Pat FENLON today revealed he’d been tracking Ben Williams long before he became manager of Hibs after making the goalkeeper his fourth signing of the summer.
Fenlon was alerted to the former Manchester United trainee while boss of Irish outfit Bohemians and made the journey across the Irish Sea to watch him star for English League One side Colchester United. And after moving to Easter Road he continued to keep tabs on Williams, dispatching goalkeeping coach Scott Thomson to monitor the 29-year-old.
Today Fenlon’s patience has paid off with Williams spurning the advances of a number of Championship clubs down south to sign a two-year deal in the Capital. Fenlon had made attracting an experienced goalkeeper a top priority following the release of Graham Stack at the end of the season and with Mark Brown still to agree a new deal, a situation which left him with only kids Calum Antell and Paul Grant on the books.
However, he insisted the arrival of Williams does not mean the end of Brown’s Easter Road career. Fenlon said: “I’m delighted to get Ben, we’ve been working away on it for a while and it’s great to get another one over the line.
“With Graham gone and Mark having not signed a contract it was vitally important that we got a goalkeeper in, and an experienced one at that. He fits the bill for what we are looking for, he’s played a lot of games and he’s the right character as well. We’ve brought in a decent goalkeeper who has played at a very good standard and has had a good upbringing in the game as well.
“I have a good contact at Colchester and when I was managing Bohs I was over a couple of times to watch him and last year we had five or six goalkeepers on our radar. Thommo went down to watch him a few times.”
Particularly satisfying for Fenlon was the fact Williams
chose Hibs rather than go elsewhere, pointing out that the Edinburgh club were hardly likely to have been able to “outbid” Championship clubs in England.
He said: “I think it’s maybe a case of Ben looking for a
different challenge and hopefully we have sold him on the place.
“I think when he came up
and saw what we had as a club was a big selling point for him, I don’t think we are in the
position to outbid Championship clubs.
“You want people to commit and show you they want to be at the club and I think that was a plus with Ben, once we got him here he had a look around and it was fairly quick that he
wanted to come here which was great, particularly when there were others interested down south.”
Talks with Brown have been ongoing over the past two or three weeks and, Fenlon
insisted, negotiations will
continue between the 31-year-old’s agent and club directors while he turns his attention to filling another priority
position, finding an experienced striker with the departures of Garry O’Connor, Leigh Griffiths and Roy O’Donovan
having left him with only teenagers Ross Caldwell and Danny Handling as back-up to Eoin Doyle.
But, again, the Easter Road manager insisted that he won’t be rushed. Fenlon said: “We are talking to one or two at the moment, but, like everything, it’s slow. It’s important, though, that we pick one up.”