On the same day Hibs released a statement acknowledging that Saturday’s 5-1 humiliation at the hands of Hearts has highlighted the need for a major overhaul of the playing squad this summer, SFA Compliance Officer Vincent Lunny issued a notice of complaint against Fenlon for the offensive hand gesture he made in the closing minutes of the match.
The Irishman has until 29 May to respond to the charge and will then return to the national stadium on 14 June to face an SFA Judicial Panel hearing.
Fenlon has been charged with a breach of disciplinary rule 203 which deals with “offensive, abusing and insulting behaviour” by a member of team staff.
His gesture was made towards the West Stand at Hampden which housed the majority of the Hearts support and seemed to be a direct response to sarcastic chants from them of ‘There’s only one Pat Fenlon’.
But that was denied by Fenlon in his post-match media conference. Although contrite about his action, he insisted it was prompted by the inept performance of his own team as they suffered one of the most embarrassing defeats in the club’s history.
“I made a gesture in relation to the way we were playing,” said Fenlon. “We kept giving the ball away cheaply.
“I was more frustrated with Leigh Griffiths on the far side giving the ball away. I don’t know what they (the Hearts fans) were singing to be honest. There is a helluva lot made in relation to the gesture.
“I let myself down. It was just disappointing because I was so frustrated and annoyed. I’ll have to live with it and get on with it. It’s hard to take, I feel physically sick.” As Fenlon faces the prospect of starting next season banned from the technical area, he will be more concerned by the composition of the Hibs team he will be overseeing when the new campaign gets underway.
Seven of his first-team squad – Matt Doherty (Wolves), Tom Soares (Stoke City), James McPake (Coventry), George Francomb (Norwich), Richie Towell (Celtic), Roy O’Donovan (Coventry) and Leigh Griffiths (Wolves) – are due to return to their clubs this summer after the expiry of their loan periods at Easter Road. It remains to be seen how many, if any, Fenlon will attempt to sign on a permanent basis.
Honduran international midfielder Jorge Claros is also on loan at Hibs from Motagua but his deal does not expire until January 2013. Hibs also have several players out of contract this summer, including top scorer Garry O’Connor, goalkeeper Mark Brown and club captain Ian Murray. Midfielder Martin Scott is among those still under contract who are deemed surplus to requirements by Fenlon.
Hibs chairman Rod Petrie, on appointing Fenlon as successor to Colin Calderwood last November, declared that the 43-year-old Dubliner had a “pedigree which is matched by the ambition Hibernian has for sporting success.”
In a message to the club’s fans thanking them for their support over the course of a season which also saw relegation avoided only in the penultimate fixture of the campaign, Hibs insisted the board of directors and Fenlon, who is under contract until 2014, are united in their assessment of the surgery required to provide a more successful product on the pitch.