The winners for April are:
- PLAYER OF THE MONTH: JONNY HAYES (INVERNESS CALEDONIAN TH.)
- YOUNG PLAYER OF THE MONTH: CONNOR STEVENSON (CLYDE)
- FIRST DIVISION MANAGER OF THE MONTH: KENNY BLACK (AIRDRIE UNITED)
- SECOND DIVISION MANAGER OF THE MONTH: ALLAN MOORE (STIRLING ALBION)
- THIRD DIVISION MANAGER OF THE MONTH: DICK CAMPBELL (FORFAR ATHLETIC)
Johnny Hayes (Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC)
Inverness Caledonian Thistle ended their First Division season in scintillating style as they completed a 21 game unbeaten run with their final nine games seeing a victory secured against all the other teams in the division.
Terry Butcher’s side wrapped up promotion to the SPL by scoring twenty 27 and conceding only four, with three of them coming in the one game against Raith Rovers, and their dashing winger Jonny Hayes was the choice of the judging panel for the IRN-BRU Phenomenal Player of the Month for April.
Against a background of having a team crammed full of players on form, it is a great achievement for the Dublin born 22-year-old who faced tough competition in the voting stakes from team-mates Adam Rooney and Richie Foran.
Hayes, who also won the monthly honour back in November, said, “To win this award in a month where we won the League, took our unbeaten run to over 20 games and scored so many goals is a great feeling. I am delighted the judging panel picked me out of all the fine performances from the players at Inverness.”
The winger started off his career at Reading and moved to the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium via spells on loan at Forest Green, MK Dons, Northampton and Cheltenham and a more permanent stop at the Walkers Stadium with Leicester City, and this award rounded off a fine season for the player who attracted the attention of SPL sides.
Hayes explained, “I must be doing something right as not only did I win this award but I found out that Hamilton and St. Johnstone were keen to speak to me about playing for them. I have decided that it is in my best interests to stay at Inverness and have signed a two year deal with them.”
“I have settled well here and cannot wait for next season to begin.”
The IRN-BRU Phenomenal Award winners have been named for the month of April. After much debate, a judging panel consisting of respresentatives from the Scottish media decided upon the winners.
Connor Stevenson (Clyde FC)
Clyde’s late season revival may not have been sufficient to save the Bully Wee from relegation to the Third Division however, the fine form shown by 17-year-old midfielder Connor Stevenson was more than enough for him to be awarded the IRN-BRU Young Player of the Month for April.
Stevenson, who has been brought through the youth ranks at Broadwood since he was 14, has been impressing Director of Football, Neil Watt, in training all season long and the central midfielder became a fixture in the Cumbernauld side when Watt assumed control after John McCormack vacated the Manager’s Office at the beginning of April.
Stevenson said, “I made my debut against Queen of the South last season in the First Division under John Brown but never really got a run of games until recently. That has given me confidence and allowed me to play well but it is obviously disappointing that Clyde were relegated.”
The Coatbridge based youngster said, “Neil has given me a chance on a regular basis and hopefully, I can keep impressing. We played well in the last few games when there was no pressure on us but we will need to repeat that good form to do well in the Third Division.”
The youngster is not short on ambition for either himself or Clyde saying, “I aim to be playing in the SPL one day and whilst this is the first award I have won, I hope it is not the last. Next season though I am aiming to be helping Clyde start their recovery by moving back up to the Second Division.”
Watt accompanied Stevenson to Hampden to pick up his award and he added, “It is great that Connor has been recognised in this manner. There is light at the end of the tunnel for Clyde fans and that light is the potential that Connor and a number of youngsters at the club possess. It is testament to the hard work previously put into the youth set-up at Clyde that we have members of our Under-19 side looking to force their way into the first team. That is obviously an area I am keen that we keep working on.”
Kenny Black (Airdrie United FC)
Airdrie United Manager Kenny Black’s hard work in guiding his side away from automatic relegation was rewarded with the IRN-BRU Manager of the Month Award for April.
The Lanarkshire side took 14 of the 33 points they gained from the season in the seven games played last month to overturn what was once an eleven point deficit to Ayr United and send the Honest Men down.
Black said, “We were certainly in a very precarious position and started gaining momentum at the beginning of April and our view then was to try and take things until the last game of the season. To do that, and also have the chance to avoid relegation altogether if Morton had lost and we had won on the final Saturday, says so much for the belief that the players have shown.”
When Airdrie reached their lowest point back in March, Black’s team talks became very easy as he gave his players a very simple message. He explained, “There were some games we just told the players that they had to get a win – it was as simple as that. One win led to two which led to three in a five game unbeaten run. We went to Ayr, where we had bad memories of losing a two goal lead in the Play-Offs last season, and we won 4-1. Those 90 minutes were defining in terms of escaping relegation.”
Black picked up the award, the second of his managerial career, at Hampden last week however, his men were not able to keep their recovery going and they lost out 3-1 on aggregate to Brechin City in the Play-Off Semi-Finals.
Allan Moore (Stirling Albion FC)
It was hardly the shock of the season as Stirling Albion boss Allan Moore picked up the IRN-BRU Manager of the Month award for April as his side shrugged off a defeat from Dumbarton at the start of the month to go on an eight game unbeaten run that saw them lift the title.
Moore is of course, now heavily linked with Morton however, he was looking back not forward when he reviewed a period when his Stirling side came through a marathon of games to overtake Alloa Athletic.
Albion’s season had started and finished well with a slump seen in mid-season and of course, it may be coincidence that the Forthbank’s side’s poorest spell was last autumn, when Moore was originally linked with moving to Greenock. At that time, the former winger, who had a spell at Cappielow during season 2001/02, was expected to replace David Irons however, the move broke down because of cash demands by his current employer.
Moore, Scotland’s longest serving Manager, was asked how he felt about things now and he replied, “My best friend in football is Sandy Stewart and I envy where he is now with Bolton Wanderers. However, last week I took in the SPL Exit Trials and there was John Robertson and Allan Preston taking one of the sides. They are no longer involved in management so I will keep my head down as you never know what is just around the corner.”
It is not just success on the pitch at Stirling that has kept Moore there for so long, the relationship with Chairman Peter McKenzie, who ironically priced him out of the Morton job just over six months ago, is key in Moore’s happiness in his current job.
Moore said, “Peter is like a father figure to me and he is also an inspiration. He is 82-years-old and still goes in every morning to open his work up at six in the morning. I have a great rapport with him as does my management team of John O’Neill and Roddy Grant and he had faith in me and that was really important.”
The faith that McKenzie had in Moore could be described as blind as Moore explains, “I was brought in as the Under-19 coach seven years ago and then put in charge of the first team really quickly because Peter had a hunch. Mind you, he has been telling me ever since that my jacket is on a shoogly peg! I am proud to be his Manager, although I do have ambition.”
Moore can explain his drive easily saying, “When I was a player, I wanted to be the best player in a team and maybe coming to football late gave me something to prove. I joined Dumbarton at 19 and felt I had to prove myself. Once I was established playing at Dumbarton, I wanted to be playing at a higher level and once I got that at Hearts, I wanted to be the best player in their team.”
“I have the same approach as a Manager in that I wanted to be a Manager in a higher division and now I have that again, I want to be the best Manager in the First Division.”
Moore was asked about the Morton speculation and replied, “I have heard speculation about me for years and just get on with things. I am going to spend some time with my family just now as I have hardly seen them recently. When I have, it could not be described as quality time, as I was unbearable to live with during the three games a week period. I never spoke in the house for three days after we dropped two points against Arbroath but thankfully, my wife knows what I am like.”
Dick Campbell (Forfar Athletic FC)
After winning their last three games in March, Forfar Athletic won their first four fixtures of April and that fine form saw Station Park Manager, Dick Campbell, awarded the IRN-BRU Phenomenal Third Division Manager of the Month.To complete a fine spell for the club, Campbell picked up his award before seeing off East Stirlingshire in the Play-Off Semi-Finals.
Despite the length of time the 56-year-old has spent in the game, and winning over 20 individual awards in his managerial career at Dunfermline Athletic, Brechin City, Partick Thistle and Ross County, he was delighted to be voted as the winner.
Campbell said, “I reckon I have picked lots of these awards now but they still remain special. The players deserve this one all the same as it was a fantastic run at a very busy time of the season and I will pass this on to them. That run secured our place in the Play-Offs and lifted us from third place into second, which was an achievement, as I had said I wanted us to finish as high up the table as possible.”
Despite being delighted at winning, Campbell would gladly sacrifice the gong for promotion saying, “Getting through the Play-Offs is paramount and with all respect to the sponsors, who do a great job, I would swap my award for progression to the Second Division.”