.
A short release on the website credited Paatelainen with saying: “I would like to thank the players, staff and supporters. It has been a difficult winter and the challenge was huge but nevertheless I have enjoyed every day working for the club and with this group of players.”
Now United are set to turn to Raith Rovers manager Ray McKinnon, who will be in the home dugout on Wednesday night as the Kirkcaldy club take on Hibs in the first leg of their quarter-final play-off tie.
Raith chief executive Eric Drysdale has said his club would not entertain any approach for their manager “at the moment”. McKinnon, 45, enjoyed two spells at United as a player in the 1990s and has impressed at Stark’s Park, leading the club into the play-offs in his first season.
He has also managed Brechin City and was a technical development officer at the Scottish Football Association.
United have not been put off by the struggles of another popular former player. Paatelainen’s uninspiring period as manager reached its nadir on Monday when defeat by their fiercest rivals confirmed United’s relegation with three games left.
Thompson is believed to have favoured a scenario where the Finn would remain in charge until the end of the season before leaving. But Paatelainen did not welcome such an exit strategy and the legal technicalities triggering his immediate departure were still being discussed last night.
The chairman apologised to supporters in a statement released at 4pm on Tuesday which made no mention of Paatelainen. A further missive arrived on Wednesday confirming the manager’s departure.
Paatelainen left Tannadice at 2pm, providing reporters with the short update that he was “carrying on regardless” before getting into his car.
Thompson left at shortly after 5pm, closely followed by David Southern, the club’s general manager. Thompson had already helped draft a statement where he took responsibility for the club’s swift decline in fortunes.
It is understood veteran skipper Sean Dillon could be asked to take the team for Friday’s trip to Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Dundee United have let you, the supporters, down this season,” the statement from Thompson began. “I apologise unreservedly to all of you for our relegation from the Ladbrokes Premiership.”
A letter from a disgruntled supporter was waiting for the chairman yesterday morning outside the ground, sellotaped to a lamppost. It was a passionately written critique of the chairman’s recent decisions.
“The depletion of my club at your behest has sickened me,” it read. And then with reference to Thompson’s father Eddie, who bought the club in 2002, it said: “your father saved us, you’ve ruined us!”
A Tannadice official emerged from the stadium to remove the letter. But Thompson’s later statement addressed some of the points made by this, and many other, disillusioned supporters.
“As the chairman the buck stops with me and I accept full responsibility for what has happened,” he said. Thompson went on to admit the big decisions were all his “and I got some of them wrong”.
He reiterated that United have had the “third biggest budget in the league” and yet results have fallen way below what was expected. Poor recruitment during the summer saw United start the season sluggishly, and cost Jackie McNamara his job. But little has gone right since and the financial impact of the drop down to the Championship means concerns are growing about the club’s future.
Thompson promised “many radical changes… to try to ensure our quick return to the top league”.
He added: “Further changes will see increased fan representation as well as boardroom changes to re-vitalise and re-energise the club.” He stressed he is “open to realistic well-funded proposals that can bring in major investment”.
But he warned people not to expect him to step aside for anyone without evidence of a plan and sufficient funds to take the club forward. Fans’ group ArabTRUST has already called on the current board to resign en masse and be replaced by an interim board made up by supporters.
“I will not put the Club’s existence in peril by simply handing over the keys unless any proposed investor is well financed and can offer a sustainable alternative,” said Thompson. The chairman has recently returned from a trip to the United States, where he sought to pin down new potential investors.
The chairman finished by thanking fans for their continued loyalty. Around 1,900 turned up to watch such a painful denouement to their season at Dens Park, while another 1,100 have renewed season tickets in the loyalty period, which expired shortly after Monday’s dispiriting defeat.
In better news for United, Dave Bowman’s development side played Hamilton Accies at Tannadice yesterday evening against a background of strife at the club. They won 9-1.