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Fenlon has Hoop dream

A SUPPORTER of Shamrock Rovers since he was a boy and a player with the club during one of their bleak periods, Pat Fenlon needs no lessons about what is expected from the manager of Ireland's most successful club.

And although the pressure of managing that club appears to have been too great a burden for the last two occupants of the manager's office, Fenlon says his shoulders are big and broad enough to take on the task.

He has signed a three and a half year contract, probably the longest-ever deal handed to a manager by a League of Ireland club, and that's a sign that Rovers do not see Fenlon as a quick-fix, nor are there promises from Fenlon to deliver instant success.

There are structures - and a stadium - in place which were not available at his previous jobs in Ireland. When managing the Hoops' Dublin rivals Shelbourne and Bohemians there were constant worries over money and players' wages which ate into his time and distracted everyone, Fenlon's match-day preparations often interrupted by phone calls from players unhappy at the non-arrival of their wages - not something that is an issue at a financially-stable Rovers.

So all he has to do now is deliver. Deliver wins, trophies and European success - not always easy at Rovers. Even when Michael O'Neill was winning back-to-back league titles some Rovers fans grumbled that they wanted the team to play with more style, and earlier this week former Rovers boss Dermot Keely recalled how one fan moaned to him, after he had won the league title, that Rovers had not gone through the season unbeaten.

"I think it's still here, you never lose that as a club," says Fenlon of that pressure at Rovers.

"If you look at the history of a club, there's so many trophies won that people in the club will always pass it on to family members or whatever the case may be.

"That's part and parcel. I won a double at Bohs and the supporters still weren't happy so that's football.

"It's the same when I played with Linfield. We won a double and we should have won the five trophies, you just have to take that. The difference now is that people can air it a little more easier and that's something that you just have to be careful of.

"I've played here, I've supported Rovers, I've played for big clubs and managed big clubs. The thing with the fans here, they are died in the wool, they want to see their team do well. I think what they want to see is a team going to try and win games here. That's probably what's disappointed. They haven't won games here, they have to give the fans here something to get off their seats about."

That's why he jokes about the length of his contract, the realist in Fenlon admitting that he won't last until the end of the 2017 season if he hasn't won a league title, and while he doesn't mention David Moyes' six-year contract which didn't even get past the first season, it may be in his mind.

"You can get a 10-year contract and it doesn't make a difference these days," he says. "But I think it's something important to get the point across that I am here hopefully for the long term to try to build up the club."

For Fenlon, it is an honour to manage the club he fell in love with as a boy - born in Finglas, geography would suggest that he'd have given his time to the closest League of Ireland club, Bohemians, but his parents came from Crumlin so Sunday dinners in his granny's house - and then an afternoon at nearby Milltown - saw Rovers win his heart.

He talks about winning matches and for Fenlon and the players, that task starts tonight, at home to Derry, a game Rovers need to win to keep alive their faint title hopes and stay in the hunt for a third-place finish.

Things are still in a state of flux - he's had just one training session with the squad and has not yet had time to assemble his own backroom staff. In the short-term there are two aims: trying to secure a European place via the league, and winning the FAI Cup for the first time since 1987.


Long-term, his ambitions are in Ireland and at Rovers, the boss admitting that he has learned from past experiences, like those financially-troubled spells at Shels and Bohs.

"It was difficult for both of those clubs at the time, and in fairness to both of them they have honoured everything that was outstanding to players and staff. It shouldn't be part of the learning curve for manager but unfortunately for the League of Ireland, it can be, he says.

"You put it down as experience and try to utilise it, when you move on to different things and manage a great football club, as I did the last time at Hibs where I didn't have to do anything bar pick the team, hopefully it will be the same here. It was part of learning and developing as a manager and a coach.

"One of the things that really interests me here is building a club not just a team. There is a great incentive here in that the stadium is in place, the schoolboys is ticking over as there's been a lot of changes to it by Trevor Croly in fairness, there is a chance to build something.

"In previous clubs it was about just going out to win football matches and leagues because there was so much money being thrown at it. Here there is a chance to dry develop and that is what really interested me as well as winning some trophies."