An EMBARRASSED Pat Fenlon today apologised to Hibs fans after his side were humiliated 7-0 at home by Malmo as the Easter Road boss faced up to a growing injury crisis ahead of the new domestic season.
Added to the two goals they’d conceded in the first leg of their Europa League second qualifying round tie in Sweden, the seven more shipped last night meant the 9-0 aggregate loss over the two legs was the heaviest ever suffered by a Scottish club in Europe, exceeding Rangers’ 12-4 defeat by Eintracht Frankfurt in the semi-final of the European Cup 53 years ago.
Fenlon was clearly stunned by the events of last night, more than 16,000 fans having turned up to pay tribute to Hibs legend Lawrie Reilly, who had died earlier in the week, only to see the Irishman’s players do little to honour the memory of the last member of the Famous Five. Four down at half-time, Hibs conceded a further three after the interval with Malmo boasting seven different scorers, while the Capital side managed just one direct shot on target in the entire match – a tame 83rd-minute effort from substitute Scott Robertson which nestled safety in the hands of goalkeeper Johan Dahlin.
“I’m embarrassed more than anything else,” confessed Fenlon. “It’s tough to say too much else. I apologise to the supporters because it’s difficult for me to stand over that performance. I won’t make excuses – it’s not good enough.
“We did all right at the start of the game, but conceded a goal and lost our way. It was very disappointing. But I have to look at myself and not just blame the players. It’s a disappointing night for the fans. I can’t stand putting them through that, that’s the hardest part for me. We must learn, it’s as simple as that. It’s difficult at this stage to be positive about anything.”
Fenlon now faces the huge task of lifting his players for the opening game of the new SPFL season against Motherwell a week on Sunday, and could go into that game without four key players – Tim Clancy, Ryan McGivern, Paul Cairney and, now, captain James McPake who limped out of last night’s action after just 24 minutes, apparently suffering yet another back spasm, leaving the manager to reshuffle an already makeshift defence.
Fenlon admitted McPake, who missed the end of last season with a similar problem, could also sit out the start of the campaign. He said: “It looks like we are going to lose him for a while.”
Clancy and McGivern missed both legs against Malmo. The right-back continues to recover from an operation while his team-mate was ruled out with a knee injury picked up in Hibs’ final warm-up match before the double-header with the Swedes. Cairney, who was seen leaving the ground on crutches with his right ankle in plaster, is feared to have chipped a bone and will have a scan to determine the full extent of the problem today with the worry that he, too, could be sidelined for an
Meanwhile, Hibs were today expected to confirm Swindon Town striker James Collins has signed on a three-year contract. Fenlon, who had evaded questions regarding the reported £200,000, was finally forced to admit chairman Rod Petrie was in negotiations with both the player and his club.
n HIBS’ Under-17 and
Under-20 sides will tonight play in the final of the Foyle Cup in Northern Ireland in their respective age groups, facing Limavady and Derry City.