The IRN-BRU Phenomenal Award winners have been named for the month of April. After much debate, a judging panel consisting of representatives from the Scottish media decided upon the winners.
The winners for April are:
- FIRST DIVISION MANAGER OF THE MONTH: JIM McINTYRE (DUNFERMLINE ATHLETIC)
- SECOND DIVISION MANAGER OF THE MONTH: DICK CAMPBELL (FORFAR ATHLETIC)
- THIRD DIVISION MANAGER OF THE MONTH: PAUL MARTIN (ALBION ROVERS)
- PLAYER OF THE MONTH: MARTIN HARDIE (DUNFERMLINE ATHLETIC)
- YOUNG PLAYER OF THE MONTH: LEIGHTON McINTOSH (DUNDEE)
- GINGER BOOT AWARD: RYAN WALLACE (EAST FIFE)
IRN-BRU SFL First Division Phenomenal Manager Of The Month: Jim McIntyre (Dunfermline Athletic)
Dunfermline Athletic boss Jim McIntyre made it two wins out of two in the Phenomenal Manager of the Month stakes as he was awarded April’s prize to add to the honour he won in March.
McIntyre said: “When I won last month, I said that if I won this one as well, I knew that in all probability that would mean that Dunfermline had won the IRN-BRU SFL First Division title and were going to be promoted. That is how things have turned out and I am delighted.”
The award is not just based on winning the title as the Pars had a perfect month defeating Cowdenbeath 1-0, Queen of the South 6-1, Championship rivals Raith Rovers 2-1 in front of a packed East End Park before clinching their place in the SPL against Morton with a 2-0 win.
The award is also not just for McIntyre who advised: “This is for everyone at the club as we came through a real pressure month winning all our games and in total, finished with six wins in a row which is a great achievement.
“Winning the title had not really sunk in until we got the trophy on Saturday and up until then, it had been more of a feeling of relief. I am delighted we have done it and I will enjoy our break in the sun as a reward.”
McIntyre is convinced that the positive spirit that grew within the Dunfermline playing staff was the key to their success as he said: “We all worked hard to build the togetherness of the squad. You work hard at creating something and then you have to work hard at keeping it going and guys like Kevin Rutkiewicz, Liam Buchanan and Martin Hardie all fitted in well."
Assistant Manager Gerry McCabe gets a lot of the credit for helping that spirit as McIntyre said: “Gerry is blessed with invaluable experience. We are quite alike in some ways but one of us can be more hot-headed than the other but I am not saying who.
“He is always happy first thing in the morning and that helps create the right environment for players. When you are in training every day, you have to work hard at keeping people upbeat and happy. Players need to enjoy coming into work every day and going out on the training field and we have that although you will always have players that moan about training.”
McIntyre added: “I played with a couple of Managers where there was no fun and that does affect you when you take to the field on a Saturday and having Gerry here helps avoid that.”
The East End Park Board were also praised by McIntyre who said: “It does not seem like it was that long ago I got my first win as a Manager at Cappielow when Stephen Glass scored a penalty. I thought I was only babysitting the job back on Boxing Day 2007 so I have to thank the Board for being patient with me.
“Not everyone would get three years to rebuild a team and thankfully, I got that so this award may have my name on it but it is one for everyone to share.”
IRN-BRU SFL Second Division Phenomenal Manager Of The Month: Dick Campbell (Forfar Athletic)
Forfar Athletic boss Dick Campbell praised the spirit at the Station Park club as he was awarded the IRN-BRU Phenomenal Second Division Manager of the Month for April after a month that saw the Loons secure a Play-Off spot following five wins and a draw however, more importantly, Campbell returned to the game after having surgery for cancer of the kidney.
Forfar are an extension of Campbell’s family as his sons Ross and Iain both play for the club and twin brother Ian stepped up from his Assistant Manager’s role when Dick underwent surgery and rather than waiver due to worry, they confidently strode forward to pick up the points required to extend their season.
Campbell said: “I have won a lot of awards throughout my time in football but this one is a bit special due to the timing of it. We had still to secure a Play-Off spot when I was off and you do worry how people will react but the people and players at Forfar reacted wonderfully.
“They just carried on doing what we had begun to do when the season started and to reach the Play-Offs in our first season since being promoted to the Second Division tells you everything you need to know.”
Campbell added: “Ian warned the players that when I was coming back, they would need ear muffs as we had dropped a couple of points and they needed them. There is a spirit at Forfar that we have built during our time there and I suppose when I was away from things, it was a test of how strong it is and I am delighted that everyone came through it.”
IRN-BRU SFL Third Division Phenomenal Manager Of The Month: Paul Martin (Albion Rovers)
Albion Rovers Manager Paul Martin will send his players out to clinch a place in the Play-Off Final with the IRN-BRU Phenomenal Manager of the Month Award for April in his kit bag.
Martin will share the honour with his Chairman, players and backroom staff as they all contribute to his philosophy of ‘When you have not a lot, you cherish what you have.’
The 46-year-old has guided the Coatbridge side to the Play-Offs for the first time ever and he would love his men to progress to the Second Division as a reward for their spirit and also so that they can meet up with one of Arbroath’s title winning team.
Martin explained: “One of the Arbroath players was recently quoted as saying that he hated coming to our Cliftonhill home. He said the stadium was a dump and the pitch was worse and our players would love to see him again next season in the Second Division and say ‘thanks for the inspiration.’
“Maybe the fact that we defeated them 3-0 affected his thinking but our boys lap up that kind of thing as they like being underdogs.”
The Rovers have long dropped out of fashion with Martin saying: “When you have been elsewhere like I was at Dumbarton and come here, then you realise that this club has very little infrastructure. There is no Under-19 side or youth players so when you see the first team roll up, that is our club.
“When I came here, I inherited three or four really good players from John McCormack and I have built on that every year so it has been a case of progression. That progression has seen us build a side with as good a chance as any in going up via the Play-Offs.”
The team that Martin has built is not one a pampered professional would enjoy as he explained: “Sometimes things are rough and ready at the Rovers. Our training venue can change at a couple of hours notice and the players we have now just accept that as something that happens with us. What we have achieved in getting a Play-Off place is fantastic but there is more to come from us. I have great faith and confidence in this squad as we have a spirit.
“People slagging us off aids our cause as it makes our spirit stronger. We have an aim which is to get people to no longer think that we are called 'Even Albion Rovers'. We here it all the time when people say 'Even Albion Rovers' do this or 'Even Albion Rovers' do that, so through time, I would like us just to be called Albion Rovers.”
That spirit goes beyond the playing pitch with the club rallying to the aid of team-mate Iain Smith after the big striker had every bone in his face broken after a training ground injury. Smith started to lose wages from his occupation away from football due to the time he was off his work following surgery and the club, despite having the lowest playing budget in the Third Division, with the exception of amateur Queen’s Park, rallied.
Martin explained: “The players are on a really low basic wage but a win can see some of them double or treble their money. They voted and agreed to give all their win bonuses to help Iain out. It was the right thing to do and when the Chairman Frank Meade found out, he added money to it as well.
“We maybe do not have much but we try and do the right thing for people.”
Martin reckons that Meade also helps the team bonding as he explained: “Frank knows all the players as individuals. Not just their names but as people and wee things like that matter. He is known by a nickname in the dressing room and he loves it, mind you, I am not telling you what the nickname is! I would imagine there are very few Chairmen who accept their players calling them by a nickname.
“He runs a tight ship and has already told me that if we are promoted, I am not getting a higher budget.”
Martin also praised his backroom staff saying: “Todd Lumsden made the PFA Scotland team as a player and is also an excellent Assistant Manager. Danny Ferry has helped coach the boys all season as well as play when called on and other guys that do not get much of a mention like our Goalkeeping Coach Darren Cross and Physio John McMenemy should all share in this award.
“It does not sit easily with me that they do most of the work and I get all the credit, although I suppose if things had not worked out, I would be getting all the criticism.”
IRN-BRU SFL Phenomenal Player Of The Month - Martin Hardie (Dunfermline Athletic)
Martin Hardie’s driving ambition to keep playing at a high level despite injury setbacks, as well as the drive he provided to Dunfermline Athletic’s title winning team, was rewarded at Hampden when he was presented with the IRN-BRU Phenomenal Player of the Month for April.
Hardie has battled back from a cruciate knee injury and receiving the award just days after the Pars’ First Division title success was another highlight in a mixed season for the former St. Johnstone man.
The 35-year-old said: “It has been a strange year in that I was at three clubs and only played for two of them. I went out on loan to Partick Thistle from St. Johnstone to get some games after my knee injury and things were going well there until I picked up an injury in my other knee.
“My contract at Perth ran out in January and I was wondering what would happen next. I have now picked up my fourth Championship winning medal and ended the season as Player of the Month, so it has certainly been a strange time that has ended really well.”
Hardie scored the two goals that turned a potential defeat to title chasers Raith Rovers into a win, in a crucial game almost three weeks ago however, he reckons that the Pars' fans will remember another of his goals for much longer.
“The two goals against Raith Rovers will always be special and they created a gap in terms of winning the League,” said Hardie before adding, “but I think the injury time one at Ross County at the end of March was probably even more special.
“It was the second or third added minute and my header not only gave us the win, it put us top of the table and we never moved off it after that. I am sure the fans will always remember that one as it made it a great journey home for them.”
The way the season has ended has been a welcome surprise for Hardie, who was sent on-loan to Firhill last autumn in a bid to prove his fitness before his contract at McDiarmid Park ran out in January.
The move did not quite work out as Hardie explained: “I was enjoying training and playing again and everyone was pleased with my form there. I then picked up an injury on the knee that had not been damaged and that put me out for six weeks. My St. Johnstone contract ran out then and no SPL club was going to take a chance on a player who had been out of SPL football for a full calendar month.
“I had offers from other clubs, and they were welcome, but they were in lower divisions and I did not want to drop down. I knew within myself that I could still play at a higher level. A few weeks before I was at Thistle everything seemed good but then you start wondering what is going to happen.”
East End Park Manager Jim McIntyre stepped in and gave Hardie a platform to play and he has been rewarded with eight goals from midfield as the Pars clinched the First Division Championship.
Hardie was delighted to play his part saying: “Dunfermline are well placed to be in the SPL but you have to earn the right to be there and we have done that. Jim McIntyre and Gerry McCabe deserve great credit for how they have built the club up over the past three years.
“I was only there for three months but felt part of a really good team spirit quickly. I have now won one Second Division winners’ medal with Partick Thistle and First Division ones with Partick, St. Johnstone and now Dunfermline and recognise that team spirit gets you over the finishing line.”
Hardie is hoping to remain part of McIntyre’s plans for next season saying: “I have not signed on as yet and there are other players out of contract as well. I will speak to the Manager over the next week or so as I would love to play my part in the SPL.
“It will be tough as we were the best team in the First Division and did all the attacking but the roles will be a bit reversed in the SPL.”
IRN-BRU Phenomenal Young Player Of The Month – Leighton McIntosh (Dundee)
Dundee’s promising teenage striker Leighton McIntosh thought that his season was going to end in disappointment after a hamstring injury forced him to pull out of his maiden voyage with Scotland’s Under-19 side however, his mood was lifted when he learned that he had been voted as the IRN-BRU Phenomenal Young Player of the Month for April.
McIntosh netted for the first time in his career in a 1-1 draw against Stirling Albion on 10th April and followed that up with a double down at Greenock as the Dark Blues won 3-2 against Morton the following weekend.
The 18-year-old then carved his name into Dens Park history by scoring the goal that ensured Barry Smith’s side avoided relegation despite the 25 point penalty that was imposed on them by the SFL for entering Administration back in October.
“It is absolutely brilliant to receive this award so early into my career,” said McIntosh before adding, “I was really down about missing out on Scotland but this has put a smile back on my face. My hamstring is not right and whilst I wanted to be involved, I may have done it more damage and that would have ruled me out for the start of next season.”
McIntosh gave praise to boss Smith and his fellow players for helping him make the step up from Under-19 football to the First Division as he said: “All the players at Dundee have been fantastic with me. When I first came into the squad, they made me feel very welcome.”
Striker Sean Higgins and Coach Gordon Wallace came in for special praise with McIntosh saying: “Sean has spent a lot of time with me passing on tips which is great when you consider it was his injury that allowed me to get into the first team. Gordon is brilliant as well as he just keeps on encouraging and teaching me things.”
There is no doubting which of his quartet of goals meant the most to McIntosh as he said: “I cannot describe what it felt like to score my first ever goal. To do it when we were a goal down against Stirling Albion at Dens Park in front of thousands of Dundee fans was better than amazing.
“Our fans have been brilliant to us during my time in the first team and they do give you a lift. There have been some games when I feel myself getting tired but the crowd gets you going again and you want to do well for them.”
A summer of rest and recovery will have McIntosh looking to start next season with a bang and catch the eye of Scotland’s Youth Manager Billy Stark.
McIntosh said: “Come July, I will be getting stuck in trying to ensure that I get a regular start in the Dundee team and really establish myself as a first team player. After that, it is a case of doing well and hopefully getting that chance with Scotland again.”
IRN-BRU Ginger Boot Winner – Ryan Wallace (East Fife)
Four goals and three assists were enough for East Fife striker Ryan Wallace to earn the last pair of Ginger Boots for the season.
Wallace netted three goals in two wins for the Fifers against Brechin City and once against Alloa Athletic with the former Heart of Midlothian and Airdrie United striker saying: “I am only 20 and still learning my trade so it is great to be working with John Robertson as my Manager. You can only learn from a guy that scored so many goals for Hearts.”