DCSIMG

Pat Fenlon was my boyhood hero, says David Van Zanten

David Van Zanten with St Mirren team-mate Jim Goodwin

David Van Zanten with St Mirren team-mate Jim Goodwin

  • by COLLEEN STRACHAN
 

IF David van Zanten’s St Mirren team-mates are hoping he can give them some inside information on the Hibs team ahead of this weekend’s game, they’ll be out of luck.

Things have changed so dramatically since the Irish defender left Easter Road back in 2009 that he admits he hardly recognises the current line-up.

One man he does know all about, though, is Pat Fenlon.

Van Zanten spent much of his teenage years at Dalymount Park, cheering on Bohemians and wishing that he would turn out to be half as good a player as Fenlon.

Bohs were Dublin-born Van Zanten’s local team and then-skipper Fenlon was one of his heroes as he led by example from the middle of the park.

Van Zanten reckons Fenlon was always going to be a huge success as a manager and is delighted to see him making hay in Scotland with his former club Hibs.

The right-back said: “I can’t really tell my team-mates much about the Hibs side now because there has been a massive overhaul since I was at the club – I could probably tell them more about Pat Fenlon.

“I know all about him because I used to watch him play when I was just a young boy and 
Bohemians were my local team.

“Me and my mates used to go along to their games every Friday night and then I would play a game myself on the Saturday, that was how I spent most of my weekends really. It’s kind of strange now because I watched Pat play for so many years and now I am coming up against one of his teams.

“He was an excellent player. He was the club captain and really controlled things in the middle of the park – he had a lovely left foot.

“Even then you could see that he was a real leader and I think it’s obvious he has taken that into management.

“I have a lot of friends who have played either alongside him or under him and they have only good things to say about him.

“Although I watched him play a lot I have never actually spoken to him properly so if I get the chance this weekend I will stop for a chat – but we’ll see how the game goes first!”

Van Zanten knows that the changes Fenlon has made at Easter Road will mean a tougher test for Saints than they would have perhaps faced from Hibs 12 short months ago.

And he continued: “Hibs are a completely different proposition than they would have been last season. They have turned things around for themselves and Pat Fenlon has to take a lot of credit for that, without a doubt.

“He came into the club last season when they were already struggling and he managed to guide them to safety and a cup final. This season he has really made his mark, he has got the players in that he wants and he has got the side playing the way he wants. It looks like it’s really starting to pay off for them.

“They have got a lot of 
quality all over the pitch now and, although Leigh Griffiths is the main danger for them, it would be stupid of us to just watch out for him.

“We need to keep him quiet but there are also a lot of other players that we have to watch out for.”

Van Zanten reckons St 
Mirren’s gruelling Scottish Communities League Cup quarter-final win over Aberdeen could be the perfect way for his side to kickstart their season – and hopes they 
can prove it against Hibs this weekend.

The Paisley side persevered at Pittodrie on Tuesday night to finally win their tie with the Dons on spot-kicks, having been denied a victory in normal time by a late, late leveller from Josh Magennis.

The cup run has come as a huge boost to Danny Lennon’s men, who started the season well but have seen their form dip in recent weeks, losing their last three SPL matches into the bargain.

Van Zanten said: “The first thing that we said in the dressing room after the game on Tuesday night was that we have got to make sure that result kick starts the season for us.

“Our league form has been poor over the last little while, but hopefully this can be a turning point for us. We know that we couldn’t be going to a trickier place for our next match though. Easter Road is always a difficult game, but we will go there on a bit of a high after the cup win.

“Our poor form has just been down to inconsistency more than anything else, to be honest, although we have not really had the luck either.

“In the past few weeks we have not had the break of the ball and maybe other teams have, but we are not pressing any panic buttons yet.

“There are only six points between second and 11th place in the league table right now so we know that we can improve things dramatically for ourselves by stringing a few results together.”

 

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