Graham Cummins looks at why Neale Fenn's time at Cork City had to end

Graham Cummins looks at why Neale Fenn's time at Cork City had to end

Former Cork City manager Neale Fenn has been replaced by Colin Healy for the rest of the games this season. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

IT'S never nice to see someone lose their job but it was the right decision by the Cork City board to part ways with Neale Fenn.

With just two wins from 13 matches and sitting bottom of the table, something had to change if City had any chance of staying up.

Of course, I worked under Fenn during my brief recent spell with City and would have loved to see him succeed. Unfortunately, judging from the last few weeks, there was only one direction the team were heading if the former player stayed in charge.

Fenn’s appointment as City manager had all the right ingredients to be a success. He knew the club, having played with them during his successful career. He was a young upcoming manager whose reputation was growing after his time in charge of Longford Town.

And he believed in playing the style of football that the City fans were desperate to see.

City had been used to playing a certain brand of football for many years and although it was successful, City fans wanted to see their team play a more attractive possession-based style. It was never going to be a case of Fenn coming into the club and clicking his fingers so that everything would change.

Fenn knew there would be big changes needed if the team were going to play the way he wanted them to. There was a huge turnover of players during the off-season and it was always going to take time for Fenn to get the results he was hoping for.

The start of the season might not have been ideal in terms of results, but there was evidence that the Fenn passing philosophy was starting to work. I spoke to some of the Shamrock Rovers’ players after the Hoops defeated City 6-0 at the beginning of the season and they complimented how City started the game.

They told me the way City passed the ball made it a very difficult game for the opening 20 minutes. However, City did collapse in that game and that has been a huge problem for the club this season. The players seem to lose all confidence when they go even a goal behind.

Ricardo Dinanga celebrates with Neale Fenn and team-mates after scoring in the FAI Cup against Longford. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Ricardo Dinanga celebrates with Neale Fenn and team-mates after scoring in the FAI Cup against Longford. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Fenn had the right ideas of how the game should be played but sometimes a person has to accept that their beliefs have to change if it’s not working. I have said it in the past when you're in a relegation battle it’s not about playing pretty football, it’s about results.

When I began training with City under Fenn I was surprised by just how expansive he wanted us to play. If I was a striker, I would have loved it because he wanted the full-backs to get so high up the pitch and be a real attacking threat but it left the defence very exposed.

I could see why he was trying to play this way. City had struggled for goals, scoring just one in their opening five league games before the lockdown.

Attacking full-backs is the way the modern game is played especially amongst the teams dominating leagues. Fenn was trying to emulate Pep Guardiola and the way the Manchester City manager believes that full-backs could be used as extra central-midfielders.

What has worked for Guardiola wasn’t working for Fenn at City but yet he persisted on that expansive style. That could be applauded in one way but when results are going right and you're in a relegation battle, you should take a leaf out of Sam Allardyce’s book rather than Guardiola’s!

There were some positive results for City when the league resumed in August, particularly their 3-0 victory over Sligo Rovers but recent results, and more worryingly the lack of fight in the performances, left City with no option but to part ways with Fenn.

Placing Colin Healy in charge was an excellent choice by the board. I was privileged to have worked with Healy when the former Celtic player became part of former City manager John Cotter’s coaching staff last season.

The Ballincollig native is so passionate about football and will inject that passion into the team, that has been lacking recently. Having had such a remarkable career Healy will instantly gain the respect of the players.

Picture: INPHO/Donall Farmer
Picture: INPHO/Donall Farmer

He also has had the advantage of managing most of the City players during their time together with the club’s U19 team and those players will feel extra motivated to help the man who played a major role in them becoming professional footballers. A new manager always gives players a little spring in player’s step and more often not, leads to positive results, even if it is only for a short period.

With only five league games remaining, it’s exactly the type of impact everyone associate with City will be hoping.

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