PAT FENLON once took a young Richie Foran under his wing while playing for Shelbourne – but he’s hoping to teach the Inverness skipper a different kind of lesson at the Caledonian Stadium tomorrow.
Fenlon was among the more experienced players at Tolka Park when Foran, pictured below, joined as a raw 19-year-old striker in 2000. And the Hibs manager is well aware of the danger posed by his old team-mate as the Easter Road men prepare to head north in search of crucial points in their fight against relegation.
Fenlon said: “I actually played with Richie at Shelbourne when he came in as a kid. He’s done really well for himself. He’s had a good career.
“He’s a good lad, an honest player, and is probably essential to what they do. He gets about people, he gets his own players working hard, and he works hard himself. He leads by example.
“Jonny Hayes I know as well, from seeing him as a schoolboy player. He’s a decent player – he hasn’t featured in the last couple of games. But Richie is probably the one who Terry Butcher has moulded the team around. That’s the type of character he wants.”
Asked whether he had managed to be an influence on the young Foran, Fenlon laughed: “I tried to be, because when he was young he was a real handful. I tried to take him aside a couple of times, but he’s a big lad, Richie!
“You try to give him a little bit of help, but like I said he was very raw when he came into our team and we had a lot of very experienced players. He did well to get in the team, but we knew he had the talent. He listened as well; he took a lot on board. He obviously listened to a lot of the advice he’s got over the years, and it’s showing now.
“He was an honest kid, probably a little bit erratic when he came into the team – I think he was sent off about three times in his first five games. But we had a good manager – Dermot Keely looked after him well and knew how to handle him. A bit like Terry Butcher, he’s aggressive and would have been in his face.”
“He’s had a great career, Richie, so you’re delighted to see someone like that do well, particularly when you see him coming in as a kid and having a little bit of a problem at the start, then kicking on and doing really well.”
While Fenlon is clearly an admirer of Foran, he won’t let old friendships cloud his judgement as Hibs face a crucial run of games towards the end of the season.
Fenlon and Billy Brown were in Inverness in midweek to take in Caley’s game against St Johnstone – a match Butcher’s side lost 1-0 – and he added: “I was up there on Wednesday with Billy. I know plenty about them. They’re a decent side, they work very hard, and have a system and a shape that they stick to. They’ve done a fantastic job for what they have to be where they are, and that’s credit to the manager.
“We’re going to have to work really hard to get anything out of the game, that’s for certain. No matter who goes there, you have to work harder than they do.”
Ian Murray, meantime, took part in his first full training session in five months yesterday, although Fenlon insisted that it was far too early to consider the player for tomorrow’s trip.
Instead, the club have arranged a bounce game for next week in a bid to have him ready in some capacity for the game against Motherwell on Sunday week.
Fenlon continued: “Ian won’t be involved tomorrow as he’s only had one training session but we’re looking forward to having him back.
“We have a game on Wednesday and one of the reasons we arranged it was to try to get some games under his belt so hopefully he will get through that okay.
“We know we have to be careful because he has already come back and then gone back out again, so we will just have to make sure that he is right before he’s involved again.”
Murray himself was delighted to be back in action following his prolonged lay-off due to surgery to rectify a hip problem and is keen to get back in time to help Hibs push away from the relegation zone. The player said: “It was a wee bit longer than we thought, just with the operation and then a wee setback, but it’s not been too bad, it’s been about five months in total.
“It’s been frustrating, but it’s been frustrating for everyone really. We’ve got seven games left now and they’re all massive games for us.
“Of course you feel helpless. If you’re not playing, you’re not contributing and that’s frustrating. It’s bad enough but when your team’s going through a sticky patch it’s worse.
“We’re only three points off the bottom. Dunfermline have picked up points here and there and will continue to do so under the new manager, and, unless we can put a wee run together, ultimately it will come down to us and them. We’ve got to play them again and that will be a massive game.”