O’Neill has quickly emerged as the bookies’ favourite for the post after leading Shamrock Rovers to back-to-back League of Ireland titles and making history by taking them into the Europa League group stages in a remarkable three-year spell in charge of the Dublin outfit.
The 42-year-old ex-Northern Ireland internationalist and one-time Hibs winger began his coaching career as number two to Paatelainen at Cowdenbeath before cutting his managerial teeth with Brechin City in the Second Division.
His relative success at Glebe Park ensured he was given the chance to resurrect Shamrock’s fortunes and his achievements in Dublin have seen him linked recently with a return to Scotland with both St Johnstone and Dundee United.
And Paatelainen, now the Finland international manager after leaving Hibs in 2009, believes his former assistant, who is currently in negotiations with Rovers over a new contract, would be a success if he was targeted as successor to Calderwood. He said: “I think Michael is more than capable of doing a job like managing Hibs. He’s a clever guy, a thinker, he works very hard and has been very successful with Shamrock Rovers. To win the league a couple of times there and to get to the group stages of the Europa League has been a fantastic achievement.
“If you’re asking me my opinion on Michael, I think he would be a wonderful candidate for the job. He is an ex-player, he knows the club and he has already shown his skill as a manager. He has to be a serious candidate. But I’m sure there will be others. Hibs are a great club and there will be some big names linked with the job.”
Meanwhile, former Hibs captain Jackie McNamara believes the rot set in at Easter Road the minute John Collins was allowed to leave the club. “They should never have let John Collins leave,” insisted the 59-year-old. “They should have given him the support he needed in the transfer market. Instead of that they sold the likes of Scott Brown, Kevin Thomson, Steven Whittaker and didn’t allow John to spend anything – he had to sign players from the bottom divisions in England on Bosmans. The club has now had nine managers in the last ten years and that’s Rod Petrie’s fault. He keeps picking them and getting it wrong. He better get the next one right.”