Pat Fenlon hopes to convince people to turn out in numbers to watch Hibernian this season. However, the Easter Road manager admits he has been left frustrated in his attempt to off-set the loss of 16 players this summer.
For the first time since that harrowing day at Hampden Park in May, Hibs will step out in front of their own fans this afternoon against Huddersfield Town. Unfortunately, there is no Scottish Cup to parade, and neither are there as many new signings as Fenlon would have liked, although he understands the reasons why. He also hasn’t given up hope that more will be added before next Sunday’s opening league match against Dundee United.
“We are working away on it at the moment,” he said. “There are one or two positions on the pitch we could strengthen and we are trying to do that. It’s not as easy as people think. People can say: why haven’t we done this, or why haven’t we done that? We have tried to sign players but unfortunately there are still clubs in Scotland that are out-bidding us for certain players.”
Club chairman Rod Petrie has issued a plea for fans to purchase season tickets. He hoped that another 3000 might be persuaded to supplement the 7,000 who have already put their faith in Fenlon. The manager is grateful for the support so far and knows the number which Petrie mentioned is “a big ask”. But, like his chairman, he makes the point that supporters have got what they asked for in Rangers’ ejection from the SPL. Fenlon is not up to speed yet on sales since Petrie’s statement, although he knows they have “improved slightly” in the last week.
“Whatever we can get in would be a massive help for us,” he said. “I can understand where some of the supporters who have not renewed are coming from, because of what they have watched over a couple of seasons. But the game has changed this year. A lot of the supporters were vocal on what they wanted to happen, and that has happened. It would be great if we could get some of them back because we saw what happened the night we played Dunfermline, that if we can get a big support behind the team then it can make a big difference.”
Fenlon’s moves to date include the re-signing of Leigh Griffiths on a six-month loan deal from Wolverhampton Wanderers. Talks with full-back Alan Maybury, meanwhile, will continue.
“Alan is still training with us and he will be involved against Huddersfield,” he revealed. “We’ll sit down with the club over the weekend and maybe with Alan and we will see where it takes us.
“He’s a very, very good professional and can play anywhere across the back,” he added. “When we have released so many players, we need to have two or three who can maybe play in a few different positions. Tim Clancy fits that role as well.
“I think everyone has been affected by what has gone on [with Rangers]. At the time of releasing 16 players I thought we would be able to bring in a few to cover that. But the situation has changed and we have had to re-draw our plans.”
Asked whether it had sunk in with him that Rangers won’t be on Hibs’ fixture list for some time to come, he replied: “I am not being blasé about it, but it is not anything that really concerns me. It’s such a big year for us in relation to what we’re trying to do as a club that I can’t really worry about what is happening to any other club.”
Fenlon is delighted at the return of Griffiths, and stresses that no-one at the club had to be persuaded of the wisdom in taking him back after some high-profile spats with fans last season. “If I want a player I sign him, once the finances are right to do it,” he said. “It’s not about convincing people, it’s about getting the right players to the club. I am delighted Leigh is back.”
The squad have just returned from an intense pre-season tour to Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, and Fenlon is happy with progress. “I felt last year we were not fit enough,” he said. “The one thing every footballer should be is as fit as they can be. We have the facilities to make sure they are that.”