Fenlon still has love for Linfield
A few years before it actually happened the thought of a Dubliner becoming a Linfield hero would have been unthinkable. Unpalatable possibly, even to many Bluemen.
Fortunately for Pat Fenlon the ground had already been smoothed over by a man from Dundalk.
Far from being a furore or negative reaction when Dessie Gorman became the first high-profile Roman Catholic to sign for Linfield in decades, he was welcomed as if he’d been born and brought up on the Donegall Road.
Trevor Anderson’s managerial reign at Windsor Park will forever be remembered as the era when religious barriers were broken down and now the Linfield first-team is as diverse as any club across the world.
Still, Linfield fans found a way around calling their new signing Pat when Fenlon signed in January 1994. He was given the nickname Billy and almost 14 years after his departure there is still great affection among Bluemen for Fenlon.
And tonight, long after he won the league and Irish Cup double just months after joining the club and then followed that up by lifting the cup again 12 months later, Fenlon can help Linfield one more time — by putting one over on Glentoran.
Both the Belfast Big Two can still make the semi-finals of the Setanta Sports Cup. Glentoran are certain to go through if they beat Fenlon’s Bohemians in Dublin, but a win for Bohs will see Linfield through, no matter what they do against St Patrick’s Athletic at Windsor Park.
“I wouldn’t be the flavour of the month with the Glenmen as it is, with me being an ex-Blueman,” admitted Fenlon, who spent two-and-a-half seasons with Linfield.
“I would love to do the Blues a favour by getting a result that would help both ourselves and them into the semi-finals.
“After that I’d love to play them in either the semi-final or the final because I love going back to Windsor Park.
“I’d great years there as a player and it’s always nice to go back because I get treated very well there.”
Turmoil may not quite be the right word, but there has certainly been turbulence at Glentoran over the last couple of weeks.
The departure of Alan McDonald, the appointment of Scott Young as caretaker manager and an Irish Cup defeat by Linfield have to be overcome
though if silverware is to arrive in east Belfast this season and with Linfield surging clear at the top of the Carling Premiership table the Setanta Cup may be Glentoran’s best chance.
A victory is needed at Dalymount Park tonight though, but it’s not beyond the Glens if they click.
And with similarities between himself and Young, Fenlon sees the Glens boss as having a chance of success, despite the fact that at 32 he’s younger than some members of his playing staff.
“I was 32, nearly 33 when I took over as manager at Shelbourne, but I was slightly different to Scott Young in that I was playing one week and the next week I was the manager,” said Fenlon.
“I didn’t have any preparation, but he’s been working alongside Alan McDonald for a while and will have learnt a lot from him.
“He knows the place well, having been at Glentoran for a long time now. He will know the pressure that comes with the job, which is like it was for me at Shelbourne — you’re expected to win every week.
“It’s difficult at a big club where the expectations are high and for a young manager you’ve got to learn and learn a lot quicker than at a lesser club.
“With the experience that Scott has had as a player and a coach I think he’ll be okay.”