PAT FENLON accepts he owes Hibs fans big time.
After a trip to East Fife and tour matches in Belgium, Holland and Germany, tomorrow’s game against Town represents the only home work-out ahead of the new Scottish Premier League campaign.
Hibs, who kick off away to Europa League competitors Dundee United a week tomorrow, managed to stave off relegation from the top flight last season.
But their last competitive match was the Scottish Cup final against Hearts at Hampden – and resulted in a humiliating 5-1 defeat.
Irishman Fenlon, who took over last November after a string of title triumphs with Shelbourne then Bohemians in his native Dublin, has refused to watch the DVD of the final.
But he’s certainly been busy, with a summer clear-out leading to the departure of 15 players, while five have come in.
“The final wasn’t nice, particularly for the fans, but it showed where the club was, and that we needed a fair bit of change,” said Fenlon, who as a player, turned out for all of Dublin’s ‘big four’, St Pat’s, Bohemians, Shamrock Rovers and Shelbourne, as well as leading Belfast club Linfield.
Colchester keeper Ben Williams, defenders James McPake (Coventry) and Tim Clancy (Motherwell), midfielder Paul Cairney (Partick Thistle) and forward Lee Griffiths (on loan from Wolves) have been recruited.
With Rangers out of the SPL equation, there is new pressure to make the top six (the division splits into two after 33 rounds).
And Fenlon, 43, knows he’s got to deliver.
“Everyone talks of Hibs being a big club but we must prove it,” he admitted. “People talk of expectations. We were in the bottom six but have to be top six – that’s a given.
“We have to make sure we’re fighting our way to that end of the table, after that you don’t know.
“It’s very easy to say it but we now have to do it. There are a lot of very good sides in the league but outwith the top two or three there is not a huge difference.”