The Dundee United manager delivered a brutally honest assessment of the dire state of the Tayside club, with the prospect of their fate being sealed in Monday night’s derby with Dundee at Dens Park.
The 3-1 home defeat by Hamilton at Tannadice on Sunday sparked an after-match supporters’ demonstration aimed mainly at chairman Stephen Thompson, but also the beleaguered manager.
Should Kilmarnock beat Hamilton today and United fail to win the derby clash, they are guaranteed to be relegated.
Thompson this week revealed he would be willing to sell the club if the right offer came along. Now Paatelainen has spoken of the awful working environment at Tannadice, with speculation now clouding his own future.
Paatelainen said: “When a club is in the position that we are that’s always the case. There’s always plenty negativity. Look at Eric Black’s comments about Aston Villa. There’s a lot of toxic in the air. And it’s the same with us because of where we are.
“It’s natural but it’s not nice. It hurts. Do you go into a corner and start crying? Or do you roll you sleeves up, make a plan, and fight to make things better? That’s the spirit from me.
“That’s the kind of guy I am.
“This is a wonderful club with a great support. Everything is in place. The football side of things has not been good enough. Nowhere near.
“You will need to ask every individual player and worker if this kind of atmosphere has dripped down. But it certainly doesn’t bring me down. After we lost on Sunday, Monday was a terrible day for me. Then you start analysing things and see the same mistakes over and over again, no matter how much we practised in training.
“Strong characters are not bothered because they believe they will survive and will be fine. Weak characters crumble and become even weaker. That’s the way it goes. That’s the law of the jungle.
“My message to the players the first time we met after Sunday was that there was no room for them to feel sorry themselves. They need to keep their heads high and be like steel. There is no room for weak mentalities.”
Paatelainen replaced Jackie McNamara in October in the hope of reviving the club.
But the Finn added: “I’ve got no problem with the fact my position has been questioned.
“It’s only natural in this position. We still have a chance to save our season but regardless of what happens between now and the end of the season we must make big changes.
“It’s not in my hands whether I will get the chance to make those changes so I don’t worry about that. I haven’t spoken to anyone about my future.”
United announced yesterday that striker Robbie Muirhead had left the club “by mutual consent”.