Paterson wonders which Hibs team might turn up

Mixu Paatelainen will face his old club for the third time this weekend and, incredibly, find himself up against the Easter Road outfit's third managerial team of the season.

At the moment honours are even, Kilmarnock having dumped Hibs, then under the charge of John Hughes, out of the CIS Insurance Cup before suffering an SPL defeat in the Capital as Alistair Stevenson and Gareth Evans took the reins following Yogi's departure.

Now Paatelainen, who had preceded Hughes in heading for the Easter Road exit door, comes up against Hibs manager Colin Calderwood for the first time as the Edinburgh club head for Rugby Park aiming to kick start what has so far proved to be a miserable season.

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Whether Calderwood can spring any surprises on the big Finn remains to be seen, but today BBC commentator Craig Paterson - who, of course, played for both clubs - insisted Paatelainen will have the comfort of knowing exactly what he can expect from his side.

Having been tipped as relegation candidates after beating the drop on the final day of last season, Killie have proved to be the shock troops of the SPL as they have stormed into the top six, impressing everyone with their stylish displays.

Alexei Eremenko has been pulling the strings in midfield while Irish striker Conor Sammon has ripped opposition defences apart, scoring 14 goals including eight in his last six matches.

And while Sammon has been knocking them in at one end, summer loan signing Ben Gordon from Chelsea has helped shore up the Ayrshire club's defence, a fact which, Paterson believes, has helped stars such as Jamie Hamill and Craig Bryson shine.

Hibs, on the other hand, have blown hot and cold, unable to put together a meaningful run of results, the upshot being a team which finished fourth last season now finds itself languishing in eighth place.

As a result, Paterson believes the outcome of Saturday's match could well rest on which Hibs side turns up on the day. He said: "Killie at the moment aren't conceding too many goals and are scoring in just about every game which makes them pretty formidable.

"But with Hibs you are not too sure of what you are going to get. I watched them in the Edinburgh derby and thought they were a team which was really struggling, one which was low on confidence.

"However, then virtually the same squad goes to Ibrox and turns over the SPL champions 3-0 and follow that up with a win over Motherwell."

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A defeat away to Inverness - something to which even the most die-hard Hibs fans have become inured - and a disappointing goalless draw against St Johnstone followed, results which, Paterson believes, sums up his first club perfectly.

He said: "At the moment you know more or less what you will get from Kilmarnock, with the consistency they are showing. But Hibs have a range of performance; if they play as we know they can, they are capable of beating anyone, they can be absolutely fantastic and then be somewhere down near the bottom. Consistency is fantastic for any manager. If the players can produce one week then the manager has every right to expect the same the following week.

"I'm sure beating Rangers would have given all the players a lift, but it is then up to them to prove to themselves that they can do it again; you have to be able to churn out result after result."

Paterson, however, pointed out inconsistency hasn't been a recent problem, but one which dates back almost a year, Hibs losing just one of their opening 16 SPL matches but then managing to win only five more.

Calderwood has made it clear he's been assessing those at his disposal since taking over from Hughes and now, Paterson believes, decision time will quickly arrive with the opening of the winter transfer window in little more than a fortnight.

He said: "It's been going on for a while, the manager will realise that is a problem, the question is whether he believes it can be solved from within the squad or whether he has to look to the transfer window."

If Calderwood chooses to look elsewhere, Paterson feels he could well use his extensive network of contacts built up during a playing and coaching career spent entirely in England until his move to the Capital a few weeks ago.

Pointing out how Motherwell had looked south to great effect in luring players such as Lukas Jutkiewicz, John Ruddy and now Nick Blackman on loan, as has Paatelainen with Harry Forrester from Aston Villa, Paterson said: "Colin will have a very good knowledge of the top divisions in England.

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"There are some really good players, the problem is keeping them. If they have done well when their loan deal runs out they become targets for bigger clubs. But for Hibs the initial target has to be getting into the top six. It's a case of first things first, of pulling away from where they are at the moment and trying to consolidate a position in the top half of the table."