Alan Pattullo: Fenlon and Hibs drifting aimlessly

Has a Hibernian result ever been met with such mixed emotions at Easter Road after the equaliser by Scott Robertson against Dundee United on Saturday? Of course, it was celebrated for what it secured, which is Hibs’ first point of the season.

Hibs manager Pat Fenlon and assistant Jimmy Nicholl look on from the dug out. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Hibs manager Pat Fenlon and assistant Jimmy Nicholl look on from the dug out. Picture: Ian Rutherford

It also represented the side’s first goal since a David Wotherspoon header earned a 1-0 win over Dundee in the last league game of last season.

However, it only helps maintain the unsatisfactory situation at the club where a manager is limping on through his tenure. Whenever Hibs play, it is placed in the context of Pat Fenlon and whether or not he is 90 minutes away from being relieved of his duties. What might have happened had Hibs failed to arrest a run of four consecutive, goalless defeats? Only chairman Rod Petrie will know the answer.

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As it stands, Fenlon seems to be clinging on at the club, but the uncertainty can’t be healthy – not for him, not for the club. It doesn’t help that Michael O’Neill, a popular candidate for the post prior to Fenlon’s appointment in 2011, oversaw one of Northern Ireland’s greatest results just last week, when his side defeated Fabio Capello’s Russia 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier. At Easter Road, meanwhile, Europe is a dirty word.

Fenlon believes that without the Malmo result then he would be dealing with only an unsatisfactory start to the season rather than a position-threatening one. Sadly, it simply isn’t possible to take the 0-7 loss to the Swedish side out of the equation. Indeed, it ranks among the most indelible results ever posted by Hibs, since it counts as their worst defeat at Easter Road.

It remains very much in the equation. Reports from Easter Road on Saturday suggest that the first-half performance was even worse than the one posted against Malmo, so it’s not even as if the multi-goal defeat – remarkable though it was in its abjectness – deserves to be treated as an anomalous event.

Colin Calderwood, Fenlon’s predecessor, was removed in November, while John Hughes parted “by mutual consent” at the start of October, with the damage to the campaign already done.

You are left with the sense that another season is already drifting away from Hibs.