Pat Fenlon insists that his difference of opinion with Kenny Shiels is ancient history

Pat Fenlon. Picture: SNS
Pat Fenlon. Picture: SNS
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Take two Irishmen, put them in charge of rival Scottish Premier League clubs, then allow the verbal fireworks to fly.

That’s the theory.

Except Pat Fenlon, 
the Dublin-born manager of Hibs, is your man for showing respect, even after 
Kilmarnock boss Kenny Shiels was a 
trifle disparaging about a coaching system favoured by Fenlon.

Shiels, a plain-speaking son of Magherafelt in Northern Ireland, wrote last September about his son Dean’s progress as a player being “hindered by prehistoric coaching methods for seven years because of an insistence on using a rigid 4-4-2 system”.

Two days later, Hibs defeated 
Kilmarnock 2-1 using a fairly rigid 4-4-2 set-up and the Easter Road side maintained that formation as they went on a giddy ride to the upper regions of the SPL, only to falter recently.

“The prehistoric 4-4-2’s done alright,” said Fenlon as he previewed today’s clash between the two sides at Rugby Park.

“You can get caught up in systems. You look at the game last week and ask: ‘What system did Motherwell play in the end?’ The answer is ‘I don’t know’ because we couldn’t work it out! I think they had five forwards…”

That 3-2 loss to Motherwell really pained Fenlon but the Dubliner brings a rare understated humour and sincere appreciation of other people’s strengths to his 
analysis. He has genuine admiration for Shiels, who has become a controversial figure for his outspokenness about officials.

“If you take everyone too seriously you’re wasting your time in football,” said 
Fenlon. “You’ve got to accept that’s the type of character he is, just as other managers are different. I think his record is there for everyone to look at. He won a trophy with them last year and had a fantastic season. Again they’re playing quite well this year.

“We’re all different with different ways of working. We have different ways of motivating ourselves and our players, so you have to accept and respect that. I respect that in him, and that’s the way he works.”

With four matches in the next 11 days, including a visit from Celtic and a derby at Hearts, Fenlon will have to make sure his players recover after each game and he hopes that fringe players can come in and establish themselves if injuries and suspensions occur.

Extending the loan deal of top scorer Leigh Griffiths is a priority, and Fenlon said: “We’d love to try to keep him but, at this stage, it’s more realistic to keep him until the end of the season. If someone comes in and gives Wolves money now, then there’s nothing we can do and it’s their decision. He wants to play here, which I think is 
massively important. If we can get it done it would be a great help to everybody.”