A “DEVASTATED” Leigh Griffiths last night led the tributes to Pat Fenlon, describing the outgoing Hibernian manager as a “father figure”.
The 22-year-old claimed his first Scotland cap while on loan at Easter Road and, with Fenlon’s guidance, netted 28 goals last term and claimed PFA young player of the year.
Now lighting up English League One with Wolverhampton Wanderers, Griffiths has credited his progress as a player to his former manager and could not hide his disappointment at hearing the news of the Irishman’s departure.
“Devastated!” said the gifted front-man via his Twitter account. “The man was a father figure to me [and] I am only where I am now because of him. GREAT guy and a good manager.”
Current players were also quick to praise Fenlon, who handed in his resignation in the wake of Wednesday’s 1-0 League Cup defeat against Hearts, which prompted fierce fan protests.
Liam Craig, who was among those heavily criticised by the angry protestors outside following that defeat, expressed his gratitude for Fenlon signing him from St Johnstone in the close season. He wrote: “I am disappointed the manager has left and will always be grateful to him for bringing me to Hibs. Wish him all the best in the future.”
Alex Harris and Danny Handling, two youth players given their senior debut by Fenlon, both admitted they were left “gutted” by the manager’s decision to leave the club.
Harris, who is currently sidelined through injury, said: “Absolutely gutted at the news about the manager. Wednesday night’s result was obviously hugely disappointing for the club but, on a personal level, I always enjoyed my time playing in his team and owe him a lot for giving me my chance in football.”
Handling, 19, added: “Gutted for the manager, done his best for the club. Despite the results, very grateful for the opportunities and faith he showed in me.”
Meanwhile, prominent Hibs supporter Mike Riley believes Fenlon had lost the backing of the entire support.
In the wake of the midweek League Cup defeat by Hearts, an online poll of the club’s fans showed that 97 per cent wanted the Irishman out. In these columns yesterday, Riley, the chairman of the Hibs Supporters’ Club, had said that he couldn’t recall such a mood of revolt among fans and that the football was “so negative” under Fenlon.
Last night, reacting to the manager’s departure, Riley said: “We never like to see anybody lose their job but everybody was adamant that he had to go after the Hearts game. It was the unanimous feeling from everybody. He had had his time.
“It is unfortunate but his idea of progress and our idea of progress were two different things. It was not just the Hearts game, it was a lot of games. The recent Partick Thistle match was absolutely terrible but we sneaked it.”
Referring to Hibs’ 5-1 Scottish Cup final loss to Hearts in 2012 and July’s 7-0 humiliation at the hands of Malmo in their second-leg Europa League tie, Riley added: “We, as Hibs fans, have been very, very patient and we gave him the time. He has presided over two of the most horrendous results that this club has ever had and he didn’t want the third one.
“It’s just not worked out. He has a good pool of players but they don’t seem to gel together for some strange reason. Hopefully, some other manager can see what it’s all about and make it happen.”