Hibs v Hearts: Pat Fenlon says time right to heal wounds of Hampden
PAT Fenlon hopes not to have to rely solely on the sudden glimpse of summer to help bring light into the lives of Hibernian supporters this weekend.
There has barely been time to lick wounds after May’s drubbing by Hearts in the Scottish Cup final before the need to negotiate another derby. Hearts are in the process of putting together another long unbeaten run against their neighbours though the game that really mattered was the last one, on 19 May.
Fenlon is desperate for tomorrow to prove a cathartic experience for both the players and the club’s fans. Of course, the nightmare scenario is that the first derby of the season will only prolong Hibs’ agony against Hearts, while also deepening the sense of gloom brought on by last weekend’s disheartening 3-0 defeat to Dundee United on the opening day of the campaign. The thought of slipping six points behind Hearts even at this early stage of the season cannot be borne by a manager who is operating under pressure already.
Fenlon has sought to shake things up and yesterday finally secured the signing of the latest new arrival, former Hearts full-back Alan Maybury. Those who remain from last May’s defeat – as many as half-a-dozen could line up again tomorrow – have, Fenlon said, been worked on in a bid to limit the mental affects of the collapse at Hampden Park.
“We have tried to change the players in relation to their mentality,” said Fenlon, who added that his greatest disappointment since becoming manager at Hibs in November last year has been his side’s meek performances in derby matches. On three occasions he watched from the dug-out as Hibs came off worse against Hearts last season, most devastatingly at Hampden Park. But this simply maintained a sequence of results where Hibs have failed to overcome their city rivals, a run stretching back to a 1-0 win at Tynecastle in May 2009 when Mixu Paatelainen was manager.
Fenlon won’t be in the dug-out tomorrow due to a gesture he made to the goading Hearts supporters as he looked on helplessly from the technical area at Hampden. Rather plaintively, Fenlon said his exile in the main stand “will drive me mad, because I want to be on the pitch. I want to be playing to be honest, not managing.”
Fenlon has endured a rocky time since replacing Colin Calderwood and he will be aware that he is joint favourite to be this season’s first managerial casualty in the Scottish Premier League, along with St Johnstone’s Steve Lomas. The more carefree days when he played midfield for a number of Irish clubs must seem like a world away. Instead, he will have to place his faith in those he names in his first XI tomorrow. These players must bear the extra responsibility of seeking to atone for the wretched performance just 11 short weeks ago.
“It will be nice to repay people,” acknowledged Fenlon yesterday. “There were a lot of people at Hampden, it was a difficult day for them. I understand that. They want to see us progress, so I think [a win on] Sunday would be a great way of giving them a little joy into their lives after last May.”
Players such as Maybury and fellow new signing Gary Deegan don’t have the baggage from last May to carry, but they will still sense the urgent need to give the Hibs fans something to cheer about. “It is not a totally new group, but there are a fair number of new players in there,” Fenlon said. “It’s like everything. Records are there to be broken. It’s a good game to come back into after being beaten. You want to get back into it as quickly as possible. You don’t need too much to focus the mind on this one.
“I spoke to them during the week on that. This reason why you play football is days like Sunday, when you have a big crowd and plenty of stick and plenty of abuse. If you can’t feed off that then you are in the wrong game, and you are certainly at the wrong club as far as I am concerned. It is important that we stand up and use that. We need to take the energy from what is going on off the park and bring it on to the park and be competitive against Hearts, which we haven’t been of late. That’s been the disappointing thing, we have not competed in the games since I have been here like I would like to.”
Hearts manager John McGlynn also hopes to be able to make up for something when he leads his charges in an Edinburgh derby for the first time as permanent manager. He was in caretaker charge in October 2005 when Hibs defeated Hearts 2-0, in a match which also saw Edgarus Jankauskas, McGlynn’s assistant, sent off.
“That wasn’t the best game to be honest,” admitted McGlynn yesterday. “Of the four games I had in that run [after George Burley’s sacking] we only lost the one match, but it was to Hibs. We were both good sides at that time to be fair. Both Hearts and Hibs were going very well. But yes, I’d like to make amends for that.”
McGlynn is aware that there will be a greater focus on the Edinburgh derby this season in the absence of Old Firm clashes. He hopes the sides will rise to the challenge of staging a worthwhile spectacle, but it’s clear he is expecting a tightly-fought battle tomorrow.
As Fenlon himself said, Hibs will trade on a defiant streak that the manager believes will be generated in his players when they hear the mocking from fans in the away end. Hearts supporters will be further buoyed by the news their side have drawn Liverpool in the Europa League play-off round. McGlynn will seek to ensure pride does not come before a fall, especially with the eyes of Scottish football, and beyond, on this particular fixture. “The English season hasn’t quite started up yet so everyone’s attention will be on the derby at Easter Road which is a good profile, and a couple of guys from Liverpool might watch it,” said the Hearts manager.
“It’s a chance for us to show the world there is good football in Edinburgh derbies. Hibs aren’t my concern but it’s hard to avoid the fact they will want to put things right after the cup final and also last weekend when they lost 3-0, even though Dundee United played exceptionally well. We have to guard against that and make sure we don’t lose focus by looking too far ahead to the Liverpool game.”
If only Hibs had such a glamorous appointment to threaten ruining their concentration. Instead, they must engage with the task of making amends or else another long season looms.
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Thursday 20 June 2013
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