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Friday 7th October 2011

IRN-BRU Phenomenal Awards - September 2011

The IRN-BRU SFL Phenomenal Award winners have been named for the month of September. After much debate, a judging panel consisting of respresentatives from the Scottish media decided upon the winners.

The IRN-BRU SFL Phenomenal Award winners have been named for the month of August. After much debate, a judging panel consisting of respresentatives from the Scottish media decided upon the winners.

The winners for September are:

  • FIRST DIVISION MANAGER OF THE MONTH:  STEVEN PRESSLEY (FALKIRK)
  • SECOND DIVISION MANAGER OF THE MONTH:  COLIN CAMERON (COWDENBEATH)
  • THIRD DIVISION MANAGER OF THE MONTH:  PAUL HARTLEY (ALLOA ATHLETIC)
  • PLAYER OF THE MONTH:  FARID EL ALAGUI (FALKIRK)
  • YOUNG PLAYER OF THE MONTH:  MARK RIDGERS (EAST FIFE)
  • GINGER BOOT WINNER:  PETER MacDONALD (MORTON)

IRN-BRU SFL Phenomenal First Division Manager of the Month – Steven Pressley (Falkirk)

Falkirk enjoyed a four game unbeaten run in September that began with a 4-1 Ramsdens Cup success over East Fife and ended with a headline grabbing 3-2 win over holders Rangers in The Scottish Communities League Cup.

That run was more than good enough for Manager Steven Pressley to pick up his first ever  IRN-BRU Phenomenal First Division Manager of the Month Award. The Bairns started the season with a re-cast squad, a much younger squad and although the month ended with a 3-2 reverse at leaders Morton, they bounced back last week with a 1-0 success at Hamilton’s New Douglas Park.

Lee Bullen (left), Steven Pressley (centre) and Alex SmithPressley, appointed to his post in February 2010, has waited patiently for the first recognition of his career and he said: “I am delighted to be the Manager of Falkirk and I thoroughly enjoy it with this success and the win over Rangers was a great reward for the faith we have shown in our Youth Academy.”

A bit like his club, Pressley is not interested in quick found fame as he said: “Like anyone else in my position, I want to be a Manager at the highest level but I know that I am at the early stages of my progression and I still have a lot to prove.”

It is certainly a team effort at The Falkirk Stadium with Pressley adding: “I do not believe that I could have won this award had it not been for the support and help I receive from my Assistant Manager, Lee Bullen, and of course, Alex Smith.

“People outside the club do not appreciate the fantastic work they do for us but I most certainly do.  Lee has been alongside me since I started the job here and I would trust him with my life.  I think that is vital.”

The Scottish Premier League Player of the Month for February 2004 was also fulsome in his praise of former Stirling Albion, St. Mirren, Aberdeen, Clyde, Dundee United and Ross County Manager Smith as he said: “I have also been blessed to have Mr. Smith behind me.  He is full of good advice, not just on football matters but on life in general.

“I am not a man for awards and it is also really important that the players get their share of the credit for how well we have done recently.”

Loking ahead to this Sunday's Ramsdens Cup Semi-Final against Annan Athletic at Galabank, Pressley said: "These are special occasions and it is an opportunity not to be passed up.

"Annan have a good record at home, but we have a great team spirit at the moment."

IRN-BRU SFL Phenomenal Second Division Manager of the Month – Colin Cameron (Cowdenbeath)

Cowdenbeath Manager, Colin Cameron, followed in the footsteps of fellow former Heart of Midlothian internationalists, Falkirk boss, Steven Pressley, and Alloa Athletic Manager, Paul Hartley, by winning an IRN-BRU SFL Manager of the Month Award for September.

However, it was another Tynecastle man who was on Cameron’s mind when he picked up his trophy for a three game winning run in the Second Division at Hampden.

Colin CameronLike the rest of the nation, Cameron is keeping his fingers crossed that another one-time Blue Brazil boss, Craig Levein, can lead the national side to victories over Lichtenstein and Spain during the course of the next few days and secure a Play-Off place for next year’s EURO 2012 Finals in Poland and the Ukraine.

Cameron said: “Unfortunately, I never got to play alongside Craig when our careers crossed at Hearts as he was injured however, we would travel in every day in the same car.  He was always a strong character, he had to be, to go through what he did with injuries and remain positive.”

The current Central Park boss reckons that Levein’s strength of character could help Scotland pull off an unexpected success as he said: “Craig was always upbeat and positive despite missing a lot of football.  I saw the ambition and determination in him then from close range and I knew he would go far in the game.

“He has an authority but he is able to balance that with a nature that players like.  Peter Houston helps him with that balance although Craig will be the louder one.  They are a great managerial team in the same way as Jim Jefferies and Billy Brown were when I was at Hearts.”

The 28 times capped midfielder was on the bench on both occasions when Scotland played England in a two-legged Play-Off for the EURO 2000 Finals back in 1999 however, his international career was over by the time Berti Vogts’ side faced Holland in a similar contest fpur years later and he feels that he has missed out.

Cameron said: “Not playing in a major tournament is my one big regret from my playing career.  I just broke into the national team after France 1998 and it would have been nice to play at that kind of stage during my career.”

Darren Fletcher replaced Cameron in a EURO 2004 qualifier in October 2003 and the Manchester United midfielder scored on his debut and his arrival marked the beginning of the end of the Kirkcaldy born player’s career.

The now 38-year-old said: “It is disappointing not to have made major Finals at international level but that is life.  It would be a great achievement if the current squad made them.  We are capable of getting results as we showed with the performance against the Czech Republic but they got a penalty and we didn’t but hopefully, things will level themselves out.

“We still have a chance and whilst the Czech result was a bit of a blow, Scotland never do things the easy way.  It would be fantastic to beat Spain although not many teams have done that recently.  If Scotland fail to beat them, it will not be down to any lack of effort from Craig and his players.”

Levein is not the only former Cowdenbeath Manager that has done well as Cameron said: “I am at a club that likes to give Managers a chance.  Mixu Paatelainen was here as was Danny Lennon and it is no coincidence they have moved onto bigger things as Cowdenbeath give you a chance to flourish.

“I played against Mixu and played with Danny and it is good to see them doing well but I will be judged on what I do.  I am in no rush to get anywhere and will take things one game at a time which is the same approach I had when I started out as a player at Raith Rovers.”

Cameron added: “It is great to receive this award just as I am getting my feet under the table but I have to say that the players have done everything I have asked of them.  I have told them that promotion is our aim and everyone at the club from the Chairman to the players to the backroom staff want us back in the First Division at the first time of asking.

“We were unfortunate to come down but there is no point in feeling sorry for yourself and the least I am looking for is a top four finish.”

Moving into management was not something Cameron had thought of until a significant birthday as he explained: “It was not until I turned 30 that I thought about coaching and management.  I did my B Licence with Jackie McNamara when we were at Wolves together but it had never appealed to me until then.  I began to notice things that I was doing to help younger players when I played alongside them and that helped convince me.

“Jimmy Nicholl gave me the opportunity to assist him last season at Cowdenbeath and it really was a shot at nothing as it gave me the chance to get my feet wet to see if I liked it.”

Nicholl is only one of the Managers that Cameron has learned from before branching out on his own as he said: “You take something from all your Managers.  You like to think that you are taking the good bits in a good way.  I have worked for great tacticians but poor man-managers and the other way round as well.  You simply try and do the best with the players you have and players make it easy for you by listening.”

Cameron is learning his trade well as there is little time for elaborate coaching time at Central Park as he explained: “I am now working with part-time players and their commitment is different as is the time you spend with them.  They can come into work after a really hard shift and sometimes their effort is not what you are expecting and you have to remember that this is a second job to them.

“I was speaking to a Manager of another part-time team and one of his players is a Safety Officer at a Gas Fractionation Plant and a mistake there could cost lives and football is his release from that pressure.  Coaching badges give you a base for training programmes but players have feelings and you need to adapt to that.”

IRN-BRU SFL Phenomenal Third Division Manager of the Month – Paul Hartley (Alloa Athletic)

Alloa Athletic Manager, Paul Hartley, picked up his first ever IRN-BRU SFL Manager of the Month Award recently at Hampden and thanked his players for playing so well that he has not had to consider picking himself to play for The Wasps.

Alloa Athletic Manager, Paul HartleyHartley’s side won all three of their Third Division games in September and the former Scotland midfielder, appointed just three months ago at Recreation Park, said: “I am miles off playing just now and to be honest, I am not all that bothered.  What I tried to do in the summer was bring in good players, especially in the midfield area, that would save me from playing.  That has been the case and I do not miss taking part.”

The 34-year-old, who has registered himself as a squad member for The Wasps, said: “I would imagine that some people may find that strange but I am just so engrossed in being a Manager.  That is my focus and the need to get results drives me.”

Hartley added: “If I was to play and things were not going well, I would find it very difficult to come in at half-time and have a go.  It would not be fair especially if I was playing poorly.”

There is another reason for not playing and Hartley jokingly added: “I have hardly had a training session since I joined the club and when I have trained, I have been hopeless.  There is no way I would get into the squad so I will gladly settle for kicking and heading the ball on the side-lines!”

Whilst no official retirement notice was posted, Hartley gave a strong indication that his playing days were over when he said: “I am 34 now which is quite young to stop playing but I feel I have had my time as a player.  Now it is time for younger players to come through and play well.  We have a few of them who can go on to a full-time environment.”

Hartley added: “I am now also busier than I ever was as a full-time player as Managers have so much more to do.  I have to go to games, identify players, sign them, drop them on occasion, deal with the Chairman and the Board and basically everything else that goes along with being a Manager.  My time is filled a lot more than it ever was as just being a player.”

The pupil took time out to thank several masters, including Aberdeen boss Craig Brown, who have helped him settle into life at Recreation Park.

Hartley said: “I have played under a lot of Managers and you learn things from them all.  I use a lot of what I have learned in training sessions but I am my own man and love being the Alloa Manager.”

Hartley is certainly not finished learning as he added: “I still speak to Craig Brown and I was in contact with Jim Jefferies when he was at Hearts.  Stuart McCall is another I chat to, as is Walter Smith.  It would be foolish to have these contacts and not use them.”

The 25 times capped Scotland midfielder admits that the position of Brown and the Aberdeen side that he played for last season, before picking up a medial knee injury against St. Mirren in March that has all but ended his playing days, had been disappointing him until their recent 4-0 success over Dunfermline Athletic.

Hartley said: “To see Aberdeen struggling is a surprise as they are a great club.  They just need someone to get it right there and the club would be flying.  I hope it is Craig and Archie that get it right as I know how hard they work for the club and what kind of people they are.

“It is a shame to see the crowds Aberdeen are getting just now because when they go on a winning run, the backing is tremendous.  Their poor results are not something that has just happened over the last year or two, it has been going on for longer than that.  I can’t put my finger on why it is that way but Craig and Archie will turn it around I have no doubts about that as they work too diligently not to bring about a change of fortune.”

Hartley added: “They have had the backing of the Chairman and Willie Miller and that is important and I hope they get Aberdeen going forward again as it is a wonderful club.”

IRN-BRU SFL Phenomenal Player of the Month – Farid El Alagui (Falkirk)

Falkirk striker, Farid El Alagui, was selected as the IRN-BRU SFL Player of the Month for September after helping Steven Pressley’s side to defeat Dundee 2-1 thanks to a late goal and then grabbing a double as the Bairns knocked holders Rangers out of The Scottish Communities League Cup 3-2.

Farid El AlaguiThe former Bergerac Foot, Wydad Casablanca and Romorantin striker is one of the older heads in the Falkirk squad aged 26 and he paid tribute to his young team-mates saying: “There are a lot of good young footballers at this club who are giving everything to the team.  They have been given a chance to shine and are taking it.

“We achieved a very good result in beating Rangers however, we have to build on that.”

After playing in Morocco and south of Paris, El Alagui was asked how he was enjoying the game in Scotland and he said: “I have been here two months and I am very pleased with how things are going.  It is a long way from Casablanca to Falkirk but it is good to have the opportunity to play here.  The culture of football is so strong in Scotland that I am pleased to be playing in a country like that.”

Having scored nine times already this season to become a hero at The Falkirk Stadium, El Alagui insisted that he had no set target to reach saying rather menacingly for opposing defenders: “I am a striker and I am expected to score in every game.  That is what I set out to do.”

IRN-BRU SFL Phenomenal Young Player of the Month – Mark Ridgers (East Fife)

East Fife’s on loan Heart of Midlothian goalkeeper, Mark Ridgers, was rewarded for helping send his side through to the Quarter Finals of The Scottish Communities League Cup at Aberdeen’s expense by being named as the IRN-BRU SFL Young Player of the Month for September.

Mark RidgersThe 21-year-old enjoyed a high exposure 10 days as he beat out three kicks from Aberdeen players during the penalty shoot-out before being named in Billy Stark’s national Under-21 squad and then visiting Hampden to pick up his award from the sponsor.

There is little chance of the Inverness born shot-stopper letting fame going to his head and if he did, his goalkeeping brothers at Nairn County and Strathspey Thistle would quickly be on his case.

Ridgers said: “This has been the best time of my career and I have found it to be a very inspiring period.  I may well have got the headlines for saving three penalties against Aberdeen but it was a team effort and I am proud of the part I played.”

Ridgers’ big brother Ally is ensuring that the New Bayview 'keeper is not getting carried away saying: “Ally was with Inverness Caley and he gives me lots of good advice.  He says himself he was a full-time player that failed to make the grade so he keeps an eye out for me all the time.

“He told me to enjoy the occasion at Pittodrie but to use it as a motivation to be playing at SPL grounds on a regular basis.”

The sibling relationship was the reason that junior Ridgers is between the sticks now and The Fifers number one said: “I was told to go in goal when I was younger on the basis that I must be good because I was Ally’s brother.  That eventually led to a trial at Ross County and I signed for them when I was 15 before joining Hearts.

“The same thing must have happened to one of our other brothers, William, as he won the Player of the Year trophy for Fort William last season as a goalkeeper and is now at Strathspey Thistle.  We have one more brother, Wayne, but he is not really into football and prefers playing the guitar.”

Ridgers is hoping that his fine run of luck continues as he added: “Now that East Fife have shown what they can do in the cup, we have to take that into the League and move up the table.  I am in my final year at Hearts and I want to use the platform I have been given to get a new deal there.”