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Fenlon Wants To Reward Long Suffering Fans With Hampden Trip

Pat Fenlon will take his new look Hibs side to Somerset Park this weekend hoping to reward the long suffering Hibs fans with a victory which would see the Easter Road club returning to Hampden Park for the first time in five years. The supporters need no reminding that Hibs have gone out of the tournament to lower division opponents for the last two years.  Only Paul Hanlon and David Wotherspoon remain from the side which lost to Saturday’s opponents Ayr United last January, highlighting the extensive changes made by the former Shelbourne and Bohemians manager, who believes that victory could kick-start their season and help bring the lapsed supporters back to Easter Road.

The Colin Calderwood era saw thousands of fans deserting the club, with attendances dropping under the 8000 mark, and the manager   is desperate to see them return. Although results have not been great since his arrival, there has been a noted improvement in performance and attitude of the players, facts which have not gone unnoticed by the Hibs faithful.

Apart from a heavy defeat by Champions elect Celtic at Easter Road, Hibs have more than matched the other teams in the league, and produced their best performance of the season with a 3-1 win over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park, leaving them four points above fellow relegation candidates Dunfermline.

This week sees the launch of the club’s annual season ticket sales, and while many predict another fall in numbers, Pat Fenlon insists that a good cup run followed by a victory over city rivals Hearts on St Patrick’s day weekend will convince the lapsed supporters that he is the man to take the club back to their rightful place in the Scottish game.

Earlier this week he told the club website:

“It’s a big two weeks for us, we’ve got a quarter final in the cup which gives us a massive chance of getting through to a semi-final, then we’ve got a big derby game on St Patrick’s Day weekend, so it’s a big couple of weekends where we can set our season alight if we can win both games.

“I think the supporters who have been through to watch recent games can see the desire. We’re trying to build a unity around the club so we’re moving forward together as one.

“I think that when I came to the club that was missing a little bit. I think the atmosphere around the training ground is better now.

“We’re trying to build that all over the place with players and supporters so everyone is in the fight together.

“Hopefully the club can move forward. Success for me would be to see an extra couple of thousand people coming through the turnstiles on a regular basis.

“We’ve got to try and get people back to Easter Road who have a big interest in the club but have maybe fallen away.

“We’re working really hard to get the good times back at Hibs. There are a few targets for us including that we become the number one club again within our city.

“Those are our challenges that we get people back within the ground, overturn our poor form in relation to Hearts and to see if we can get through to a cup final which would be massive for everyone at the club.

“There are a lot of positives the moment although I know that there have been a lot of negatives over the past couple of seasons but at the moment, I think the club is looking up and moving forward.”

The manager is delighted that on loan midfielder Tom Soares who scored twice at Rugby Park, has recovered from his dead leg and will be fit to join the Irish contingent of Graham Stack, Matt Doherty, Roy O’Donovan,Richie Towell and Eoin Doyle in the squad for the cup tie.

Club captain Ian Murray however has warned his team mates about the danger of complacency. The veteran defender whose season has been blighted by injury recalls the pain of losing out to the ‘Honest Men’ last year.  He said: “The worst thing we can do is to underestimate them, then we will come away with nothing.”

As all followers of Scottish football know, Hibs last won the Scottish Cup in 1902, but  Pat Fenlon points out, the manager that day was also a proud Irishman. Whether he can emulate the legendry Dan McMichael and bring the silverware back to Leith remains to be seen, but there is a quiet optimism around the club that has been missing for several years.

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