Monday 23 April 2018

Pat Fenlon on his start to SPL life

Ruadhri O'Connor

AT around 8.50 on Friday night Pat Fenlon had the wind taken out of his sails. After his "hectic" first week as Hibernian manager, he had sent out his new team with a new formation and a fresh ideas.

He experienced the elation of Garry O'Connor's opening goal and his team were playing well and leading at half-time.

During the first half, assistant manager Billy Brown had noticed a fire engine arriving in the stadium, something wasn't right. Half-time was delayed as it emerged that a floodlight pylon had caught fire and, eventually, the match had to be abandoned.

Having left the familiar -- and often farcical -- world of the League of Ireland he can't have imagined that his opening night in Scotland go up in flames in such circumstances.

It was an imperfect end to Fenlon's first week where he threw himself into his new job after finally getting his chance to manage outside Ireland.

After his excitement of his initial unveiling, the reality of taking over a struggling Hibs team was laid bare when he watched his new charges losing 3-1 to St Johnstone.

On Monday, he took over team affairs and set about reviving a club languishing just above the relegation zone.


Instilling belief into a squad built under a different regime is clearly the primary challenge facing the 42-year-old and work to that end started last week. The word 'confidence' is at the tip of his tongue.

"They have only won one game at home in nine months so that doesn't breed confidence," he explained.

"We are trying to get a bit of confidence into the players, I think some of them are a bit low. They have only won one game at home in nine months so that doesn't breed confidence. We need to change that, get their mental approach right. I think there are some good players ability-wise, but maybe it's a little thing in the head that we need to change."


As if trying to change the players' mindset wasn't tough enough in itself, taking over from Colin Calderwood in mid-season means that Fenlon has had little or no time to get set up in Edinburgh.

Based in a hotel room until Thursday, he has now moved into an apartment.

While he managed to get home at the weekend, it will be a while before he gets back to Dublin where his family will remain. Finding a house is on his agenda, but not until his children have finished up in school.

It is, he says, a mixed blessing.

"It is probably not a bad thing, to be honest, at the moment because of where we are in the league, that needs all the attention it can get," Fenlon said.

"I got home for the weekend this weekend, which was nice, but I probably won't get home now for a while. It might be a case of them coming over again.

"That's part and parcel of it, I suppose, something I've got to get used to. It's something I haven't been used to since I was 15 or 16 when I went over to Chelsea, but if I want to improve in the game and go forward then sacrifices have to be made."


Fenlon's remit last week was to become part of the furniture around the club's impressive training centre in East Lothian.

"I had introduced myself to the players before the St Johnstone game, but Monday was the first day we sort of got into work, we had a yap with them before training and told them what we expect of them in training," he explained.

"The training session was good, they trained really well and I was pleased with that.

"After that, I was on the phone all day after that, doing bits and pieces. Probably every day has been a bit similar.

"I've been busy, trying to get to know everybody, talk to people. We have a big training centre, with a lot of people in it and I'm just trying to get to know them.

"I've been ringing people who managed the players before and things like that. It's just networking, getting to know people, finding out how the club works and what makes the players tick. That's what the whole week was about I suppose."


Part of Fenlon's adjustment from managing in Ireland to Scotland will be the increased scrutiny that managing one of Edinburgh's big clubs brings.

Bohemians might be one of the bigger names in the domestic game, but the attention the 42-year-old has received since arriving in the Scottish capital has been on another level entirely to what he has experienced before. "We had a press day on the Thursday, you're doing interviews with BBC Scotland and Sky Sports News, things like that," Fenlon said.

"There's a lot more papers in Scotland in relation to football, so it was much bigger from a press point of view than it was at Bohs. I'm a little bit used to the press from Ireland, but it's not as big as it is in Scotland and obviously I have to learn some things in that regard as well."


After all of the build-up, the anticipation and preparation, he couldn't imagine that his Friday night lights would fail.

"You're trying to get away to presumably a better league, which obviously it is, but then the same problems sometimes occur everywhere," a frustrated Fenlon admitted.

"The referee called Stuart McCall and myself in. He was discussing it, when there was a knock on the door from the man in charge of the police at the stadium saying that they would have to call it off.

"The fire had started up again and it was very close to where the Hibs supporters were, so they couldn't continue from a health and safety point of view, which was disappointing because we had started well and we were on our way to picking up our first three points and get some confidence into the players."

His first week is done, but the farce of Friday night means that something is missing from Fenlon's Scottish start.

Next Saturday, the ESPN cameras will be at Easter Road for the visit of league leaders Rangers and the new manager will know more about his charges than he could have before.

This is the step-up he craved, the reason he is here and he is relishing every minute of it.

Irish Independent

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