Neale Fenn has signalled the imminent end of an era at Cork City. After losing 1-0 to Bohemians on Friday, the relegation-threatened Rebels might still have work to do to copper-fasten their Premier Division status, but the new manager is already laying transformative plans for next season.
“I think we’ve probably come to the end of the road of that double-winning team of two years ago and it’s time probably now for some fresh faces and fresh ideas,” he said.
“We’ve been speaking to players that we want to keep but obviously we can’t do it yet because of the window. There’s only four of the older players under contract so there’s going to be a lot of comings and goings.”
Fenn confirmed that he has already told some players that their services will not be required next season.
“Yeah, yeah, and maybe to the detriment of their performance,” he conceded, “but I felt it was only right for me to speak to them and give them enough notice. But then every player is motivated by different things. Some players are motivated because they want to stay here. Some because if they’re not going to be here they need another club.
“But I’ve just tried to be honest with them and say: ‘Unfortunately, there’s going to be nothing here for you next season’. But they kind of understood the reasoning behind it and have contributed since I’ve been here.”
Fenn acknowledged that the rebuilding job at City would take time but, assuming they retain their top-flight status, he said he hoped the team would at least be in contention for a European spot next year.
“If you’re speaking to any manager, you want to go out and win games and win trophies, of course you do,” he said.
And we definitely want to do that. But championship-winning teams and teams that win trophies are built over a period of time, they don’t just happen overnight. So we will be building.
“But we still have a lot of lads here. The younger age group is good. And I believe that if we get the right players, the right mix of players, then we can certainly be challenging for Europe.”
From his own experience at the helm of Longford Town, Fenn also thinks the First Division could prove fertile ground in terms of player recruitment.
“There are good players in the First Division. It’s funny, because I’m watching matches now and always thinking: ‘How would he do in the Premier Division?’ Some players you think might not be able to do it but others you think they’d have a great chance of doing it. It’s certainly somewhere I’d be looking at but whether I can get those players in is another matter.”
Before all that, his first priority — after failing to land a victory in his first six games in charge while his team have failed to find the net in four successive games — is to get the goals and the points which will secure City’s safety, something a win next Friday at home to UCD would all but mathematically ensure.
“It’s tough because I was brought in to see out this season, get a couple of results and plan for next season,” he said.
“But we haven’t got a result yet so it’s been a little bit more pressurised in terms of that. We’ve been close, we missed a penalty against Finn Harps and if we’d won that game we would have been safe. But other times, like against Derry, we haven’t been good enough.
“I’m encouraged that we played well against Bohs even if we didn’t get a result. UCD is an important game for us. We want to go and win it and if we play like we did against Bohs I feel we’re a match for anybody.”