PAT Fenlon has defended Hibernian’s cautious financial approach, arguing it is better to err on the safe side rather than risk the kind of problems faced by other clubs both in Scotland and abroad.
It is an approach which has been criticised as penny-pinching by some Hibs fans, who point to the millions of pounds earned in recent years from the sale of such players as Steven Fletcher and Scott Brown. But Fenlon, while saying that in an ideal world he would love to have infinite funds, acknowledged he had already had a certain latitude in the transfer market.
“In fairness to the club, when I took the job I knew where we were,” said the Easter Road manager, whose team are at home to Kilmarnock tonight in the SPL. “We lost money last year and it’s difficult to get the balance right.
“We’ve seen what has happened with other clubs who don’t go down that road. So we’ve got to make sure that we’re competitive, we put together a team that we think can get the club back where it should be, but also look after the future. That’s really important.
“I think the club have taken criticism because of that, but in the long run, when you see what has happened to other clubs, not just here but right across the board, we’ve got to be careful.
“As a manager, you are always looking to get more money to sign more players. That’s the nature of the business.But you also have to know that there’s a limit and you have to respect the club.
“I ran a business for 15 years. I know how difficult it is to balance the books all the time. I’m happy the club have backed me to the hilt with what I want to do and I’m pleased with the squad I’ve got.”
Former Hibs captain Kevin Thomson is still training at East Mains, having found himself without a club since being released by Middlesbrough. But Fenlon repeated his insistence that there was no money left to offer Thomson a contract, and said that midfield was an area in which Hibs were already well equipped.
“We’re okay in central midfield. We probably could have done with something when Gary Deegan was injured, but we’ve got a lot of players who can play in that position, And we’re not actively looking to bring in any player in any position.We can’t do anything. We don’t have any money to do anything, so it’s not as if I’m pushing for anything.
“I spoke to Kevin, he was looking for training facilities, that’s all there is at the moment. I don’t think that’s going to change, to be honest, although in football you never know.”
While Fenlon thinks he has enough players for the time being, Kenny Shiels arguably has too many up front since the arrival of Kris Boyd, and the Kilmarnock manager admitted it will be difficult to accommodate all of his striking options as Boyd and a fit-again Cillian Sheridan challenge in-form Paul Heffernan for a role up front.
Heffernan looks certain to start against Hibs after hitting six goals in his last five games. Shiels has been assessing Boyd’s sharpness in training after the SPL’s all-time top goalscorer re-signed for the club on Saturday, while Sheridan was given a late run-out in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Aberdeen after recovering from a hamstring injury.
Young forwards Rory McKenzie and William Gros have also featured during Kilmarnock’s recent five-match unbeaten run and Shiels knows he faces a difficult task in keeping all of his forwards happy. “It’s going to be hard to do,” he said. “It’s just about playing for the shirt now.It’s hard to get in with Heffernan doing so well, so it will be hard for Cillian to get straight back in.”
Boyd scored 67 goals in his first spell with Killie and the 29-year-old remains top SPL scorer with 164 after returning from spells in England, Turkey and the USA. “I think we will get a lift from him and he is one who will certainly add something to our team,” Shiels said.
“It’s going to be a bit soon for him. He’ll need a bit more training and game-specific preparation. I don’t know if he will be on the bench yet. We’ll see.”
Hibs, who sit a point and one place above Kilmarnock in sixth place, visit Rugby Park on Sunday in the William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-finals, but Shiels is not formulating a plan over two matches. “We take the game as it comes,” he said. “We try to win the first game and there is one of three outcomes, and then we’ll look at the second game.
“We can’t look beyond Wednesday night.”