Fenlon makes his mark at Hibs by showing long-serving coaches door

Pat Fenlon is intent on doing things his way at Easter Road. Picture: Greg Macvean/TSPL
Pat Fenlon is intent on doing things his way at Easter Road. Picture: Greg Macvean/TSPL
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PAT Fenlon began his clear-out at Hibernian yesterday with the departure of two long-serving members of the club’s coaching staff.

Gareth Evans, who re-joined the club as coach in 2007 during John Collins’ time in charge, left yesterday along with first-team development coach Alistair Stevenson, who contributed to the breakthrough of the club’s crop of youngsters in the last six years. Stevenson also steered the Under-19 side to a league and cup double in 2009.

As expected, Fenlon is set to name the former Newcastle United midfielder Liam O’Brien as his assistant. An official announcement has yet to be made with regard to the future of Billy Brown, who came in to assist Colin Calderwood earlier this season and was one of the candidates to replace the sacked manager. However, it is understood that Brown, who is contracted until the end of this season, is in line to be retained after discussions at the club’s East Mains training academy yesterday. Brown had declined to completely rule-out the possibility of him staying on following Saturday’s defeat against St Johnstone and he was present during training at East Mains yesterday.

“I like it here, I like being in football and I’ve got a lot of enthusiasm for football,” Brown said on Saturday. “It’s up to Pat, he’s the manager. If I can fit in, I would certainly be here.”

Having dispensed with Stevenson and Evans, Brown will be considered a valuable source of knowledge as Fenlon prepares for his first match in charge on Friday night against Motherwell. The appointment of O’Brien, who assisted Fenlon at League of Ireland club Bohemians, is expected to be confirmed today.

Both Evans and Stevenson were thanked for their service yesterday by the club. Evans made more than 250 appearances for Hibs as a striker during eight years at Easter Road before leaving to join Partick Thistle in 1996. He returned in June 2007 as part of John Collins’ coaching staff. A statement on the club’s official website read: “Hibernian FC today confirmed that first-team coaches Gareth Evans and Alistair Stevenson had been relieved of their duties and will leave the club with immediate effect as new manager Pat Fenlon starts to build his own coaching team.

“On behalf of everyone at the club, the board would like to record their sincere thanks for the commitment, dedication and professionalism that both Gareth and Alistair have demonstrated in their time at Hibernian, and wish them all the very best in their future careers. Further updates will be published on the club website.”

Both Evans and Stevenson took charge of first-team affairs at Hibs after John Hughes’ departure in 2010, overseeing a 1-0 win over Kilmarnock, and were retained when Calderwood arrived. Indeed, Stevenson was promoted to first-team coach only this summer following Derek Adams’ departure. He joined Hibs from St Johnstone in 2003 to become Head Youth Academy Coach and helped develop the likes of Steven Fletcher and, more recently, David Wotherspoon, Paul Hanlon and Callum Booth.

“I’ve seen a lot of players come through and progress into the first-team and I am a better person for it,” he said yesterday. “I saw the under-19s win a league and cup double and four of them were in the first-team squad on Saturday. That was a great achievement.

“The current under-19 team is still in the cup and is second in the league and I feel I have left a legacy at the club that I am proud of. Seeing top players coming through, you know you are doing your job. Seeing them get into the Scotland under-21 team, that’s as good as you can do as a youth coach. But football is such that the new manager wants to do things his way and I thoroughly appreciate that, and wish him and the club future success. I’m leaving a lot of friends and no enemies, and hopefully I can get back into football as soon as possible.”

Fenlon has acted quickly to begin imposing his influence on the club following another defeat at the weekend. The Irishman watched from the directors’ box alongside O’Brien as Hibs slid to a 3-1 loss at St Johnstone.

Mike Riley, chairman of the Hibs Supporters Association, welcomed the swift changes. “The new manager has to have his own team,” he said yesterday. “It is sensible that it sounds as though he [Fenlon] is leaving Billy Brown in place to help out. A couple of weeks ago I said it needs cleared out from top to bottom. This is a start. Things have not been the same since John Park [the current football development manager at Celtic] left. Fenlon is getting his own men in and you can’t blame him. He has one hell of a task.”

Meanwhile, today’s under-19 match between Hibs and Motherwell at East Mains will be free entry for interested supporters. Kick-off is at 1pm as Hibs aim to win a seventh consecutive match.