RICHIE FORAN was just a rookie when he first met Pat Fenlon and reckons he has a lot to thank his countryman for.
However, the Inverness hitman he will wait until at least 4.45pm on Saturday before he starts handing out plaudits.
The Hibs manager was captain of Shelbourne when Foran joined them for his first season as a professional.
Foran himself admits he was a bit of a hothead as youngster and ended up being sent off four times in his maiden campaign.
Rather than having a go at him, though, his club skipper simply put an arm round him and offered a few words of advice.
And Foran reckons Fenlon’s approach was worth its weight in gold, as opposed to other team-mates who chose to shout him down for the mistakes he made.
Although he hasn’t spoken to him in recent times, Foran hopes he will get the chance to have a chat with him after the match at Easter Road this weekend. But he will get the business side of things out of the way first. Foran said: “I will just be going down there focusing on Inverness and what we can do. That’s the main thing. I will try to have a chat with him, but I’ll wait until the end of the game when everything is done and dusted.
“We played together at Shelbourne. I was just starting out, it was my first club and my first year as a professional player, whereas he was the club captain. He was a good friend and a mentor to me.
“I was no angel when I was there. I think I was red-carded four times in my first season. As a striker, I think that was quite a feat!
“But he never once had a go at me. He would rather put an arm around my shoulder and try to get me to do things right and he never fell out with me, whereas other people in the team probably did.
“I think I have matured a lot since then and a bit of that will be down to him. I was a bit naive back then. I wouldn’t say that I was a stupid person, but I didn’t half do some stupid stuff.”
While some of Foran’s off-the-field antics amounted to no more than the kind of boisterous behaviour which most young men get up to, he is happy to report that, nowadays, he has a much more responsible attitude.
“I have got the captain’s armband up here now and I think that shows just how much I have come on since then,” he adds.
No matter how happy he is to see Fenlon turning things around at Easter Road, there will certainly be no favours given or asked between the two this weekend.
Apart from their opening-day defeat by Dundee United, Hibs have enjoyed relative success this season.
Last season they struggled to avoid relegation and then lost out heavily to bitter rivals Hearts in the Scottish Cup, but Foran believes that his countryman is now starting to make his mark on the side. He continued: “I am delighted to see Hibs do well – only because he is the manager. I know he was probably under a bit of pressure last year. It wasn’t a great end to the season or a great cup final for them, but you never saw him panic once, you never saw him lose the head in any of his interviews on TV or in the papers. He had a plan, and I think that it is starting to work for him.
“They had some quality players last year but I think they were probably just missing a bit of fight and a bit of heart. This year, he has brought in players with those qualities. I’m not going to say who I think they are because that will just give them a bit more confidence, but I am delighted to see him making his mark.”
Foran is convinced Hibs will be a completely different proposition now than they were all through last season.
He continued: “You can already see the change and there is more of a fighting spirit about them. The players have shown that they will fight for the jersey and fight for the club. It looks like he has the right blend of players now and I wish him every success – although none at all on Saturday!”