Friday 15 December 2017

Fenlon's sights on Ireland job

IN SPITE of his status as one of the few Irishmen who are managing abroad at a high level, Pat Fenlon remains very much out in the cold when it comes to FAI HQ in Abbotstown.

But that hasn't stopped the Finglas native, whose own international career as a player went no further than a B cap, from hoping that one day, in the future, down the road, amach anseo etc, he could at least be given the chance to manage his country. And not demand €1.3m a year for the honour.

"I would love to manage Ireland at some stage, I'll be honest," Fenlon told The Herald as he spent time in his native Dublin yesterday.

"I don't think it's something that's there for me at the moment but any footballer wants to play for his country, and any manager should want to manage his country. We have a manager in place now but I'd love to have a crack at it at some stage. I'd love to do it."

Recently people like Roy Keane and Robbie Keane have praised the work being done by Fenlon in Scotland with Hibs, and while this season has the potential to be a very good one – should they beat First Division side Falkirk they'll make it to the Scottish Cup final for the second year running under Fenlon while they could also still qualify for the Champions League – it's still early days in the managerial career abroad of the Dubliner.

Yet, despite the fact that Fenlon and his Irish backroom staff (Liam O'Brien and Dave Henderson) are at the helm of a top Scottish side, the silence from Dublin is deafening.

Even though Fenlon was on the FAI payroll for a period (manager of the Republic's U-23 team), apart from one meeting on the day of his appointment he never had a single incident of contact with Giovanni Trapattoni, while the FAI as a body remain uninterested in what goes on with his work in Edinburgh.

He stresses that he's not seeking to invite himself into the Irish game and lecture us about the glittering life in the SPL. Far from glittering, he says it's a fact that the playing budget which he currently operates off at Hibs is lower than the one he had in place at Bohemians when they won the double five years ago, even though Hibs have 8,000 season-ticket holders while Bohs struggled to get 2,000 people to home games.

Yet it's still odd to think that no one in the FAI, or within the management side of the senior team, have anything to say to or ask of an Irishman who's managing in a league where 25 Irish players are currently getting first-team football.

"There is no contact at all from anyone in the FAI and I don't expect any for a long time," he says.

"I speak to one or two people in there on a personal basis as they're friends but nothing from anyone official to ask about anything in Scotland.

"I only had one conversation with Trapattoni in my time at the FAI, but it's hard to be critical of him for that because what is his job description? Is his job to come in and manage the senior team when we have a game? If so then he's doing that. But is it in his job description that he has to watch games, see League of Ireland games, interact with people within the game?

"He's earning flak because he's earning a lot of money but not doing a lot of other stuff and that's why people think it could be spent more wisely.

"It's what he has done and he has been successful, but what do we want from our manager? Is he just there to manage the team? I think we could spend a lot less and still get the same results," Fenlon stresses.



"As a manager I have to be respectful of the man who is in the job, his record is first-class and he is the Ireland manager, I have to respect that, I want us to win games and do well.

"I want us to be successful, but from a financial point of view there is a lot more we can do with the money. I am sure we can get someone to manage the Irish team for a lot less money than we are paying him at the moment. That's not me being critical of the manager, if anyone was offered that money they would take it.

"We have made some good appointments down the line at international level over the last few years but at the top end it needs better guidance, if things are as tight as they seem to be surely we can spend the money more wisely."

There have been bumpy times for Fenlon at Easter Road, some fans still hurting from their 5-1 spanking by city rivals Hearts in last year's Cup final.

With just three games left before the SPL splits into a top six and bottom six, Hibs (currently sixth) could miss out, but should they beat second-placed Motherwell in their next game on Friday, they could make a real push for second place and a Champions League slot.



"We'd have to win that to give ourselves a chance of second place. But even to get into the top six would be a massive improvement on where we were last year," he says.

With many still in shock at the sacking of Brian McDermott by Reading earlier this week, McDermott's story has come into his mind.

"That's why football is a horrible game at times. What Brian McDermott has done at Reading is fantastic, but clubs have different types of owners now and there's very little stability," Fenlon says.

"I have spoken to Brian a few times during the season and he was always very helpful, but getting sacked from a Premier League club is not the worst thing in the world – being sacked from a League of Ireland team is worse," he jokes.

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