BEN WILLIAMS winced as he heard a team-mate being treated to Sir Alex Ferguson’s legendary “hairdryer” for the first time.
The fact he’d held his hands up and admitted his culpability for a mistake which had led to Manchester United losing a crucial goal didn’t matter one jot – he got the full works from the Old Trafford boss in front of his team-mates.
However, if Williams had expected the same treatment from Pat Fenlon after Hibs had thrown away a two-goal lead – and three points – against Motherwell last week, the goalkeeper would have been left bitterly disappointed. For, while Fenlon’s reaction didn’t come anywhere near Sir Alex’s fireworks which Wayne Rooney has admitted any player fears, Williams revealed the Easter Road manager had left his players in no doubt he was seething, later confessing to being “disgusted” at his team’s performance in the final 30 minutes of a game which they had contrived to lose despite having enjoyed a commanding lead.
Williams was reminded of the first time he saw Sir Alex give full vent to his fury as he read of a lecture delivered to Harvard Buisness school students in the United States by the fiery Scot. The 30-year-old said: “It was interesting. Being a Manchester lad, growing up a United fan as a kid and then getting the chance to work with him, it was stuff I new about him already, but it’s stil interesting. It was drilled into me as a youngster coming through at Old Trafford that you put your all in for the game and if you made a mistake it’s well documented and you get told about it – with the ‘hairdryer’ treatment or whatever.
“Then you get back out on the training field on the Monday and you focus on the next game.
“I never had the ‘hairdryer’ directed at me, but I saw it directed elsewhere and the first time you see it, it takes you back a bit. I won’t say who the player was, but it was an away game at Stamford Bridge. It was a tight game, we ended up drawing 2-2 but there was a mistake that led to Chelsea scoring.
“If you’re a true professional and you’re passionate about it you’ll hold your hand up when you’ve made a mistake. The player did – but he was still reminded about it. It was very impressive.”
Fenlon may have adopted a more conciliatory approach than Sir Alex but, Williams insisted, he was no less effective in getting his message over following Hibs’ latest setback.
The former Colchester United star said: “Pat Fenlon could have ranted and raved at all of us and it would have been justified, but sometimes if you are silent it can have just as much effect. Later he came out in the press and said he was ‘disgusted’, but that’s just the way he dealt with it. We weren’t worth his words and sometimes silence works. That was nothing like a ‘hairdryer’, but I’ve seen that side of the manager before, it’s not something that surprised me. He’s a passionate man and a committed man and he wants to do well for the club.
“When you’re a manager you put a hell of a lot of work in behind the scenes, a lot of hours and for us to be 2-0 up and doing well, relatively cruising if you like, to then lose the soft goals we did, I’d be tearing my hair out as well.”
Williams may now be plying his trade in Edinburgh rather than Manchester, but he believes the same principles should apply at both clubs, that regardless of any given result the focus has to immediately turn to the next game, admitting that with just one win in five league matches Hibs are desperate to get back on the winning track starting with tomorrow’s match against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.
He said: “The thing with football is when you’re winning it can paper over the cracks. You can have luck in a game, things can break and go your way. You might win a game 2-1 that you shouldn’t have won. In the last couple of games we’ve found things a bit difficult in the manner we’ve conceded goals and it’s definitely a test of character.
“You have to put it behind you and be willing to rectify your mistakes, which we have been doing, we’ve done a lot of defensive work in training. It’s all about getting back on track. We probably thought we would do that against Motherwell and apart from the last 20 to 25 minutes we were well on our way to doing that.
“So now it’s important we get a positive result. All the players are a good, honest bunch of lads and if anyone makes a mistake they’ll come in at half-time of full-time and hold their hands up.
“We’re all pulling in the right direction, but in the last couple of games we’ve let ourselves down. Every team has some sort of blip or run of results that aren’t favourable at some point in the season, but if you can string two or three wins together then you’re back up the table and everyone is asking ‘Can you catch Celtic?’”
Williams knows Hibs are now under the microscope, the shine having somewhat been taken off their promising and possibly unexpected start to the season by recent results but, he insisted, people have to remember where Hibs are coming from, having spent the past two years battling at the wrong end of the SPL.
He said: “It’s about us managing expectations, where we need to be and what we really need to be focusing on is a comparison with where we’ve been the last couple of years. I’ve said before we’re not the finished article. We are a work in progress and if the manager can strengthen in January then we can kick on.”
With tomorrow’s match the first of four games to be played in just 12 days Williams knows the Christmas and New Year programme can have an impact on every club’s expectations, the hectic schedule then being followed by a winter shutdown.
He said: “It would be good to go into the break on a high and we’ve got so many games in a short space of time so you can make up a lot of ground on teams – or lose a lot of ground.
“If Celtic, for example, win all their games and we don’t win any then there would be a big distance between us and them. It’s really important to go into the break with a bit of confidence, results are on your side and you’ve got a fresh start after the break to hit the ground running for the second part of the season.”