BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
Peter Houston has backed Mixu Paatelainen to spark a revival at Dundee United – if he can use his Europe-wide contacts to unearth another couple of signings in the New Year.
Houston, who won the Scottish Cup with United in 2010, met up with the new Tanandice boss over a cup of tea when Falkirk hosted the Tangerines in an under-20s match last week.
With the way things are going for both clubs – with United struggling at the foot of the Premiership and Falkirk tucked in just behind Rangers and Hibernian at the top of the Championship – there remains the possibility they could face each other across the dugouts in a play-off at the end of the season.
However, Houston is hopeful Paatelainen can turn things around in the second half of the campaign, with the aid of some fresh faces to add to those of former Borussia Dortmund and West Ham defender Guy Demel and ex-Liverpool and Atletico Madrid striker Florent Sinama Pongolle.
Houston said: “I was talking to Mixu last week and he has a good head on him, he’s a good manager.
“The good thing from United’s perspective is they still have a lot of games to play.
“All it needs is a run of three or four wins on the trot, which is what every manager is looking for. It’s harder to do in the Premiership, but all of a sudden you’re back in the mix.
“And I’m convinced that with a wee bit of ‘dishing and dashing’ in January they can do that.
“Sometimes a bit of freshness can make a difference and they have two fresh players in with Pongolle and Demel.
“I’m convinced that will give the players around them a lift. Sometimes a couple of new faces can quickly change it.
“So if they add a couple and they are the right type – and Mixu will have his own ideas about who they may be – they can lift the club.
“Mixu has a wide knowledge of what is going on in Europe players-wise, so I think his contacts within the game will point him to some players who will improve them.”
Houston, meanwhile, is determined not to allow the prospect of a Scottish Cup run derail Falkirk’s league ambitions.
The Bairns were unlucky losers in May’s final against Inverness Caley Thistle and will retain hopes of again progressing deep into the competition, despite being drawn to face Dundee away in the fourth round.
The Championship outfit missed out on a promotion play-off spot last term after making it to Hampden, but Houston is hopeful they can fight on both fronts this year – even if the league is his priority.
He added: “I think successful teams and good teams can handle both, and I would like to think with a year’s more experience we could do that.
“The run in the cup was fantastic and we’d love to do that again.
“But good sides can put their league form to one side when they have a cup-tie, and they also don’t let the cup distract them from where they want to get to in the league.
“I have got to try and get that mentality within our boys where nothing distracts us.
“The league is our bread and butter, the national cup is there to be enjoyed, but the biggest aim for this football club is to get back into the elite group.
“That’s our biggest focus. We want to get into the play-offs, as I have said before – but if we were to go on the same run as last year I would be more than delighted.”