Hibernian expected to unveil Fenlon as manager today

 

BARRING ANY late hitches, Scottish Premier League club Hibernian are expected to unveil Pat Fenlon as their new manager in Edinburgh today, marking the end of his four-year spell in charge of Bohemians and his first experience of management outside Ireland.

Hibernian sought – and were granted – permission from Bohemians on Wednesday to speak to Fenlon, confirming speculation that the 42-year-old was their choice to succeed Colin Calderwood, who was sacked earlier this month.

Although he has a year left on his contract with Bohemians Fenlon is free to leave the club on this occasion without them receiving compensation from his new employers, an issue that scuppered his move to Dundee United last year when the clubs failed to agree on a compensation fee.

Fenlon, who is believed to have been offered a three-and-a-half-year contract, may be in the dugout in time for Saturday’s game away to St Johnstone, but if caretaker Billy Brown is left in charge for that fixture Fenlon will make his managerial bow in the December 2nd game at Motherwell.

Following Calderwood’s departure Hibernian supporters protested outside the Easter Road ground, calling for the resignation of chairman Rod Petrie whose reign has been a turbulent one, the club going through seven permanent managers in the last 10 years.

That, then, is the nature of the challenge facing Fenlon, Hibernian currently sitting just two points off the bottom of the SPL table. It is, though, based on his past career choices, likely to be a challenge he will relish.

Former Linfield manager Trevor Anderson reminisced a while back about Fenlon’s time as a player with the Belfast club, recalling the day the squad travelled down the Shankill Road in an open top bus parade after they had won yet more trophies.

“And Pat actually put a Celtic tape on,” said Anderson, describing the laughter that greeted the Dubliner’s plucky choice of celebratory music.

It’s 17 years since Anderson signed Fenlon for Linfield, a move that was far from unprecedented for a Catholic player (Dessie Gorman was already there when Fenlon arrived), but still, said Anderson, a brave enough one considering the times. “He has great strength of character and I can’t imagine there’s any challenge that would scare him,” he said.

Should he take over at Hibernian, it won’t be the first time football has seen him leave these shores, having joined Chelsea as a 16-year-old in 1985 after a schoolboy career with Tolka Rovers, Home Farm and Rivermount Boys. He returned home, though, midway through his four-year contract. “My height went against me and the new reserve team manager didn’t see eye to eye with me, so I just left,” he said.

Back in Ireland, the young midfielder joined Brian Kerr’s St Patrick’s Athletic in 1987 and until his retirement in 2003, during which time he had spells with Bohemians, Linfield, Shamrock Rovers and Shelbourne, won every major honour in the game and was twice voted player of the year.

He took over as player-manager of Shelbourne in 2002, retiring as a player a year later, and went on to become one of the most successful managers in Irish football.

In terms of honours, there’s not much more Fenlon could have achieved, winning five league titles – three with Shelbourne and two with Bohemians — and the FAI, League of Ireland and Setanta Cups.

* SLIGO Rovers captain Richie Ryan has agreed a two and a half year deal with Dundee United, the midfielder due to join the club when January’s transfer window opens. The 26-year-old led Rovers to their second successive FAI Cup victory earlier this month and to a second place finish in the league.