Saturday 20 January 2018

Fenlon has earned the right to look back in anger

Richard Sadlier

Richard Sadlier

Should they stay or should they go? It seems the personal ambition of managers does not sit too well with supporters. Not every boss gets the move they want, but for those who do, the 'Judas' signs are up straight away.

Responding to accusations that his decision to leave Burnley was based solely on financial gain, Owen Coyle revealed last week that he could have quadrupled his salary by accepting the vacant manager's position at Celtic in the summer. While this was perhaps more a measure of how little he thought of Scottish football as opposed to any feelings of loyalty he may have had towards Burnley, turning down Celtic gave the impression he was at Turf Moor for the long haul. It seems now that was never the case. Having not won a game since October, and with the worst away record in the Premier League, it is not inconceivable to imagine he would have been forced out himself if their fortunes didn't pick up.

Burnley were only two points above the relegation zone when he left, so we can assume his job was far from safe. It is very likely that the chairman would have looked elsewhere for a manager if their run of games without victory continued too far into February, so Coyle was right to take the chance when it came his way. The existence of a contract mattered little. Compensation was agreed and he was on his way.

In a scenario which mirrored that of Coyle's, Pat Fenlon's attempts to leave Bohemians mid-contract to further his own career have been, as yet, unsuccessful. With everything agreed between Fenlon and Dundee United, a deal could not be reached between the two clubs on the issue of compensation. With nothing left to prove to anyone with any knowledge of domestic football in this country, Fenlon will have to wait a little longer before he makes his inevitable move away from Bohs and the League of Ireland. He has earned the right to do so.

How he feels about events of the past fortnight is unknown, as he has kept a very dignified silence throughout the proceedings. The opportunity to test himself in a league far superior to the League of Ireland is one which should come his way again soon, but a more realistic approach would need to be adopted by his current employers if he is to avail of it at all.

Though he clearly deserves his move abroad, it has turned out to be one of those rare situations in football where it seems a contract actually counts for something. For that, Fenlon deserves great praise.

Though Burnley would rather Coyle had stayed, they faced up to the reality of the situation and did not stand in his way. As a result, he now finds himself at a bigger club with greater resources. Arsenal are perhaps not the ideal opponents for his first game in charge this afternoon, but with last week's game at Sunderland postponed due to the weather, he has had a little longer than normal to get his ideas across to the squad. The sacking of Gary Megson may have pleased the Bolton fans, but a victory today will delight them.

Given that most managers receive substantial payments if they lose their job, it is difficult to get too concerned for their well-being when things don't go their way. As is the case with players,

though, opportunities to advance your career may not come along too often, so tough decisions need to be made when they do.

In a business where loyalty has become a quaint and irrelevant quality these days, only time will tell whether Burnley, Bolton and Bohs have done the right thing. It could go horribly wrong for them all though, as Fenlon may one day leave Bohs for nothing, while Bolton and Burnley could both end up in the Championship next season.

Fenlon should get a similar opportunity some time in the future, but he may not. If Bohemians continue to be successful on the field, it would be astonishing to think he won't. If he doesn't, though, he may always look back and wonder what might have been, and surely resent those who stood in his way. It won't matter, though, as it will be far too late by then.

Sunday Independent

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