PAT FENLON today became Hibs’ fifth manager in four years as he agreed a deal tying him to the Easter Road club until the summer of 2014.
However, the Evening News understands the 42-year-old will take a back seat for tomorrow’s SPL clash with St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park for fear of disrupting the preparations which have been put in place by caretaker boss Billy Brown. Instead Fenlon will watch from the stand before taking complete charge from Monday morning.
Having sacked Colin Calderwood 20 days ago, the former Scotland defender’s miserable record of just 12 wins in 49 matches leaving Hibs struggling at the foot of the SPL table, Hibs have moved quickly to secure Fenlon’s services.
Although informal soundings are believed to have taken place, it was only late on Wednesday that Irish club Bohemians revealed they had granted Hibs permission to speak to their manager.
Negotiations are understood to have taken place throughout yesterday between Fenlon and Fife Hyland and Scott Lindsay, the Hibs directors charged with heading the hunt for a new manager, before an agreement was struck last night and the new man was introduced to chairman Rod Petrie.
Throughout the “recruitment process” Hibs have, as always, remained true to their promise to say as little as possible until their mission was completed although they did disclose they’d had more than 90 applicants for the post. Fenlon, though, is believed to have stood out as the outstanding candidate, someone described by those who know him simply as “a winner.”
He won three Irish League titles in four seasons with Shelbourne, the club also becoming the first from Ireland to reach the third qualifying round of the Champions League.
A less successful spell at Derry City was over after just five months but Fenlon returned to his hometown of Dublin to lead Bohemians to a league and cup double within a year.
He won the league again and the League of Ireland Cup with Bohs but it is understood Hibs were also impressed by the manner in which Fenlon had gone about the season just ended.
Although Bohemians finished fifth as former Hibs star Michael O’Neill took Shamrock Rovers to a second successive title, Fenlon found himself having to throw a team of youngsters together virtually on the eve of the season getting under way as the Dalymount club creaked under a ¤4 million debt.
It’s a case of second time lucky for Fenlon who found his path to the SPL with Dundee United blocked in January last year as the Tannadice club failed to agree a compensation fee with Bohemians.
But there was no such obstacle on this occasion with Bohemians unwilling to stand in his way and although he may lack experience in Scottish football, Bohs skipper Owen Heary believes his boss will be a success at Easter Road.
Heary, who played in all five of Fenlon’s League of Ireland triumphs with Shelbourne and Bohemians, said: “He follows Scottish football and even gets one of the Scottish papers sent over. He has grown up liking Scottish football, he’ll know the players, he’ll know the league inside out so he will be well prepared for it.”
Although Brown will take charge of the team tomorrow, the stand-in manager’s long-term future is less clear.
Jim Jefferies’ former right-hand man arrived at Easter Road to assist Calderwood, who has now taken up the post as No 2 to Chris Hughton at Birmingham, but only last week he warned that he did not necessarily see the job continuing under a new Hibs manager.