PAT Fenlon insisted last night that Hibernian were close to ending their run of poor results, and that, but for their record defeat by Malmo, he would not be under nearly so much pressure.
The Easter Road manager believes there was little between his team and their opponents in their two leagues games to date, when they lost 1-0 to Motherwell then Hearts. Without the 9-0 aggregate loss to the Swedish club in the Europa League, he argued, those two results would not look nearly so bad.
“I think there can be an over-reaction to things,” Fenlon said. “Our big problem this year has been the European game.
“There’s been nothing in the league games – there’ll be a lot of games like that, because there’s not a big gap between the teams. The disappointing thing for us so far this season has been Europe and you can understand that. You take that on the chin.
“There was very little in the two league games. Unfortunately we’ve come out on the wrong side of results but, in both games, we felt we should have got something out of them.”
Having been allowed to sign eight players over the close season, Fenlon said he was pleased with the squad he had assembled, and insisted there were goals in it, for all that none has been forthcoming in Hibs’ four competitive matches to date.
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think we could turn the corner. We’re working hard to do that. I’m happy with the squad.
“We’ve been looking to add a wide player for a while – we have Alex Harris and Paul Cairney out, which gives us a wee problem. We haven’t scored goals, but we do have goal scorers in the team. I think it’s only a matter of time.
“Alex had an operation today and is going to be out about three months. That’s a blow to us, because he gives us that wide-area pace that we lack without him. He’s had a little bone chipped away from the fracture. I think the op was to hurry up the heading process.”
Harris, who broke a bone in his foot in the home game against Motherwell, is part of an injury list which includes defenders James McPake and Tim Clancy in addition to Cairney. “James is actually back running today, which is away ahead of where we thought we would be after the game against Malmo when he was really sore,” Fenlon explained. “He has not done any real damage.
“He did a good bit in the gym first. We’re delighted to have him back in. It’s difficult to put a timescale on him yet with all the twisting and moving with the ball. It will depend on when he gets involved in full training.
“Tim has trained partly all week and I will hope to get him back into full training next week. It may be two weeks before he’s back in the squad.”
While those players have been a miss, the greatest loss to Fenlon this season has been Leigh Griffiths, who scored 28 goals for Hibs last season but is now back with Wolves. The striker made an appearance off the bench for Scotland in Wednesday’s friendly against England, and Fenlon paid tribute to the hard work he had put in during his stay on loan in Edinburgh. “You see the likes of Leigh coming on and you think to where we had him at the start and the madness that went with him. You think, ‘Good on you’. He’s worked hard. You also feel that you’ve contributed to that as well and you’ve got him in a position where you’re hopeful he can fulfil his potential.
“If you’d said a year and a half ago that he would come on for Scotland at Wembley, people would say you’re off your trolley, but there you go. I’m delighted for him.”
Fenlon had hoped to sign Paddy McCourt, who was training with Hibs and would certainly be one solution to Hibs’ lack of pace out wide. The manager said the former Celtic winger had moved on to train elsewhere – with Barnsley, as it turned out – but claimed he had other signings in mind to fulfil a similar role.
“He didn’t train today with us, but I’d love to sign Paddy. He’s a fantastic player and he has other options. He’s one we’re talking to, but there are one or two others if that doesn’t happen that we’re looking at as well.”
Meanwhile, a meeting between Hibs chairman Rod Petrie and supporters’ representatives has been postponed at the fans’ request.
Let’s Work Together, a supporter-led group which has been holding monthly meetings at Easter Road, had been due to meet Petrie along with fans from two internet chatrooms, Hibs.net and Hibees bounce, but the groups asked for a postponement to give them time to canvas more opinion from their fellow supporters. The performance of the team under Fenlon was expected to be the main topic of the meeting.