McLeish had initially tried to bring Paul Fenwick to the Club after relegation in 1998, however he had to wait two years before he eventually secured the services of the Canadian internationalist.
During his tenure as manager, Alex McLeish built a Hibernian squad packed with international players, many of whom represented their country at the highest level.
From Franck Sauzee to Russell Latapy, Hibernian had a team capable of strutting their stuff on the international stage, writes James Delaney.
One of the names that may have slipped through the cracks during this era was that of Paul Fenwick. A stalwart at the heart of the Club’s defence for four years, Fenwick spent ten years in Scotland during the prime of his career, also representing Canada at international level.
Paul Fenwick's Canada headshot from 2003 (pic: Canada Soccer)
Despite playing his football across the Atlantic at international level, Fenwick was actually born in Camden, north London, living in the capital of the United Kingdom for a short period during his youth. Eventually though, his family would relocate to St Catharines, Ontario, a small city located south of Toronto and close to the border with New York State, when Paul was still young.
Fenwick played ice hockey as a youth, as many Canadians do, but he excelled as a soccer player. In the era before Major League Soccer was created and football was yet to take off across the pond, the professional game in Canada was scarce at best, with the then newly formed Canadian Soccer League the only professional set-up in the country.
Fenwick joined his local club Hamilton Steelers for the first few years of his career, helping them to a second place finish in their final season before dissolving. He would move on to Winnipeg Fury of the same division, winning the league in the 1992 season.
The Canadian Soccer League folded after the 1992 season ended, however Fenwick’s talent had been well noted. Tony Taylor, the Canadian youth team coach recommended Fenwick and international teammate Paul Peschisolido to Birmingham City, who signed the pair in 1992.
Fenwick featured 19 times for the Blues before making the move north of the border to join Dunfermline Athletic for a short lived spell at East End Park. Departing after only three games, Fenwick finally found his feet in Scotland with St Mirren in 1995. Stints at the Love Street side’s rivals Greenock Morton and a loan spell at Raith Rovers followed before Alex McLeish finally succeeded in bringing him to Easter Road in the summer of 2000.
McLeish had initially tried to bring Fenwick to the Club after relegation in 1998, however had to wait two years before he eventually secured the services of the Canadian internationalist.
Prior to joining the Club, Fenwick had lived in Leith since arriving in Scotland from Birmingham back in 1995, so already knew the local area around Easter Road Stadium.
The Canadian stopper found a recurring place in McLeish’s side, starting a number of key matches in his debut season, with McLeish seeing him as a replacement for the recently departed John Hughes.
Paul Fenwick up against Craig Brewster during a Scottish Cup 4th Round tie in 2003 (pic: DAFC.net)
Fenwick would form a partnership with Franck Sauzee at the heart of the Hibernian defence, however he was also able to deputise at full back when needed to do so.
The pair started at the centre of the defence in the 6-2 victory over Hearts in October of that year as Fenwick would go on to cement his position for the rest of the season.
The big Canadian would have to wait until January 2001 before grabbing his first goal in green and white, turning in a David Zitelli cross in a 3-0 victory over Dundee at Easter Road.
Paul Fenwick and Grant Brebner celebrate in 2000
Fenwick was also able to leave his mark on the international scene around this time. Prior to joining Hibernian, the defender was able to help Canada claim their last major footballing honour, with a Gold Cup victory in 2000.
Despite being the lowest ranked team in the tournament, Fenwick was able to help Les Rouges overcome a strong Mexican side in the quarter-finals, before they dispatched a Trinidad and Tobago team, featuring Russell Latapy in the semi-final.
The defender started the final against Colombia, helping keep a clean sheet in a 2-0 victory which saw Canada win their first honour at international level since 1985.
One of the most notable appearances of Fenwick’s international career took place in Leith as he appeared in a friendly against Scotland at Easter Road in 2002. With the central defender lining up against his Hibernian team-mate Ian Murray, as well as former striker Stevie Crawford.
Paul Fenwick (Middle row, second from left) played for Canada in a friendly against Scotland at Easter Road in 2002 (pic: Canada Soccer)
Despite seeing Canada take the lead through an early Dwayne De Rosario penalty, Fenwick was unable to prevent The Canucks from slipping to a 3-1 defeat, with goals from Steven Thompson and two from Crawford sealing the match for Scotland.
Bobby Williamson’s arrival as manager at Easter Road proved to be the beginning of the end for Fenwick at Hibernian. The defender found himself out of favour in Williamson’s youthful side and he appeared only a handful of times during the 2003/2004 season. After Williamson departed, new manager Tony Mowbray told Fenwick he was free to find a new club.
Now in the twilight of his career at 35, Fenwick would bring an end to his playing career after departing Easter Road.
After 84 appearances and four goals for Hibernian, he returned to Canada and to St Catharines.
Paul Fenwick working with the Canadian national side (pic: Canada Soccer)
He continues to represent his country on the international scene, working as a physiotherapist with the Canadian national side.
Written by John Stephens