PAT FENLON takes charge of Hibs for the first time tonight urging his Easter Road stars to prove to him why he doesn’t need to plunge into the transfer market.
The clash against high-flying Motherwell at Fir Park is the first of five matches before the window opens on New Year’s Day, affording plenty of chances, according to the new boss, for the players to impress him.
Although under no illusions as to the enormity of the task facing him – initially to lift a side flirting with the relegation zone to safety – Fenlon believes he has inherited some good players, the problem being they haven’t been fulfilling their potential.
Having watched from the stand as Hibs capitulated to St Johnstone last weekend, Fenlon insisted he was not surprised by what he had seen, describing the performance as a “carbon copy” of what he had seen on the DVDs he’s been studying.
Fenlon and newly arrived first-team coach Liam O’Brien have spent this week, along with assistant manager Billy Brown, closely watching the squad in training and although the Irishman has promised to freshen up the side tonight, he won’t be indulging in wholesale changes.
He will, however, welcome back striker Garry O’Connor, admitting the side had badly missed their top scorer in Perth as he nursed a throat infection. Fenlon said: “He’s a big player, he started the season on fire and scored a lot of goals.
“When he is not in the team, he’s a big loss. Physically he’s a big player for the club, but mentally he is also a big player and someone we need around the place. We need someone who is going to score goals, so it is good to have him back.” Tonight’s trip to Lanarkshire precedes a visit from SPL leaders Rangers before Hibs face two other sides in trouble – Aberdeen and Inverness – either side of a visit to Tannadice in what Fenlon admits is a tricky schedule.
But he claimed his players should be looking forward to these games, matches in which he’ll be evaluating each and every one of them before deciding what moves he needs to make in terms of reshaping the squad.
He said: “You are always looking to improve no matter where you are in the league. You are looking to see if there’s anyone who can come in and improve you. All you can do up to then is do the work in the background. I think it is important we see the players here as we’ve got some good ones. My job is to get the best out of them. That would mean maybe in January we might not need to do as much work as people think.”
Meanwhile, Hibs Under-19s face Inverness at East Mains tomorrow seeking to stretch their unbeaten run to eight matches.