The IRN-BRU Phenomenal Award winners have been named for the month of October. After much debate, a judging panel consisting of respresentatives from the Scottish media decided upon the winners.
The winners for December are:
- FIRST DIVISION MANAGER OF THE MONTH: BARRY SMITH (DUNDEE)
- SECOND DIVISION MANAGER OF THE MONTH: NEALE COOPER (PETERHEAD)
- THIRD DIVISION MANAGER OF THE MONTH: ROSS JACK (ELGIN CITY)
- PLAYER OF THE MONTH: MARK CAMPBELL (RAITH ROVERS)
- YOUNG PLAYER OF THE MONTH: TONY WATT (AIRDRIE UNITED)
- GINGER BOOT AWARD: RORY McALLISTER (BRECHIN CITY)
First Division Phenomenal Manager Of The Month – Barry Smith (Dundee)
Dundee boss Barry Smith put the disappointment of losing his unbeaten start as a Manager to Motherwell in the Scottish Cup behind him to reflect on a perfect record in December that saw him win the First Division’s IRN-BRU Phenomenal Manager of the Month for the second month in a row.
Smith’s side never even lost a goal as they defeated Morton at Cappielow 1-0 before seeing off Cowdenbeath 3-0 and Stirling Albion 2-0 at Dens Park. The run continued the unbeaten start the 36-year-old had made since he was appointed interim boss in October following the club’s slide into Administration.
A January win over Ross County made it ten games undefeated for Smith before the Motherwell Cup reversal however, Smith was only looking for positives saying: “Whilst the Award has been given to me for a second month running it again is an award for the team on and off the park at Dens.
“Everyone from the players, to the office staff, to my staff, to the groundstaff and the supporters deserve a share in this award. Put it simply, if it was not for them there would not be a Dundee and if there was no Dundee, there would be no Dundee Manager’s job and I would not be getting this award.”
Smith added: “I could not have asked for any more from anyone in November and December and whilst January has started with the Motherwell defeat, it is important not to dwell on that game too long.
“We were up against a team from a higher division and were well beaten but we learnt a bit about ourselves and the players and we will take things on from there.”
Second Division Phenomenal Manager Of The Month – Neale Cooper (Peterhead)
Peterhead boss Neale Cooper had a roller-coaster of a month and it definitely finished on a high as he was rewarded with the IRN-BRU Phenomenal Second Division Manager of the Month for December.
Cooper’s side began December as part of the only show in town when they put aside travel problems to hold Alloa Athletic to a 2-2 draw in the only game that was played in Scotland on 4th December. However, they fared much worse the next time they took the field a week later going down 5-0 to Brechin City.
It would be fair to say that Cooper decided that ‘enough was enough’ at this time and held a succession of meetings with the Balmoor players as he looked to get their season back on track.
Cooper’s approach worked as just three days later, they turned Airdrie United over 5-1 and Peterhead have started 2011 with a battling draw against St. Mirren that forced a replay before defeating League leaders Livingston 3-0.
The four times winner of the Scottish Cup as a player said: “There may not have been many games played and we did not have a perfect record however, it is still a nice award to get. It was really important to bounce back in the Airdrie game and that is exactly what we did.”
It is unlikely that Cooper will ever divulge what was said after the Brechin loss however, it appears to have worked with Cooper explaining: “A few home truths were told about the need to start performing. Contracts are pretty scarce in football these days and the players needed to know we would not be handing them out based on what we had seen.
“We had been unlucky in some games but we were sitting near the bottom of the division because of the individual mistakes we had been making and the players had to deliver more consistently. They were told that in individual meetings and also when we met as a group.”
Cooper’s words appear to have worked as he added: “The reaction so far has been great and long may that continue. It was a really good result against Livingston last Saturday and hopefully, there is more of that to come.”
Third Division Phenomenal Manager Of The Month - Ross Jack (Elgin City)
A bad few days came to a happy end for Elgin City Manager Ross Jack as he was awarded the Third Division IRN-BRU Phenomenal Manager of the Month following the Borough Briggs’ side’s unbeaten December.
Jack had been left brooding after local neighbours Inverness Caledonian Thistle scored two injury time goals to defeat his side in the Scottish Cup and this award has given him the ideal tonic.
Jack said: “I have been putting myself through agony and re-living the last couple of minutes of the Inverness game for a few days now so hopefully, this award will ease some of the pain of losing that game so late.
“I was just beginning to think of the replay when bang we lost a goal. The second one did not matter as our heads and hearts had gone after such a brave effort.”
The well travelled former striker said: “We gave a fantastic account of ourselves and it really was heartbreaking stuff to get beaten. It is nice to have something positive to concentrate on as we get back to League business.”
The award, Jack’s second of the season, came after a win at Montrose and a draw against promotion seeking Albion Rovers followed by a battling comeback that saw Elgin grab a point after going behind at Queen’s Park.
Jack is hoping that his side’s run of only one defeat in eight League games, which has moved his side into third place, will act as an extra incentive to encourage supporters to come back to Borough Briggs.
Jack said: “We reckon that there were more than 1,600 Elgin fans at the Inverness game at the weekend and that shows the potential that the club has. Hopefully, the fans will have been encouraged by our performance against an SPL side and come to support us at home.
“Seeing the club being recognised positively with this award may also convince them that a trip to Borough Briggs is worth taking again.”
The fans that return may well see a promotion push from Jack’s side with the 51-year-old saying: “We have a good platform to build on for the second half of the season. The players showed what they can do against Caley and if they keep that level of performance up, we will do more than okay.”
Phenomenal Player Of The Month – Mark Campbell (Raith Rovers)
Raith Rovers Mark Campbell’s recovery from a serious car crash last February can now be considered as complete with the defender being awarded the IRN-BRU Phenomenal Player of the Month for December.
The 32-year-old made his starting comeback against Partick Thistle on Boxing Day and was a rock in the Kirkcaldy defence as they left Glasgow following a goalless draw.
Three days later, Campbell was again stoical, as Raith travelled to fellow promotion chasers Falkirk and played out another goalless encounter. Just for good measure, Campbell started the New Year with a goal in the 2-1 derby win over Dunfermline Athletic.
Playing again and picking up awards was a long way from Campbell’s mind 11 months ago after his accident, which happened near Kilmarnock on the eve of the Stark’s Park side’s famous Scottish Cup win against Aberdeen at Pittodrie.
Campbell explained: “I do not remember much about the actual incident as I was knocked out on impact. I came around when they were cutting me out of the car.
“I went through a range of thoughts quickly afterwards as firstly you realise that you are lucky still to be alive and then you move on to worrying about injury.”
The centre back continued: “You deal with all that and more before you start worrying about playing football again. When you realise you can play again, you wonder what standard you will be playing at.
“Fingers then start getting crossed that you can get back to where you were and then you worry about having to bide your time to get back into a starting place.
“I had a couple of substitute appearances earlier this season but it is great to be playing from the start again. I realise that I have been fortunate to follow these steps through.”
Campbell had spent most of his 15 year career avoiding headlines despite seeing success at first club Stranraer, where he won a Second Division Championship badge before moves to Ayr United and then Falkirk.
A further League Championship honour and a Challenge Cup winners’ medal were picked up as a Bairn before a short spell at St. Johnstone was ended by a move to Raith Rovers five years ago where a Second Division Championship medal was added to Campbell’s collection.
Campbell said: “I have had my fair share of success and injuries at other clubs but I do not normally get a lot of publicity. The past year has seen me do that and this Award is a great way to end that chapter on a high note.”
The incident has not surprisingly changed Campbell’s view of the world as he advised: “I don’t mind saying that football took second place for a while and that my outlook on life has changed. I am much more forward looking now that I was before.”
Part of that looking forward is ensuring that Raith put in a promotion push this season with Campbell commenting: “Hopefully, 2011 will see us continue to fight it out at the top of the table. It started well with the win over Dunfermline but there are a lot of hard games to come. There is a lot to play for and I am delighted to be involved.”
It would seem that team spirit could be the key to success at Kirkcaldy with Campbell saying: “I know that I am getting this award as the team are doing really well just now and that is a good reflection on Raith Rovers.
“The manager John McGlynn called me to congratulate me on receiving it and I am sure the boys will be happy for me.
“They will enjoy it and say it is all down to their help and that is fine by me.”