Hibernian manager Pat Fenlon has dismissed as “rubbish” a newspaper report which claimed he had been head-butted by one of his own players in a training ground bust-up.
The report further alleged that Scotland U21 cap Leigh Griffiths, who is on loan to the SPL side from Wolves, had also punched assistant manager Billy Brown and, consequently, had played his last game for Hibs.
However, in rubbishing the allegations, Fenlon said that Griffiths — who has been suspended twice this season for gesturing at fans — would remain a key part of his team for the rest of the season.
The original report — which was picked up by many other outlets — claimed that Griffiths, having taken exception to criticism of him by former Bohemians manager Fenlon, head-butted the man known to Irish football fans as ‘Nutsy’ before being pursued by Brown who, in turn, was knocked to the ground by a punch.
But in an official statement released by Hibs yesterday, the club called the press coverage “erroneous”, “unverified” and “irresponsible”, with Fenlon himself stating that there was “nothing at all in the story”.
Fenlon said: “Yesterday [Tuesday] was typical training ground stuff and I’m surprised at the rubbish in the press today. As is usual for high tempo training sessions, involving committed players and coaching staff, robust views and opinions are shared, and yesterday’s session was no different.
“Leigh is a quality striker, and a lively personality, and will remain a key part of my team for the rest of the season. There is nothing at all in the story. We just want to focus on winning games and getting up the table.”
The training session came in the aftermath of Hibs’ defeat to Hearts in the Edinburgh derby at the weekend. Tensions were running high in that game too, so much so that Fenlon reported abuse from Hearts fans behind his dugout to the police.
Fenlon said after the 2-0 away defeat: “I told the police what I think and I’ll leave it with them to deal with.”
League of Ireland legend Fenlon has experienced a baptism of fire since leaving the Airtricity League for the SPL last November, as Hibs, second from bottom in the table, continue to battle against relegation from the Scottish top flight. However, major redemption could yet be in store this season, as the club also have a Scottish cup semi-final against Aberdeen to look forward to early next month.
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