Hibs boss Pat Fenlon today insisted he’d be bitterly disappointed if the players who miss a shot at Scottish Cup glory aren’t left “hating my guts.”
Although he’s all but made up his mind on his starting line-up to face Hearts at Hampden on Saturday, Fenlon admitted he faces tough choices as he decides on who will fill the bench, his options cut by the fact he’s only allowed five substitutes rather than the seven permitted in the SPL.
Having taken a squad of 23 players to a four-day training camp on the outskirts of Dublin to escape the “mayhem” of the Capital as the hype surrounding the first all-Edinburgh Cup final in 116 years reaches a crescendo, Fenlon will have only 16 jerseys to hand out.
Teenage goalkeeper Paul Grant will be assured of his place on the bench as back-up to Mark Brown, leaving Fenlon with only four seats to fill as he attempts to anticipate every possible problem which may arise during the match and how to counter them.
But no matter who he opts for, Fenlon knows he’s going to have some highly aggrieved stars on his hands. However, he claimed he knows exactly how they’ll be feeling having found himself in exactly the same position himself.
Playing for Belfast outfit Linfield, Dublin-born Fenlon found himself sidelined for a UEFA Cup clash with Danish side OB Odense despite being a first-team regular at the time.
He said: “The rules then allowed for three foreigners and I was classed as such.
“There were four of us playing every week but when we went to Denmark one had to be sacrificed and it was me. I was bitterly disappointed, to be honest, I was fuming.”
But while he believes players will realise in time the choices he makes this weekend will be those he believes will give Hibs the best chance to end their 110-year cup hoodoo, Fenlon accepted the initial reaction will be hurt. He said: If I leave a player out on Saturday and he is not hating my guts for a bit I would be very disappointed.
“To be honest, he shouldn’t be playing football if he doesn’t feel that way.
“However, I will be picking a team and bench on the basis of what I think is best for Hibs and no other reason.
“As a player you tend to think about yourself but there is also the bigger issue in relation to the club and how it matters for a lot of other people other than yourself.”
Fenlon revealed he believes getting his bench right is almost as important as his first choice 11, and although it’s something he’s faced with every week, the fact he’ll have two fewer players sitting in the dug-out allied to the possibility of extra-time makes the task that bit more difficult.
The Irishman said: “Hampden is such a big pitch, it’s a cup final and people use up a lot of energy so the bench is definitely something you have to think about.
“Are you covered in every position if you get an injury or two injuries? What do you do if you are leading or having to chase the game? You have to weigh all that up together.”