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Fenlon shows way forward


Hibernian's manager Pat Fenlon. Picture: Reuters/David Moir.

Hibernian's manager Pat Fenlon. Picture: Reuters/David Moir.

Hibernian's manager Pat Fenlon. Picture: Reuters/David Moir.

WHEN Brian McDermott signed on the dotted line for Leeds United, one of the key candidates to replace Giovanni Trapattoni when the time comes slipped off the map.

McDermott's close and solid connections with Ireland allowed him to be mentioned in the same breath as a motley collection of managers with the right pedigree and many have noted that there is a bigger pool of talent available now than at any time in the past.

Certainly, there will be more names in the hat than there were when Trapattoni was recruited. McDermott, Chris Hughton, Owen Coyle, Mick McCarthy, Roy Keane and Martin O'Neill will all be on the list.

But they all developed their coaching skills in an English environment and Pat Fenlon is the only home-grown manager currently earning a wage outside Ireland.

Fenlon worked his way up through the League of Ireland to a point where the only way he could continue to progress was by leaving the country, a step too far for most of his peers in domestic football.

His successes in Scotland have been modest to date but Hibernian's remarkable comeback against Falkirk in the Scottish Cup semi-final is the kind of event which gets managers noticed.

Fenlon's bookish demeanour and passion for detail made him an obvious candidate for high level management a long time ago, a fact noted by Ray Treacy who has watched him make significant progress.

"He always stood out as one who could make it alright. His next step should be into England and I think he could do well there," said Treacy.

Treacy has seen many managers come and go at LOI and international level too.

But he is quick to separate club football from international football.

"Ireland has never produced many managers and I'm not sure why that should be but you have to be careful of the context you're dealing with here," said Treacy.

"If we are talking about ultimately producing enough Irish managers to provide a pool to pick from for the international team, the FAI must be a lot more proactive.

"I noticed that Robbie Keane has mentioned that he would like to get into management and Kevin Kilbane looks like he will give it a try too.

"There's a perfect opportunity for the FAI to bring both of them into the international set-up as coaches and help them learn the ropes. But that has never happened before.

"Club and international football are very, very different and I'd like to see lads like Robbie and Kevin sent to Spain or Israel or Germany to spend some time with their international teams and watch how they do it.

"Traditionally, young managers learned their trade as assistant managers or reserve team coaches and that's fine if they want to stay in club football.

"But to become a really good international boss, there has to be something more to it than that."



Treacy believes that the Irish football psyche has always suffered from an inferiority complex. "I do think that is a factor in the fact that we have not produced many managers," he said. "For many years, Irish football has always been impressed with someone with an English or foreign accent.

"For me, there are three qualities associated with great managers.

"Honesty, football knowledge and intelligence. You're born with two of them and you have to acquire knowledge.

"We had two truly great managers in John Giles and Liam Tuohy but we had good managers at a time when Irish football couldn't really manage itself.

"I think they are the type of men who young managers of today would have looked up to if things had turned out differently and I do think that we lack management role models."