Mixu not surprised by Stevie McLeish’s Mussy rise

Mixu Paatelainen had Stevie McLeish as a coach at Hibs and Cowdenbeath. Pic: Getty
Mixu Paatelainen had Stevie McLeish as a coach at Hibs and Cowdenbeath. Pic: Getty
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Former Hibs star Mixu Paatelainen will keep a close eye on events at Rugby Park tomorrow afternoon when his former colleague and close friend Stevie McLeish takes charge of Musselburgh Athletic in the Scottish Junior Cup final.

Paatelainen is in Berlin for tonight’s Champions League final between Juventus and Barcelona and he will attend the Olympiastadion in his role as a UEFA technical observer before a meeting tomorrow afternoon with his fellow delegates.

The 48-year-old wishes he could be in Ayrshire wearing a blue-and-white scarf and cheering Musselburgh on against ten-times winners Auchinleck Talbot, with McLeish having worked under the Finland national team boss as a coach at both Cowdenbeath and Hibs. However, he’ll keep a close eye on his phone to check out the news as it happens from Rugby Park as Musselburgh bid to bring the trophy back to East Lothian for the first time since the club did it under its old banner of Musselburgh Bruntonians in 1923 against Arniston Rangers at Tynecastle.

He said: “I won’t be able to watch the game as I’m in Germany as I’ve been doing some analysing for UEFA for the Champions League this season and the next day we have a meeting with all the observers together to talk about the final and the Champions League season as a whole.

“Unfortunately I’m not able to see the game, but nevertheless I’ll hear the result and hopefully it works out positively for Stevie and Musselburgh. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.”

McLeish worked as a youth coach with the Blue Brazil prior to Paatelainen taking over the reigns in August 2005 and the Finn was so impressed with his man-management of the club’s youngsters that he promoted McLeish to first team coach at Central Park.

Along with coach Michael Renwick, the trio guided part-time Cowdenbeath to their first league title in 67 years when they won the old Third Division in 2006. They both went their separate ways when Paatelainen resigned to head back to his homeland to take charge of TPS, with McLeish taking control of 
Tranent Juniors, but the former Hibees fans favourite brought him to Easter Road on his 
return as manager in 2008 as a sports scientist.

Paatelainen always knew McLeish had the attributes to go on and become a successful manager.

“I’m delighted for Stevie, 
but I’m not surprised as he is 
a good coach and he is very good with the players,” he said. “He gets the players to learn the way he wants to play and he is very effective in that. At Cowdenbeath he was one of the coaches with me and he was a very good help to me achieving the success we did by winning the title. He had been there well before my time, but after realising his quality and the way he operated on the training ground with the youth players I wanted him to try the first team and he did a very good job there.

“When I went to Hibs I brought him in as more of a sports scientist with his sports science background, so he came on board and did well with the qualities that he has.

“Every now and then we go for a coffee whenever I’m in Scotland. We get in touch and have good chats about football, about my matches and the progress with my team and obviously his as well. It’s always nice to talk about football with somebody who understands it and knows where you come from. He’s a great guy to talk to and a good friend.”