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Posts Tagged ‘ Alex McLeish ’

Who Will Replace Pat Fenlon At Easter Road?

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Following Pat Fenlon’s resignation, Irish News Review casts an eye at those in line to replace the exiled Dubliner.

A poll on the Hibs-Net Fan’s Forum has Inverness boss Terry Butcher as the preferred choice, and media reports this morning suggest that the former England captain heads Rod Petrie’s list, and that an offer could be imminent.

Butcher has guided Inverness Caledonian Thistle to their highest ever league finish and but for Billy McKay missing an open goal in the semi-final of the League Cup against Hearts, he could easily have brought silverware to the Highlands. Continue reading

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Creating Paradise : The Jock Stein Story

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It was the September 10th 1985, Scotland had just earned a valiant one all draw with Wales at Ninian Park in Cardiff, securing a vital play off with Austria which would eventually lead to Scotland’s qualification for the 1986 FIFA world cup.

The game was rendered meaningless, however, after the news filtered through about the tragic and sudden death of legendary Scottish boss Jock Stein. Continue reading

Unhappy Anniversary for Pat Fenlon

Today marks the first anniversary of Pat Fenlon’s appointment as Hibs manager although he admits that it feels longer.

The former Bohs’ manager took over a club languishing near the foot of the table with crowds around the 7000 mark when he was named as Colin Calderwood’s successor. Despite yesterday’s defeat to Aberdeen, Hibs sit third in the SPL and the attendances have crept back to over 12,000.

Fenlon, who lifted five League of Ireland titles and three cup trophies during his nine-year managerial career in Ireland, was described as a winner by chairman Rod Petrie, but ironically, the favourite for the post had been ex Hibs star Michael O’Neill who was with Shamrock Rovers at the time and subsequently went on to manage Northern Ireland. Few amongst the Hibs faithful had heard of Pat Fenlon as he watched from the stand as his new team went down 3-1 to St Johnstone, but they would quickly see the passion so lacking in the previous regime.

The following week, his first match in the dugout was abandoned at half-time due to an electrical fire at Motherwell, with Hibs leading one-nil, which was a sign of the bad luck to come.

A busy January transfer window papered over the cracks, and amazingly the team reached the Scottish Cup Final where they were hammered by Hearts. They did however narrowly survive a relegation battle, beating Dunfermline 4-0 in the penultimate game in front of over 15,000.

Despite the ups and downs of his tenure to date, the likeable Irishman is adamant that he has enjoyed his year at Hibs.

When he was reminded of today’s anniversary, Pat said: “Really? One year? It feels longer to be honest!

“It has been enjoyable and it has been eventful, definitely – but whether it has been the most eventful, I don’t know.

“I have had periods in my career where I have managed clubs where players and staff weren’t paid for 16 or 17 weeks – so that’s eventful and a different type of pressure.

“With management, you take it as it comes because every day throws up something completely different. It’s been a pleasure managing this club and hopefully it goes on a fair bit longer. I’ve enjoyed it.

“We had some lows last season and some highs this season. But it’s difficult to put them into context because the last campaign was all about survival while this season there’s been more highs than lows.”

At least he has survived the clubs AGM, which is more than three of his predecessors, can say. Mixu Paatelainen, John Hughes and Colin Calderwood were all sacked in the week prior to the meeting as the board attempted to quell a fans’ revolt.

The supporters are desperate to see some stability at Easter Road, and Fenlon’s achievements so far have convinced many that he is the man to guide the club forward in the long term.

With a new scouting set-up being put in place and an overhaul of the youth academy structure under way, Fenlon is eager to make his mark in a way that will last.

He said: “As a manager, you want to see improvement on a regular basis. We’re happy we have improved but we are not sitting on that thinking, ‘That’s great; we’ve now got to where we should be’. We want to kick on.

“We are not fooling ourselves. A fair bit of work still needs to be done and we are looking at all aspects of the football side of the club at the moment.

“There is a lot of work going on all the time so we can help improve the team and the club as a whole.”

One surprising potential recruit is Kenny Miller who is understood to be keen on a loan move back to the team where he began his career under Alex McLeish.

The Scotland international is currently with Vancouver Whitecaps but has failed to set North America’s Major League Soccer alight since joining the Canadian side midway through the season, scoring only twice in thirteen games. He has not started a competitive match since the beginning of the month, when he came on as a substitute as Whitecaps side lost to David Beckham’s LA Galaxy.

The new MLS season starts in March, and Miller is back in Scotland training with another of his former clubs Rangers, but Leith would be his preferred destination.

Fenlon says he has been notified of the player’s alleged interest and admits he is curious, although he has not spoken to Miller or his agent.

He said: “It’s been mentioned to me in the last few days but it’s 
not something we’ve actively done anything about. Is he available and does he want to come and play for us? You never know. He’s a fantastic player and we look at all options to try and improve the team.

Sadly it was not a happy anniversary for Fenlon as his Hibs side lost to an on-form Aberdeen side, although many believed that Hibs deserved something from the game.

Fenlon said: “We didn’t deserve to lose. It feels worse than last week [3-1 defeat to Dundee] because we didn’t deserve anything out of that, but this week we deserved to win.

“Even a draw I think would have been a travesty. Their keeper was fantastic today, particularly the save he made from Eoin Doyle in the first half.

“I’m not sure exactly how many shots Leigh Griffiths has had but again the goalkeeper has made some great saves. We have to take it on the chin and move on.”

Hibs return to Perth this Wednesday before playing hosts to Hearts in the Scottish Cup fourth round on Sunday in front of a packed Easter Road.

With Hearts in financial trouble, many feel that this game could be the turning point in the club’s fortunes as their rivals will no longer be able to pay exorbitant wages to attract players, and future games will be on a level playing field.

photograph by http://www.jcmackintosh.co.uk

Murray would endure the pain of relegation for cup win

It’s the question that has been asked and answered a thousand times in the pubs around Easter Road since Hibs eased past Ayr United to secure a semi-final place against Aberdeen at Hampden. Would you accept relegation, if it guaranteed a win in the Scottish Cup final?

Opinions are divided with some adamant that SPL survival must be the club’s number one priority, whilst the more romantic of the faithful argue that a season in division one would be a small price to pay to get the 110 year albatross off their necks.

The directors who worry about the financial implications are amongst the former, but one player is in the other camp. Club captain Ian Murray has no doubts and would happily swap relegation for cup glory on May 19, to erase the pain of their century old hoodoo. The midfielder whose season has been blighted by injury is desperate to see his beloved Hibs reach their first final since 2001 when a Henrik Larsson inspired Celtic led by Martin O’Neill beat Alex McLeish’s Hibs side 3-0. Murray played in that game as a teenager and should he feature in this year’s final, he will emulate the feat of legendary winger Arthur Duncan who played in two finals in the seventies.

The former Rangers and Norwich player said: “Our SPL form is poor but I’d say every fan and most of the players would take relegation if it meant we would win the Scottish Cup. “From a financial point of view for the club, the directors would pull their hair out if that happened, but as a romantic thing for the fans, they would take the Cup. If we could get both it would be fantastic”

“Second bottom of the SPL is not great at all but we’d all take that with a Cup Final appearance. “It has been that long and there have been so many great Hibs teams which haven’t won it and to get to a semi or final is a special achievement. The fans talk about it more than players but I don’t buy into hoodoos.”

Murray was just a teenager when he received the shock nod from gaffer Alex McLeish for the big day. “I don’t remember much talk about the hoodoo going into the 2001 final because we had such a good team. We were just unfortunate to come up against an exceptional Celtic side. I firmly believe had we kept that team in place, we could have had a chance of winning the title. But in the final Russell Latapy had his problems beforehand and didn’t play, while Franck Sauzee did play but wasn’t fully fit. We did really well for the first 30 minutes and Marc Libra had a chance in an even start. But things worked against us, such as Lubo Moravcik going off injured and Jackie McNamara coming on to score.”

“Celtic won well in the end but I feel that if we had faced anyone else that season, we would have won it. The hype around the game was fantastic, though, and it was great to be there.

“It was my first taste of a cup final at Hampden and it was so special for me, so to get back there would be fantastic. Stuart Lovell had missed eight games and I had been playing instead of him.

“It was the Wednesday beforehand and the gaffer pulled me in. I thought it was for the inevitable, ‘We’re going with experience line.’ I was expecting the bombshell and was ready to take it on the chin and be happy at just being around the squad.

“But then he said he’d play me wide right and Stuart was the one who was unhappy with the manager. It was a huge occasion, especially as I didn’t expect to play. I didn’t even tell my mum and dad I was playing as news might have got out. It was a great occasion and although we lost, it is a great memory.

“You hear people talking about losing these games and throwing away their medals but I don’t buy into that. Getting all the way to a final is a great achievement and something you should savour. Let’s face it, if I get back this season it’ll be my first since 2001 so they don’t come around too often.”

The versatile midfielder, who is in his testimonial year at Easter Road, is not underestimating the task of beating Craig Brown’s Aberdeen, and he is desperate to be in the squad after recovering from a long term groin injury. Last week, he came through sixty minutes in a bounce game against St Mirren at the East Mains training centre.

“I’ve not played in many semi-finals in the Scottish Cup. In 2000 I was on the bench when Aberdeen beat us 2-1. I played against Livingston when we reached the final in 2001 but I was suspended when Dundee United beat us 2-1 in 2005”.

“I know the feeling of being left out but if I am lucky I’ll get on the bench and at least have a wee chance of playing.

“I imagine I’ll be part of the squad. Perhaps the fact I can play a few positions might work in my favour but it’ll depend on how I train. If that goes well, you never know.”

Murray also knows that victory could set up an all-Edinburgh final if Hearts can beat champions Celtic on Sunday, and despite the dreadful record in recent derbies, he believes that winning the cup against Hearts would be the ultimate dream for him and the long suffering fans.

Murray said: “I expect Celtic to win the other semi but we would rather play Hearts as they are sixth in the table. Hearts have had the upper hand against us recently and we know that losing to our main rivals would be heart-breaking.”

“But beating them would make it extra special; you could lose the next 20 derbies and it would still be brilliant!”

If Murray does become only the second Hibs player to feature in two cup finals, he will no doubt hope for a different ending. The luckless Duncan scored the winning goal in the 1979 final, but unfortunately it was at the wrong end, and his diving header gave Rangers an undeserved 3-2 victory in the second replay at Hampden.

Premier League Preview

This weekend`s fixture list throws up some exciting derby matches as the Premier League resumes following last week“s FA Cup third round matches.   

 

West Ham V Arsenal

 

With the backing of their tremendous fans, the Hammers may well pull off a result in what would appear to be Avram Grant`s last match in charge. However, Arsenal will be eager to avenge their recent results, with a 1-1 FA Cup Draw with Leeds and a 1-0 defeat to Ipswich in the League Cup semi final leaving Gunners fans aggrieved.

 

Verdict: Draw

 

Liverpool V Everton

 

This Merseyside derby always serves us a tense battle and Kenny Dalglish will be eager to get his first win as Liverpool manager over their arch enemies. He will have to do so without the services of the influential Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher. Dalglish will be hoping his side can improve on their disastrous midweek performance, where Blackpool came from a goal behind to beat the Anfield side for the second time this season.

Everton manager David Moyes will be hoping like Blackpool, that his side can do the double over Liverpool this season. However Everton may well struggle for goals as top scorer Tim Cahill is away on international duty with Australia. Expect the home side to edge this one with Fernando Torres putting his critics to shame.  

 

Verdict: Liverpool

 

Spurs V Man Utd

 

Man United travel to Spurs on Sunday for what should be an intriguing tie. United will find it tough against Harry Redknapp`s men and their unbeaten record in the Premier League this season faces a real threat.

 

Spurs will definitely frustrate the Red Devils, with a draw the most likely outcome.

 

Verdict: Draw

 

Chelsea V Blackburn

 

Chelsea host Blackburn Rovers at Stamford Bridge as they aim to put together a steady run of results following their desire form as of late. Roque Santa Cruz`s return to Lancashire will boost Steve Kean`s men and they will certainly be up for this match. However with their inconsistent form this season Rovers may just fall short.

 

Verdict: Chelsea   

 

Man City V Wolves

 

Roberto Mancini`s men will be aiming to crank up the pressure on Manchester United at the top of the table this weekend but they must not underestimate a Wolves side, who have beaten both Liverpool and Chelsea in recent weeks.

Mick McCarthy`s men will travel to Eastlands in a confident mood but the relegation candidates may well fall fowl to Edin Dzeko, with City`s new 27 million striker the catalyst for a title tilt.

 

Verdict: Man City   

 

Stoke V Bolton

 

Bolton travel to the Britannia Stadium this weekend hoping to maintain their push for  Europe. While the Trotters have produced some outstanding displays this term they may well come unstuck against Tony Pulis` men. A draw is the most likely result.

 

Verdict:Draw  

 

West Brom V Blackpool

 

Ian Holloway`s side will roll into the Midlands this weekend in confident mood after putting Liverpool to the sword in midweek. Blackpool have every reason to be confident ahead of this match as West Brom are on an alarming slide down the table after their early season exploits.

 

Verdict: Blackpool

 

Wigan V Fulham

 

Wigan will be eager to start putting more points on the board as they currently sit second bottom. A win over Mark Hughes` men may well move them out of the relegation zone but they must rely on results elsewhere. Fulham will provide stiff competition for the Latics as they are in a similar position. Should Roberto Martinez`s side win they will jump above the Cottagers but this match has draw written all over it.

 

Verdict:Draw

 

Sunderland V Newcastle United

 

Sunderland host their fierce rivals in the second Tyne Wear derby of the season, with manager Steve Bruce still smarting after the Geordies thrashed the Wearsiders earlier this season.

 

Sunderland may well fall short again with key players missing through injury and suspension. Newcastle are no different with Andy Carroll set to miss out yet they still possess the quality to to the double over their neighbours.

 

Verdict: Newcastle  

 

Birmingham City V Aston Villa

 

These two sides meet at St Andrews with only a point separating them. This season has proved to be a frustrating one for both sides as they languish in the bottom half of the table. For Birmingham, its been a case of lacking goals while for Villa it has just been one long slide under Gerard Houllier. Birmingham look set to appease their goal drought with the signing of Spurs striker Robbie Keane while Villa are in the market for some new players, with Jean Makoun of Lyon undergoing a medical at Villa Park.

The incentive is their for both sides but Alex McLeish`s men may prove too strong for Villa.

 

Verdict: Birmingham City

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