New Cork City boss Neale Fenn has warned there will be no “class of 92” style reunion as he begins working with some of his old team-mates from the club’s 2005 title-winning campaign.
Fenn’s former team-mates Alan Bennett and Mark McNulty will be on his playing staff at Turner’s Cross, while Liam Kearney will be on his coaching team.
Fenn also spoke to Joe Gamble — now strength and conditioning role at Waterford — before he took the Cork role.
And while Fenn said he “took a walk around Turner’s Cross and the memories came flooding back of the fantastic nights in front of the Shed End — winning trophies and those great European nights”, the former Ireland U21 player plans to look forward, not back, in his new role.
“I’ve got to be careful with this. I’m not bringing everybody back from 2005 — a ‘class or 92’ kind of thing — it’s not. People will only be here if they warrant being here. Liam Kearney will only be here if he’s a good coach — which I’m sure he is — but I haven’t worked with him before. I want to make sure that I’m not just bringing my old mates back because I had a good time.”
For now, the backroom team will remain the same at Turner’s Cross, with John Cotter moving back to an assistant role.
“It’s a big transition when a manager leaves and for me to come in not knowing a squad, not knowing the ins and outs of it, the injury history there you know, little bits and pieces like that, so I want all the backroom staff to stay and hopefully they do,” said Fenn.
Confidence has never been a problem for Fenn, who cut a relaxed figure at his unveiling at the Cork International Airport Hotel. And it was interesting he mentioned the class of 92. An easy-going figure on and off the pitch, 22 years ago Fenn made his debut for Tottenham Hotspur as a raw 19-year-old against Alex Ferguson’s all-powerful Manchester United side, featuring Beckham, Scholes, Neville, and Butt at Old Trafford.
Some 15 years ago, he scored in a man-of-the-match performance when he made his Cork City playing debut.
So it didn’t take him long to identify what was missing from the Leesiders’ make-up, from watching last weekend’s FAI Cup exit at Galway United, Cotter’s last match in charge.
“Belief and confidence was the thing I saw missing last Friday. There were a lot of lads that looked like they just were trying to keep the ball safe rather than taking risks. Not enough shots, not enough of crosses, not enough people making forward runs, just a bit one-dimensional.
Fenn’s first match in charge comes at home to Sligo Rovers on Friday night.
“I’m not going to go in there and make huge, massive changes because there isn’t enough time, we just need some of the players that are underperforming to get a bit of a tune out of them again.
“The one thing I said to them was, you’re going to enjoy it. I’m going to make training enjoyable as much as I can because that’s one way of lifting players without doing too much.”
Fenn’s confirmed Daire O’Connor — City’s star performer early in the season but out of favour in recent matches — “is definitely someone we are going to be reintroducing”.
“It’s up to me now to put my ideas across them over the next week. Again, like I said, it’s just about getting a smile on people’s faces, getting a buzz for training. I told them it’s the best job in the world and they’re playing in the best club in the country.
“So we should be showing that on a Friday night.”
Fenn leaves a Longford side third in the First Division, and fighting for promotion, and his decision to leave for Cork now has left a sour taste with many Longford fans. Fenn understands their frustration.
“It was a very tough decision to make, leaving Longford, But you have to make tough decisions in football and this was just an opportunity that I couldn’t risk someone else getting, so you know, I had to go for it.
“Cork City is a club that I’ve held dear to my heart. My mum’s from Cork so she’s delighted. I’ve got family here. So you know, it means everything. It’s why you go for your coaching education. It’s why I’m on the pro licence to manage full time and it’s a huge opportunity for me.”
Cork City club chairman Declan Carey confirmed the style of play Fenn plans to introduce at Turner’s Cross was a key consideration in his appointment.
“I myself and a lot of the guys on the board remember going to Turner’s Cross watching Neale play for us but it was only until we spoke to Neale when he articulated how he would expect his team to play going forward and the set-up that he would have, then that’s what kind of what set him apart.
“I know myself personally from speaking to supporters and to our shareholders and members, the morale isn’t as good as it was over the last couple years. That’s natural. We had a stack of trophies only two or three years ago. That’s changed now. And we need to bring it back.”
Fenn has signed a “multi-year” contract at the club.