Opinion - Stability arrives at Turner's Cross following the Fenn appointment

15th November 2023

SSE Airtricity League Cork City reporter Andrew Horgan looks at the appointment of Neale Fenn at Turner's Cross after the press conference and announcement earlier this week... Monday was a hugely significant day for Cork City as football’s worst ke

SSE Airtricity League Cork City reporter Andrew Horgan looks at the appointment of Neale Fenn at Turner's Cross after the press conference and announcement earlier this week... Monday was a hugely significant day for Cork City as football’s worst kept secret was finally revealed. “Cork City FC is delighted to announce Neale Fenn as the club’s new first-team head coach after agreeing terms with Longford Town on his move back to the Rebel Army,” the club posted on its official website. What accompanied the statement was an image of Fenn holding the club’s current jersey aloft out on the Turner’s Cross surface with his seat in the home dugout visible in the background. An interview with the new boss soon featured on the club’s YouTube page before Fenn faced a gathering of reporters for his first official press conference at the Cork International Airport Hotel. He opened with the expected sound bites about Cork City being the “biggest club in the country” and being supported by “unbelievable fans” but he quickly got down to business and refused to pull any punches. The former City striker was in the crowd last Friday night to see his new side crash out of the F.A.I Cup with a shock defeat away to first division Galway United. “Belief and confidence was the thing I saw missing last Friday,” he said. “There were a lot of lads looked like they were trying to keep the ball safe rather than taking risks with it. Not enough shots, not enough crosses, not enough people making forward runs, just all a little bit safe and a little bit one-dimensional. “You’ve just got to look at the league table to know that not everything is right on the pitch at the moment. I was aware that things weren’t great on the pitch, but I was confident enough that once I got in there, I knew some of the players, they’re just under-performing for whatever reason. “There could be a variety of reasons for that, but I felt that I could come in and at least get a reaction until the end of the season and decide then what players we’re going to try and keep and what ones can be let go. Certainly, I wasn’t coming into this blinkered, thinking the team is flying. If the team were flying I wouldn’t have got the job.” The 42-year-old has accumulated a wealth of knowledge with regards to the League of Ireland during his time as a player with Cork City and then most recently as a manager with Longford Town. He started his playing career with Tottenham Hotspur before eventually moving to Peterborough United following loans spells at clubs including Norwich City and Leyton Orient. The attacker was introduced to the League of Ireland when he joined Waterford in 2003 before making the move to Leeside in 2004 and helping them to lift the Premier Division title in 2005.  He would later represent Bohemians (where he won two league titles), Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers but it was his time in Cork that he cherished most. His coaching career would begin when he took the role of assistant manager at Leyton Orient before taking the reins at Longford in June 2017. The abrupt nature in which he swapped the Longford managerial seat for City’s has left a sour taste in the mouth of the fans of that he has left behind. But he is strong enough to deal with it. “I won’t lie. I read Twitter. I’m not oblivious to that. So I’ve seen it and it’s not nice, but, you know, I’m a professional football manager and the chance of coming back to this club and being a full-time manager at this club was a chance I just couldn’t let pass by,” he added. “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 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.” “They (Longford Town) are in a great position at the moment in the play-offs. As they showed last Friday night against Bohs, they’re a great young team with some superb players.  “We’re going to try and play but we also have to be aware that we need results. Where we are in the league is not great, so we need to make sure that we get results too. It’s not just all about playing nice football.” That last line is interesting. Having been bored watching City on many occasions in the last year or so, many fans that regularly attend Turner’s Cross have welcomed the announcement of Fenn as manager and the exciting and attractive football that he will look to produce. But it’s not just about that. Winning football is just as entertaining but the ultimate aim is to have a team that is capable of combining the two. Winning with style will take time, it is not like Football manager where you can instantly switch the mentality to attacking and drag your players into position closer to the opposition’s goal. Fenn will need to make changes to his playing staff when the transfer window reopens but until then he will at least get the opportunity to observe his current squad and decide who he wants to keep and who he feels needs to be moved on. Cork City Chairman Declan Carey was sitting next to his new manager at the press conference and insisted the board will be doing all it can to make the club successful once again. “We’ll sit down with Neale over the next couple of weeks and we’ll build a competitive budget for him for next year to put a squad together, and a competitive one at that, to bring us back up to the top of the table, play some exciting football, get the fans back into the ground and get the excitement back,” said Carey. “I know myself personally from speaking to supporters, speaking to our shareholders and members, that the morale isn’t as good as it was over the last couple of 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. “That’s ultimately what we want to do. We want to bring trophies back to this city. The fans and everyone who works so hard for the club — the staff, volunteers and all the backroom team — that’s what everyone deserves and we want to give everyone the best chance of getting that.” As first days in a new job go, Neale Fenn's went well but he knows the real work has yet to begin. He will take charge of his first game on Friday night when Cork City take on Sligo Rovers in the Premier Division at Turner’s Cross. By then he will be after his first full week in charge of first-team training but that game, in front of an expectant City crowd, will be his first true sign of how far away they are from challenging the top sides again.  But at least now, following a turbulent season, there seems to be some stability at the helm of the club.