Hibs and Pat Fenlon: February 2013 Report
I’M GOING TO OFFER an apology before I begin. I’m a remote fan of Hibernian and as I don’t don’t live within a long punt up the pitch’s distance of Easter Road, my thoughts are mainly informed by internet feeds and the odd BBC Alba game. I’m also cognisant of my fellow supporters’ views and concerns.
We football supporters tend to be a slightly bi-polar bunch in present times. After a decent win the world is our oyster and everything in the garden rosy. When our team loses there tends to be a corresponding diametrically opposite view which leads directly to anger, despair and dissatisfaction. Hibs message boards can be a holocaust after a particularly bad day at the office for the team. Last evening’s Hibs v St. Johnstone clash at Easter Road was just such an occasion with an apparently very poor and weak capitulation to the tune of 3-1 to the men from McDiarmid Park, Perth.
The point is I think it has come to the stage where this negative reaction is more than deserved.
In the earlier part of the season, Hibs, whilst not necessarily convincing in their displays, enjoyed much enhanced results from season 2011-2012. The Hibees indeed topped the division briefly and were regularly in second spot – a great achievement considering the tragic state of affairs twelve months prior. Since that time however, there has been a long series of dismal performances, punctuated only by odd notable wins such as those against Celtic and Hearts.
Over this period the Easter Road faithful appear to have become at first bored and further, increasingly restless. I need to align myself with those feelings.
I will state here and now that i was disappointed when Hibs appointed Pat Fenlon as manager. It’s not meant as any disrespect to Pat but I felt with some conviction that after a series of managerial disasters it was time for Hibs to ‘push the boat out’ a little and attract some proven quality to the club in the manager’s hot seat. The candidate they ended up choosing was a man who had sound credentials in Ireland and a winner’s track record.
Any manager has to be given time to turn things around and Hibs were certainly in a desperate state after the ‘efforts’ of Colin Calderwood’s clownish stewardship of the club. As has become expected with Hibernian there was no ‘new manager bounce’ and matters stayed firmly down-at-heel under Fenlon. Relegation threatened throughout till season end and the only polish added by a run at the Scottish Cup which ended in absolutele disaster for Hibs’ team of loanees.
This season, Pat Fenlon appeared to be showing his mettle. He appeared to recognise the importance of a solid spine down the team and made some good signings in the like of goalie, Ben Williams, James McPake and so on towards that end. At first, the crowd lapped it up – why wouldn’t they after experiencing so much failure for so long.
So, here we are up-to-date. For the first time I’m hearing serious claims for Fenlon’s head. I can’t profess to be surprised either. Not only have results seriously deteriorated but the fans are not being remotely entertained. Each time I watch Hibs through my available mediums I am shocked as to how little creativity they have and how lacking in ideas they seem to be. Never mind that, they don’t even do the basics correctly. Most games appear like a rearguard action by Hibs with the men in green playing deeply and defensively, inviting teams to come at them – often with inevitable consequences. The centre-backs McPake and Hanlon continually launch the ball forwards to no one in particular, with Hibs smaller, less powerful forwards struggling to make anything of this ‘service’. I find McPake – a player I have a lot of time for generally – particularly reckless in this respect.
The midfield, and tellingly its incoming personnel brought in by Fenlon, has almost no significant creative passing ability. They play sideways and backwards before someone obliges with the aforementioned long, hopeful punt up the field. Just a single player of this type would be sufficient (Claros). An honourable exception to this assessment is awarded to Paul Cairney who though now seeming to have run out of steam a little has had a very good season – despite being hampered by Fenlon playing him out of position and less usefully, wide left.
This brings me to another problem with Fenlon, who has a penchant for playing players away from the position they are most familiar and accomplished in. This criticism is bang up-to-date with the placing of new winger Done on the right wing he is not accustomed to.
Fenlon’s tactic’s are almost non-existent. I do feel that far too much is made of tactics these days but his only plan for his team appears to be to sit back cagily and play on the break or use the long ball game with the ball hoofed down the pitch. It’s pitiful stuff – like watching a team of kids playing kick and rush – embarrassing at times.
A further criticism, apart from his very negative mentality, is his abjectly poor use of substitutes. He appears not to be aware about using them tactically to change the pattern of a game and has continually used them (or not) at inappropriate times during games. This is not new as I watched Hibs huff and puff for a goal in a home Edinburgh derby last year with a rearing-to-go proven goal scorer in Garry O’Connor sitting on the bench until a very minutes to go when he could make no impression on the game. Last night alternatively, Fenlon substituted Gary Deegan just four minutes into the second half. I’m going to be charitable and say that this could be because the Irish midfielder was feeling a knock – no other reason would be satisfactory or explicable.
I’m going to go for broke and say that I’m sick and tired of seeing my club play this way. I heard a well-known ex-player state the other week that Hibernian FC have never been about defensive football and I agree. Pat Fenlon’s conception of how football should be played does not even nearly coincide with my own, nor dare I say, many other fans. It is tedious, dull and dreary and is turning the fans away steadily. There is nil entertainment and it has no place at Easter Road as far as I’m concerned.
I, like many, do not enjoy the constant merry-go-round of managers that the club has invested in during recent years. I like to see a manager given a chance but at this juncture, I’d be quite happy if Pat took his notion of ‘football’ elsewhere.
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