Hibs boss Pat Fenlon has backed the SPL’s Friday night football experiment, insisting it’s well worth investigating.
Fenlon’s first game in charge of the Easter Road outfit coincides with the second such match, tomorrow’s clash with Motherwell at Fir Park, with the first in the pilot project, between Aberdeen and Dunfermline at Pittodrie, having been declared a success.
That fixture attracted a crowd of 8333 and although only 500 Pars fans travelled north, SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster said the majority of supporters who later took part in a survey were in favour of another Friday night game.
Fenlon is acquainted with the concept, having managed for nine years in Ireland, where the game is not only played on Friday nights but from March to November, another innovation some would like to see in Scotland.
And while many supporters in this country would oppose such a move, 42-year-old Fenlon believes everyone should remain open-minded.
The Scottish Communities League Cup tie between the clubs in Lanarkshire earlier in the season, a clash Hibs won on penalties following a 2-2 draw, attracted a gate of only 3909 and Motherwell, having slashed ticket prices to £10 (adults) and £5 (juveniles) as well as introducing a free ticket scheme for season ticket holders to bring a friend along tomorrow night, will be hoping for a much larger crowd on this occasion. Fenlon said: “I am well used to it, although it is perhaps a bit different for the players from a preparation point of view, because it’s a bit earlier in the week, but to me it is not a major difference.
“Can you get a bigger crowd, more people through the gates? If you do not try it you will never know. If people are trying these things to try to improve the game then you have to give it a go.”
Under Stuart McCall, Motherwell have been the SPL’s surprise package, riding high in third place. But Fenlon revealed he believes the Fir Park outfit will hold few shocks for him as he’s been watching DVDs of their performances almost as avidly as those of his won team.
He said: “I’ve watched some and I will be watching a few more. Motherwell are similar to St Johnstone, they seem to have a steady team which almost picks itself when everyone is fit while our’s has chopped and changed a bit.
“Motherwell are a solid team with experienced players but we will be prepared properly for the game.”
Meanwhile, Liam O’Brien, Fenlon’s assistant at former club Bohemians who was appointed first team coach at Easter Road, revealed he’s hoping to use the experience gained by playing under some of the game’s big-name managers to help turn Hibs fortunes around.
A former defender with Manchester United, Newcastle United and the Republic of Ireland, the 47-year-old will be working alongside Fenlon and assistant boss Billy Brown.
He told Hibs TV: “When I was at Manchester United, I was fortunate enough to work under Alex Ferguson. Obviously everyone knows about Sir Alex and he was a very strong disciplinarian.
“At Newcastle, both Kevin Keegan and Osvaldo Ardiles had good man management skills.
“Then on the international side with Jack Charlton. He was very thorough and Mick McCarthy was also very good. I learned from every manager I worked under.”
And of his relationship with Fenlon, he said: “I think we work well together and we bounce ideas off each other. We don’t always see eye-to-eye on everything, but it is a good working relationship.”