Dundee United boss Mixu Paatelainen has admitted he is facing the toughest challenge of his managerial career.
Paatelainen was coach of his country Finland for 43 games and has also been in charge of Scots club sides Cowdenbeath, Hibs, Kilmarnock and Finnish team TPS.
In over a decade in the dugout, however, he has never come across a more difficult task than trying to keep the Tangerines in the Premiership.
Paatelainen said: “This is the biggest challenge of my managerial career, yes.
“I love it, though.
“Every time we play, I’m looking forward to it.
“The way the players respond on the training ground, I love that.
“Yes, some were disappointed and hurt on Monday after we lost the derby to Dundee.
“But when we play again, I will see the spirit.
“I will see the flames coming from their eyes.
“That spirit is there.”
Paatelainen now feels United can use the cup to help boost their confidence.
Toiling as they are at the bottom of the league, they will be seen by some as ideal candidates to suffer a shock when they meet Airdrie away in the fourth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup.
Were these happier times for the Tangerines, Saturday’s trip to the Excelsior Stadium to face the team sitting fifth in League One would be appear to be straightforward.
Paatelainen’s players, though, have been unable to buy a win and he suspects the Airdrie players will “smell blood.”
Nevertheless, the United gaffer feels a change of competition can work in their favour.
“Cup matches are always exciting and you always look forward to them because they are fast and furious,” said Paatelainen.
“Airdrie will be saying what a great chance they have against Dundee United, whose confidence is low and who are not winning matches.
“So they will think there is a great chance for them.
“They smell blood.
“It won’t be easy because we are not winning enough matches.
“But we see cup competitions as an opportunity to progress and raise our confidence.”