UNDER-FIRE Hibs manager Pat Fenlon has denied reports he has been told to beat Hearts in the first derby of the new season or face losing his job.
There had been suggestions that the Irishman was issued with the ultimatum in the wake of Thursday night’s 7-0 defeat by Malmo in the Europa League qualifier, a result Fenlon himself described as an “embarrassment”. But last night he insisted he has not spoken to the chief executive Rod Petrie or any other member of the board since the European exit and knew nothing of any imminent threat to his job.
The manager apologised to fans immediately after the club slumped to the worst-ever aggregate defeat for a Scottish club in Europe, but a survey on a fans’ website suggests they have lost patience with the man who was also at the helm as they lost arguably the biggest derby of all time, the 2012 Scottish Cup final, 5-1. Nearly three-quarters of those polled said they wanted him sacked now.
It is understood that the club, who have rattled through seven managers in just over a decade, are not keen to part company with the former Bohemians boss who they appointed in November 2011.
He is under contract until the end of this season and whether backing his judgment or simply unwilling to countenance the pay-off required to move him on, they have apparently left him to focus squarely on the new league campaign rather than call a crisis meeting and issue warnings linked to the August 11 match.
Fenlon is not naïve, though, and he will realise that the Malmo result was a massive setback. He had bounced back from the Scottish Cup final defeat to Hearts by securing a second successive Scottish Cup final appearance and a place in Europe as a consequence. They also ended the season undefeated in the derby clashes.
A bottom-six finish, however, which they attained last season, will not be good enough this time.