'Hong Kong' Thierry lashes out at Paatelainen for Hibs departure

THIERRY Gathuessi yesterday spoke of his anger at the way Hibernian manager Mixu Paatelainen snuffed out his Easter Road career.

The Cameroon international joined Hibs under John Collins and quickly earned cult status with the club's faithful. Given his aggressive style, he was nicknamed 'Hong Kong Thierry' – a nod to the karate-kicking, 1970s cartoon character Hong Kong Phooey.

After nearly six months of inaction before joining Inverness last week, Gathuessi admits he is burning with a desire to secure his future in Scottish football and prove Paatelainen's judgement wrong.

The versatile defender, who has signed on at the Caledonian Stadium until June, said: "After an enjoyable first season at Hibs, I haven't played anything but reserve football since the summer break.

"John Collins brought me to Hibs and then Mixu Paatelainen arrived. I continued to play a part under him until the end of last season and I felt I had played well for the club.

"There was no hint of any problem between us until two weeks before the end of the transfer window in August. Then he suddenly told me it would be good for me if I left because he wasn't going to play me again.

"That was very difficult to take. I had played for him before the end of last season, so I thought everything was alright. So I felt very, very angry towards him."

Gathuessi scored in a 3-2 win over Celtic last season, but also conceded two penalties late in the same campaign.

After Paatelainen's decision in August, there were several overseas offers but the defender chose to stay out in the cold at Easter Road until last week. His motive was less stubbornness and anger towards Paatelainen than a genuine desire to stay in Scotland.

Gathuessi, who played more than a 100 games in French football, said: "I had some propositions from other clubs in August, but I really like Scottish football.

"I think it's my style, so I prefer to stay. If I am to stay longer, I must impress the gaffer, Craig Brewster, and convince him I am worth a longer contract. I came through the academy system in France, with Montpellier, and also played a lot of games for AS Cannes and FC Sete.

"But when I played in France I took many yellow cards. In Scotland, it's different – if you don't get torn into opponents you cannot please the fans. The Hibs fans gave me the 'Hong Kong' nickname and I like to think it's a compliment. I don't know how or why they gave it to me, only that they liked my style.

"If Craig Brewster has signed me to add a bit of fight to the team, I will do everything I can – I aim to give this club everything I have. My style is physical and if that is something the manager wants, I think I am the man to help."

Gathuessi, who moved to France with his family at the age of 13, played in three Africa Cup of Nations ties for Cameroon. But his international ambitions have been put on hold while he attempts to re-ignite his career in the Highlands.

When Caley Thistle's call came last week, it was an easy decision to move. He said: " It is sometimes difficult with the Scottish accent being strong. I have to listen hard to understand. But having Filipe Morais come here at the same time from Hibs will help me settle because in Edinburgh we were very good friends.

"I also spoke to Hibs' John Rankin, who played for Inverness, and he said it was a good club, where the people are very nice. He told me not to worry about leaving Edinburgh although a few others were warning me it was very cold up here. The thing is I like the cold in Scotland as much as I like the football."

Manager Brewster views Gathuessi as an ideal capture, given his ability to play both full-back roles and anywhere across midfield.

But the biggest attraction was the player's athleticism and grit. Brewster said: "Thierry's a fiery character and I think we need his sort. We've got a lot of good footballers at this club, but sometimes you need that extra bit of dig."

For Gathuessi, after a substitute's debut in the Scottish Cup victory over Partick, the club's current plight is baffling.

The Cameroonian added: "When I was making up my mind, I didn't think much about Inverness being bottom of the league.

There are good players here and all it needs is confidence."