Hibs set to unveil Fenlon but future of Brown unclear

PAT Fenlon is set to be unveiled as Hibernian’s fifth manager in four years today, bringing to a successful conclusion his two-year bid to move from Ireland to the SPL.

The 42-year-old Dubliner was last night finalising the details of his switch from Bohemians to Easter Road and, barring any 11th-hour hitches, will be presented as the Edinburgh club’s new boss at lunchtime.

Fenlon, who has won the League of Ireland five times as a manager, will succeed Colin Calderwood, who was sacked at the start of this month after just over a year in the job. Despite his lack of success at Hibs, Calderwood was yesterday appointed assistant manager to Chris Hughton at Birmingham City.

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Fenlon was on the verge of joining Dundee United at the start of last year after Craig Levein left to become Scotland manager, but the deal fell through when the Tannadice club failed to agree compensation with Bohemians. This time there were no such problems as the manager’s revised contract was understood to contain a clause allowing him to be released without compensation.

Provided the deal does go through today, Fenlon’s first match officially in charge of Hibs will be tomorrow at St Johnstone. Last night, however, it was uncertain whether he would opt to take an active part in preparations for the game at McDiarmid Park or leave that in the hands of caretaker manager Billy Brown. It is also uncertain what future, if any, Brown has at the club. Contracted until the end of the season, he warned last week that he had been brought in to assist Calderwood and did not necessarily see his position continuing under new management. In the short term at least, however, it is likely that the former Hearts No 2 will remain involved, if only to brief the new manager on the playing squad.

Brown, who took charge of Hibs for the 1-1 draw at home to Kilmarnock on Saturday, is so far the only man to publicly confirm that he was interviewed for the vacancy at the club. Although reports from Ireland indicated that Fenlon had also been interviewed early last week, Bohemians did not announce they had given Hibs permission to speak to their employee until Wednesday.

Informal soundings were taken before then, but Hibs have stayed true to their pledge to say as little as possible in public until their search had come to a positive end. The only progress report they have given was a statement on their website last week which said that a shortlist had been drawn up.

Despite the intense speculation about other candidates from within Scotland and further afield, Brown and Fenlon are so far the only confirmed members of that shortlist.The other two men most strongly linked with the vacancy, Jim Jefferies and Michael O’Neill, have both said they neither applied for the post nor were interviewed for it. Jefferies, the former Hearts manager who formed a management team with Brown at Tynecastle, was seen by the Hibs board as a high-risk appointment given his strong links with the club’s city rivals.

Hibs managing director Fife Hyland, who has been leading the search for a manager along with chief executive Scott Lindsay, said the club were looking for a figure who could unite the club. Although he did not spell out what that meant, he did not have to: a poll on popular fans’ website hibs.net had already shown that a large minority would think about staying away from Easter Road if Jefferies got the job.

As a former Hibs player who has done well with Shamrock Rovers, O’Neill seemed a far more comfortable fit for the job. Instead, the club have opted for his League of Ireland rival. Fenlon will not inspire unanimous acclaim immediately, but the Hibs board seem sure that, this time, they have picked a winner.