Richie Towell admits his Easter Road team-mates probably know little about Pat Fenlon, but he believes the new Hibs boss will already have built up a weighty dossier on each of them.
Fenlon’s only contact with his squad before taking his first training session was a brief few seconds prior to the SPL clash with St Johnstone, the 42-year-old popping into the away dressing-room at McDiarmid Park to wish them all the best.
The luck of the Irish, however, deserted the Edinburgh side as Fenlon, accompanied by Liam O’Brien, his former assistant at Bohemians, watched a team left under the control of caretaker boss Billy Brown slump to a 3-1 defeat.
Fenlon, of course, would have been well aware of the predicament Hibs had found themselves in, their slide down the SPL rankings yet again leading to the sacking of another manager, this time Colin Calderwood, and opening the way for him to realise his dream of managing in Scotland.
If, however, he needed any confirmation of the enormity of the task facing him, the manner in which Hibs crumbled having taken the lead through on-loan Celtic youngster Towell’s first strike for the club, would have been more than sufficient, a three-goal burst in nine minutes from Saints leaving the Capital club just two points off bottom place.
Towell, though, claimed Fenlon who, like himself hails from Dublin, probably didn’t learn too much he didn’t already know having taken soundings from friends who played for him at Bohemians.
He said: “They say he is really professional in the way he goes about things. They really enjoyed working under him, that his training sessions were good and that he treats people well.
“They couldn’t speak more highly about him or how he goes about his business. He was a very successful manager in Ireland, he has a great reputation, and hopefully he can bring some of that to Hibs.
“I don’t know him personally, I got to meet him the day before the game as we were both at the stadium meeting the Press, but I’d imagine that from the moment he felt he was in the running for the job he’d have been getting his hands on every DVD he could of Hibs matches. I’m sure he’ll have been doing his homework on all of us and I’m certainly looking to working with him.”
However, Towell agreed that no matter how much Fenlon had learned about his new charges, the performance in Perth would have left him somewhat underwhelmed. But he claimed it could have been oh so different had he and his team-mates maintained the display they had produced despite difficult conditions – a gusting wind and driving rain – in the opening half hour of the match.
It was in that spell Towell, who had scored an own goal on his last appearance at McDiarmid Park, one which was cancelled out by a late equaliser from David Wotherspoon, struck to raise a fair degree of optimism among the small band of fans who had made the journey from Edinburgh.
Towell was on hand as Saints goalkeeper Peter Enckelman pulled off a good save from Leigh Griffiths only to push the ball in his direction, the big Finn managing to get a touch on his shot but unable to prevent it spinning into the net.
He said: “I was delighted to have scored at the right end this time. I felt we were controlling the game at that point and deserved our lead but for whatever reason we stopped playing the way we had been and were punished for it.”
Saints striker Francisco Sandaza capitalised on a blunder by Welsh Under-21 international defender David Stephens to equalise at the second attempt, his first effort having come back off the woodwork, before substitute Marcus Haber nodded Steve Lomas’ team ahead with the game into stoppage time at the end of the first half.
Towell groaned: “It was a terrible time to concede a second although I felt David was unfortunate. He has been flying for us recently, a rock at the back, but I don’t think the pitch helped him.
“It was very sandy, slippy and the conditions didn’t help. But he is a big player and he will pick himself up and go again.”
Even although they were trailing Hibs were by no means out of the match, but they were just two minutes after the restart as Saints skipper Dave Mackay made full use of the wind whipping across the pitch from right to left to steer a free-kick in off goalkeeper Graham Stack’s left hand post.
Towell said: “Billy told us at half-time the game was still there for us but that free-kick made it very hard for us to come back. We were done by three goals in nine minutes.”
Hibs did create a couple of half-chances but survived more than a few scares as Saints threatened to increase their lead, bringing back memories of that 5-1 hammering Hibs suffered in Perth a couple of seasons ago.
Saints almost came within a goal of getting close to that scoreline in the dying seconds, Haber crediting Stack with a good save as his shot was touched onto the post, but nevertheless it remained a miserable day for Towell and Co.
Now Hibs fans are almost paying as much attention to the results of the other clubs who also find themselves in dire straits as they are those of their own team, Aberdeen’s last-gasp draw against Dunfermline and Hearts’ victory over Inverness Caley keeping them in ninth place.
Nevertheless, as Towell admitted, Hibs are in a precarious position, the 20-year-old echoing a refrain which has been oft repeated in recent weeks, that it is about time he and his team-mates began to clock up the results needed to dig themselves out of trouble.
There has been little sign of such a turnaround with Hibs having won just three matches so far and facing a daunting trip to high-flying Motherwell on Friday and then a visit from SPL leaders Rangers.
In a candid assessment of the situation in the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s disappointment, Brown laid into the players, warning them that for some their own jobs will be on the line if they don’t “pull the finger out.”
It’s an opinion with which few, if any, within the Easter Road dressing-room would be able to sustain an argument against, Towell admitting: “It’s a worrying position for any team to be in, but especially for a massive club like Hibs. We are down there, but we shouldn’t be with the players we have.”
Now, though, it’s high time Towell and his team-mates were proving that not only to Fenlon but an increasingly anxious Hibs support.