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Friday 18th November 2011

IRN-BRU SFL Phenomenal Awards - October October2011

October Award Winners

IRN-BRU Phenomenal First Division Manager of the Month – Derek Adams (Ross County) & Steven Pressley (Falkirk)

IRN-BRU Phenomenal Second Division Manager of the Month – John Robertson (East Fife)

IRN-BRU Phenomenal Third Division Manager of the Month – Gardner Speirs (Queen’s Park)

IRN-BRU Phenomenal Player of the Month – Darren Dods (Falkirk) & Grant Munro (Ross County)

IRN-BRU Phenomenal Young Player of the Month – Aaron Sinclair (Partick Thistle)

IRN-BRU Ginger Boot Winner – Ryan Donnelly (Airdrie United)

Goal of the Month – Andy Rodgers (Stenhousemuir)


Derek Adams with awardIRN-BRU Phenomenal First Division Manager of the Month – Derek Adams (Ross County) & Steven Pressley (Falkirk)

Ross County boss Derek Adams was delighted to receive his first IRN-BRU Phenomenal Manager of the Month Award since January 2010 ahead of his side’s 3-1 success over Falkirk last Saturday.

The Dingwall men had a perfect October with wins over Ayr United, Dundee, Hamilton Academical and Morton with nine goals scored and only one conceded however, Adams is not so much a Manager with his feet firmly on the ground as  one that has then bolted to terra firma.

Adams said: “October was great and things have turned our way after a strange start to the season.  We may have won seven games on the trot now but we will not be getting overly excited about anything as it was not that long ago we started the season with one win in the first six games.

“It was an odd beginning to the League as we lost 5-1 to Hamilton Accies in the second game and then dropped points after losing late goals to draw against Partick Thistle, Livingston and Falkirk.  If I was being super critical, I could be saying that we should have more points than we have.  We had four players sent off as well and even though one of them was overturned, you don’t get the points back from the game we were winning in.”

Despite a lot of the pre-match attention being on the depth and quality of the County squad Adams points out that not that much has changed saying, “The team that took the field against Falkirk had 8 players from last season. Michael Fraser, Grant Munro and Colin McMenamin were the only new ones that started that game so the overhaul is nowhere near what people think it has been.”

St. Johnstone, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Dunfermline Athletic have all been promoted in the last three seasons on the back of long unbeaten runs and whilst County are building a similar hot-streak, Adams points out his side are not alone in having the potential to dominate the First Division.

“Morton started the season really well and have the potential to go on another run and Falkirk’s defeat at our place was their first since the opening day of the season so they have plenty to give as well.  It is a difficult division to go on long unbeaten runs as there are nine full-time teams with the only part-time side Ayr United performing really well too.

“You cannot take anything for granted.”

Adams, of course, returned north in the summer after a six month spell as the Assistant Manager at Hibernian and he remains happy with the choices he has made saying: “I am delighted to be here as the players have been fantastic to work with. Working with the players is what makes the job enjoyable to me and I am fortunate I have guys here that are willing to work hard to be the best they can be.”

The County boss is pleased that defender Grant Munro was recognised although he reckons any of the club’s defenders could have been selected as he said: “We lost one goal to a penalty in October so everyone in the defence is playing well.  Overall, we have lost 11 goals and if you take the Hamilton game out of it, you get an idea of how strong we have been defensively.

“It is great that Grant has been selected as he has combined well with Scott Boyd and chipped in with the winning goal against Hamilton last month.”

Steven PressleyFalkirk Manager, Steven Pressley, was jointly recognised after a fine October that saw progression to The Ramsdens Cup Final and the Semi-Finals of The Scottish Communities League Cup as well as two wins and two draws in the IRN-BRU SFL First Division.

Despite the defeat at Ross County, Pressley is only looking forward saying: “The next couple of months will see a great sense of anticipation at Falkirk.  Everyone will be vying for a starting place with the Celtic game coming up and a League campaign to keep working on.

“The League campaign is our bread and butter but cup ties will always be at the back of our mind and everyone will want to be involved.”

Pressley’s young side has gained many admirers this season for the way they have gone about their business despite an average age of 19 and the players’ enjoyment at their success is matched by their Manager.

The IRN-BRU Phenomenal Award winner for last month said: “I love my job and I love the different aspects and the hard work that goes along with it.  I have to thank our Technical Director, Alex Smith, who has been like a father figure to me, for the work he has put in.  Also, Craig Robertson does a lot for me in terms of our video analysis and Bobby Wilson who sets up our training drills deserves thanks for the work he does.”

john Roberston - October AwardIRN-BRU Phenomenal Second Division Manager of the Month – John Robertson (East Fife)

East Fife boss John Robertson picked up his second IRN-BRU Phenomenal Second Division Manager of the Month award after his side moved from bottom place to a Play-Off spot after wins over Forfar Athletic, Stirling Albion, Albion Rovers and Airdrie United.

The only disappointment, if it can be classed as a disappointment, was the 2-0 defeat in The Scottish Communities League Cup to SPL Kilmarnock.

Robertson gave credit to the Fife club for helping him when he was out of football management with the former Heart of Midlothian and Scotland striker saying: “The East Fife job has been great for me as it has boosted my profile in the year I have been here and I hope it can lead to one more crack at full-time football.  I believe I can be successful at that level again but who knows whether it will happen.”

The 47-year-old is not letting his men rest on their laurels, especially as they have started November with two defeats, with Robertson saying: “The cup run was great and four wins out of four was fantastic but it is back to the drawing board now.  We showed character during that run which is great but sometimes we maybe should not have needed to show that character as we had enough chances to win games.”

Robertson is hoping that his higher profile will lead to a move back to full-time football and East Fife fans need not fret too much as he is already working with his replacement as travelling to and from his Highlands home is unsettling.

“I am enjoying the job but the travelling from my Inverness home is hard,” said Robertson before adding, “Every game is an away game for me and I am doing the journey three times a week.  It is tough going but I will do it for as long as I can.

“My replacement is already lined up as the plan was always to get Gordon Durie ready and that is still the case."

Gardner Spiers - October AwardIRN-BRU Phenomenal Third Division Manager of the Month – Gardner Speirs (Queen’s Park)

Queen’s Park’s Head Coach, Gardner Speirs, praised the application of his amateur players who are giving more than ever this season as he picked up October’s Phenomenal Manager of the Month Award.

The Spiders, who travel to Elgin City on Scottish Cup duty on Saturday, enjoyed a perfect month with three League wins out of three secured as well as the tricky Scottish Cup tie up at Huntly negotiated safely with Speirs thanking his men for turning up for an extra training session every week this year.

Speirs said: “The players have applied themselves fantastically well and are now coming in for three nights a week to train as well as all the travelling involved in playing in the Third Division.  It is unusual for a part-time side to have three nights a week but I am sure the players have seen the benefits that their extra commitment has brought since we introduced it at the beginning of this year.

“This is a great recognition for how well the players have done in tricky away games at East Stirling, Huntly and Stranraer as well as a fine performance at home against Montrose.”

These benefits included a 12 game unbeaten run last season that helped secure a Play-Off place and a quicker start to the season than the Hampden outfit have had in recent seasons with Speirs saying: “I have picked up awards in the last couple of seasons and they came in January and February so getting this one earlier shows that we have started better than we have in recent years.”

The extra Wednesday night session sees the Queen’s Park first team and Under-19 squad come together with Speirs saying: “Most of our players come from our youth programme and this helps them get used to a first team environment now as opposed to being promoted to it at the end of the season.”

As well as the extra training increasing sharpnish, keeping the Hampden squad together has helped Queen’s overcome their traditional sluggish start to a season as new players replace the ones who move on to the professional ranks with Speirs observing: “Our pre-season this year was as good as other ones have been but losing only two players from last season’s squad has helped us as the squad had some momentum behind them.  In fact, it is only one player that left as Martin McBride went to Dumbarton and then came back.”

The one departure was Andy Millen, who became a favourite at the club at 45-years-old during a five month playing period, with Speirs saying: “That was a lot of experience to lose but his impact at the club remains in the growth in players like Paul McGinn, Ricky Little and Darryl Meggat who played alongside him in defence.”

The financially stricken nature of the game could be helping Speirs’ keep hold of their unpaid players however,there are other factors as the former St.Mirren midfielder explained:“It could well be a sign that there is not much money around but we also had a great second half of last season and that makes it easier to keep players as they are looking forward to the next season and they know each other and how we want to play.”

Speirs keeps the targets for his side as he approaches his fourth anniversary in charge close to his chest as he explained:“Momentum undoubtedly builds confidence and when we play well, we can compete with anyone.  We will just concentrate on one game at a time and Elgin is the next one.”

The former Aberdeen Assistant Manager, who began his career at Love Street when Sir Alex Ferguson signed him in 1977, is however, jealous of his players that get to wear the club’s famous Black and White hooped jerseys as he explained: “I never got to play at Hampden as a player and that is a real regret.  Coaching there is the next best thing because even though we get small crowds, it is a fantastic experience although we are well aware that our League opponents get a real lift from it twice a season and we need to overcome that.”

IRN-BRU Phenomenal Player of the Month – Darren Dods (Falkirk) & Grant Munro (Ross County)

A remarkable first in the IRN-BRU Phenomenal Player of the Month Awards saw the judging panel deadlocked on votes for the Bairns' Darren Dods and County’s Grant Munro.  After much debate, it was viewed that the former Inverness Caledonian Thistle defensive duo should pick up the first ever joint award.

The experienced centre backs were recognised for the roles they have played in helping to guide their sides into the top two positions in the First Division and, in Dods’ case, The Ramsdens Cup Final and a Scottish Communities League Cup Semi-Final.Darren Dodds - October Award

Dods, at 36, is relishing his role as the elder statesmen in what is not so much a youngish side as just a very young side and he explained: “It is amazing to think of how good things are now because at the start of the season, player after player was leaving.  We played our first League game at Raith Rovers and lost but we have only lost once since and have the Semi-Final against Celtic and The Ramsdens Cup Final to look forward to.”

Dods, who has given sterling service to Hiberniam, St. Johnstone, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Dundee United in a near 20 year playing career may have hoped for a successful season when he sat down with Manager Steven Pressley to discuss his summer move from Tannadice however, the route to what has been achieved so far never featured in his chat.

“I knew there would be a few players leaving Falkirk,” said Dods before adding, “but they were in for other targets and the plan was to have four or five experienced professionals at the club.  Tam McManus was in training, as was Robert Olejnik, in pre-season so it looked like everything was in place however, they started to move on.”

The turnaround ended up being massive with Dods saying: “I was expecting fewer players to go and more to come in but it ended up that more players left than came in.  Farid El Alagui, Michael McGovern and I came in and then it was decided to go with youth players and 18 players in total left.”

“I was just forming friendships with Marc Twaddle, Ryan Flynn and Marc Stewart and they left as the club looked to reduce its wage bill.  The faces I trained with just seemed to get younger and younger as it became late teens and then 16 and 17-year-olds.”

“There are still some well established guys like Tam Scobbie but by and large, my team-mates all stay at home with their mums who wash their kit and make sure they bring it in nicely ironed.”

One face that was waiting to welcome Dods last Saturday was his former defensive partner in the Highlands, County’s Munro.

Dods said, “Grant and I had three great years together at Inverness and played a lot of games beside each other.  He featured a lot for them last season and, of course, scored some vital goals and was a bit of a mainstay of their team so I was surprised he was let go.

“He is showing everyone this season how good he can be and he is playing a big part in a bigger and more experienced squad than we have.  They have players in their late twenties, their mid-twenties all who have First Division or SPL experience.

As for sharing his award with Munro, Dods said: “I have never been close to getting one before so I am delighted even if it is a shared one. There is a lot to be excited about here as we have the Ross County game, the Semi-Final against Celtic and then the Hamilton Accies Final.”

“I am sure all these games are a huge boost to everyone at the club after the start to the season that we had.”

Grant Munro - October AwardCounty centre back Munro said: “I am obviously delighted to receive the award. It has been a great month for the whole team with four wins from four tough games . As a player, it’s always nice to get recognition in the form of awards, even if it is a joint one with Darren, but it is a team game and as such, I think it’s a credit to all of the lads, not just myself.

“Since I arrived at the club in the summer the other players have been fantastic in helping me settle down.  There is a great spirit amongst the squad and training is really enjoyable.  I think that’s reflected in the performances not just over the last month but over the season as a whole.”

The 31-year-old said: “The obvious moment to pick out as a highlight in the month was scoring the winner against Hamilton as it was my first goal for the Club. As a defender, I am particularly pleased with the number of clean sheets we have kept recently.”

Aaron SinclairIRN-BRU Phenomenal Young Player of the Month – Aaron Sinclair (Partick Thistle)

Partick Thistle’s Aberdeen born full-back, Aaron Sinclair, praised his parents and former Montrose Manager, Steven Tweed, for the support he has received in his fledgling career when he picked up the IRN-BRU Young Player of the Month for October.

The 20-year-old moved south in the summer for a crack at full-time football after just over two years at Links Park and his form at Firhill has already brought scouts from English and SPL sides to watch him scamper from defence to attack on the left flank.

Sinclair said: “My parents, Paul and Nicola, have basically broken their backs so I could be a professional footballer as they have supported me throughout.  My mum has just had a baby so she does not come to so many games now but my Dad drives from Aberdeen to watch me in every game.  I think the closest game we have to him is Dundee so that shows you the fantastic support they have given me.”

That support also saw Sinclair employed as a labourer in his Dad's scrapyard business in Poynernook Road in the Granite City when he was with the Gable Endies although the Jag admits that he is more industrious on the pitch than he was off it.

He said: “I used to have to get up at half past six every morning to work for my Dad although he let me off plenty of times.  Put it this way, I did not need to be replaced when I left!

“It is great that he comes along to my games and it is a fair trek as we were at Dumfries last week to play Queen of the South and I had never even been there before.  It was easier going to Third Division games as a lot of them were close to Montrose but each away game is an adventure for us both this season.”

Former Gable Endies' boss Tweed also received thanks with Sinclair saying: “I had not been at Montrose long from Albion Boys Club when Steven gave me my debut at 18.  I will always be thankful for the help he gave me then and I learnt a lot there as we played a 3-4-3 system that allowed me to bomb up and down the pitch.  At Thistle, I am playing in a more regulated left back role.”

Despite this change, Sinclair has fared well in Glasgow saying: “I have adapted to life as a full-time player and my fitness levels have risen as a result of the training I have been doing.”

His form has been picked up on both sides of the Border however, Sinclair is keeping his feet on the ground saying: “I have seen a few stories in the newspapers about clubs being interested in me but I have just ignored them.  I will get on with playing my game and see what happens.”

One man Sinclair is keen to hear from is Scotland Under-21 boss Billy Stark as he explained saying: “I have never represented Scotland at any level and it would be a dream to get a cap Under-21 level.  I have been told that Billy Stark has seen me play and hopefully, I could force my way into one of his squads.”

Ryan DonnellyIRN-BRU Ginger Boot Winner – Ryan Donnelly (Airdrie United)

Airdrie United’s Ryan Donnelly was awarded the Ginger Boot for October with his fine form seeing him net four goals last month and his hat-trick last week against Forfar Athletic takes him up to 12 for the season.

The striker netted twice against Stenhousemuir in a 5-2 win, scored Airdrie’s counter in the 1-1 draw against Brechin City and scored again against East Fife in a 3-1 reverse.

A modest Donnelly said: “I was surprised and delighted to hear I had won it as I have just been so focused on our games that I never realised I was top of the charts.  Hopefully, there are still more goals to come for me.”

Donnelly continued: “I have a fair few to think of as a favourite for the season and I would go for the recent one against Stenhousemuir or the left-footed half-volley against Stirling in The Ramsdens Cup when we won 5-0.”

Andy RodgersSeptember Goal of the Month – Andy Rodgers (Stenhousemuir)

Stenhousemuir striker Andy Rodgers’ last gasp overhead kick winner for the Warriors against East Fife was selected as the best goal in the SFL’s Goal of the Month competition for September by the judging panel.

Rodgers’ wonder strike came in the last minute with the Second Division game level at 1-1 when Willie Lyle crossed from the right wing and the 27-year-old produced a goal worthy of being compared to Wayne Rooney’s Manchester derby winner of last season when he sent an overhead kick into the far corner from the 18 yard line.

Rodgers said: “That goal got me out of a big hole as I had a couple of easier chances that I missed.  The ball came over and I thought I would have a go and I caught it well.  I have told Willie I turned his bad cross into a good one!

“I scored one like that for Ayr last season in a Scottish Cup tie against Sunnybank but we were well on top in that game whereas this one got us a result so it was quite special.  To be selected as the best goal for the month of September in the SFL is the icing on the cake.”

Being voted the best goal in that game was actually no mean feat as the SFL’s shortlist of goals contained all three goals with Stewart Kean’s thunderbolt and East Fife's Ryan Wallace’s well worked set piece leveller also being available for the vans to vote on.