There’s few things that give me as much pleasure as being able to sit here and write an article with Kilmarnock FC sitting in 6th in the SPL. It’s not something that I thought I’d see in the run up to Christmas and I’m a big enough man to admit that I was skeptical when Mixu Paatelainen was hired as manager in the summer and I’d expected us to be propping up the rest of the league by this point with no hope of doing anything better than 10th by the end of the season.
However, the big Finn has given us a restored faith in the ability of our team and, perhaps more importantly, has restored the team’s faith in their own abilities by maintaining a positive mental attitude and refusing to criticise the players no matter how abject they were. The players seem to respond to the nature and temperament of the man and his staff by turning out performances that are consistently beyond their means. You need only look at his words in the wake of Kilmarnock’s 2-3 defeat by Rangers to see the positivity in his attitude.
“I thought it was a good match and we caused them lots of problems. I can’t fault the players for their efforts or the way they passed the ball and made runs.
“I felt that we forced things and were asking for trouble. It’s unfortunate, but playing this type of football, you might concede goals like that. It’s disappointing and the players must learn.”
There is a criticism of the collective application of the defensive players but there is no criticism of specific players or the performance as a whole. Is this the managerial touch that Kilmarnock had previously been unable to find in “Whisperin'” Jim Jefferies and “Tactically Inept” Jimmy Calderwood. The lighter touch with the players that Kilmarnock have might well be the way as they carry a number of very creative players who- traditionally at least- need a lighter touch from a manager than the disciplinary attitude of the traditional Scottish manager.
Of course, Kilmarnock’s position in the league can be contrasted with the position that supposed ‘big club’ Aberdeen now find themselves in; languishing at the bottom of the league kept safe by virtue of the fact that Hamilton Academical are just slightly more abject than them at the moment (a situation which Kilmarnock & Falkirk found themselves in last season). Of course, a lot has been made of the situation at Pittodrie ever since their masochistic capitulation to Celtic a few weeks ago and Mark McGhee‘s tactical ability has been questioned from all elements of the media. But is it tactics that he lacks?
Well, yes. It is. However, he is also responsible for unnecessarily criticising his team at every possible opportunity. As Scheidtcaster Colin Farquhar mentioned in a previous article on this site, his media handling leaves a huge amount to be desired as he consistently targets his players to cover up his own failings as a Premier League manager.
After Aberdeen’s defeat by Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on Saturday McGhee was quick to criticise his team’s lack of ability in the opposition half despite the fact he is ultimately responsible for the tactics and actions of his players on the pitch. For a man that has so little ability as a football manager, he is lightning fast to jump down the throats of players and young players who have not quite performed up to scratch.
Perhaps the time has come for a change of tact from McGhee. If Aberdeen don’t have the money to pay him off and McGhee is not honourable enough to fall on his own sword then surely the sensible thing for him to do is to admit the fact that everyone but him can see. His approach doesn’t work. Perhaps a more relaxed attitude with the press and a more expansive mentality on the field could see Aberdeen begin to climb the league again.
Of course, a positive mental attitude and a more expansive game are not the be-all and end-all solutions for Aberdeen but even January investment would surely be frittered away by McGhee. As long as he remains, a change in attitude may be the only thing that can save the Dons from their fate. On paper, Aberdeen should be higher in the league than Killie. Of course, as long as they don’t pass Killie, I’ll be happy.