Derby fan Pat Fenlon relishing a game of truth for his under-scrutiny Hibs players
“I’m looking forward to it and I hope the players are too. We’re in the game for big occasions like this, which gets the blood going. The build-up shows me what a big deal this is. I’ve been to Old Firm derbies, the Manchester and Liverpool ones, plenty of good ones with a tasty atmosphere, so I imagine it’ll be the same on Monday.”
Derby-bagging has been his thing. Fenlon thrives on the intensity and the rivalry of such battles and is intrigued by the way they can unveil the true personalities and competitive qualities of each protagonist.
“I just wanted to see the games and see how players cope and change in that environment. I’ve been involved in big games at home too. Bohemians against Shamrock Rovers probably isn’t anything like those ones from a crowd point of view but they’re very tasty. You see things in derbies from players that you haven’t seen before. They can take hold of players in a different way.”
Win or lose, Fenlon is convinced tomorrow’s tussle at Easter Road will tell him a lot about the players he inherited and influence his thinking when it comes to shuffling his squad.
“I’m trying to learn about individuals and how they deal with different types of pressure and games. We’re in the period where we have to bring players in.”
One player who has already caught Fenlon’s eye is Lewis Stevenson, who has withstood the coming and going of half a dozen managers since he broke into the first-team squad.
“He reminds me of myself as a player. He’s only a little fella but he plays like he’s 6ft 4in. He gets after people and gets stuck into them. He’s quiet in his demeanour but he’s good on the ball, he’s brave and takes it under pressure.
“Lewis has so much to his game and he’s going to get better. I’d like to see him have a big game [against Hearts] because that will help him from a mental point of view and show him that he can be a match for anyone in this league.”
That willingness to get on the ball under pressure is crucial in a derby when, Fenlon points out, there are three points to be had as well as bragging rights.
He added: “For me, the three points are the biggest thing, but for everyone else it’s different. At the end of the game, if we win, they won’t be thinking about the three points. They’ll be thinking about going to the pub on Monday night or work the next day to see their Hearts-supporting friends. That’s the way football should be. They’ve suffered enough for the last year, so it would be nice to give them something to smile about.”