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Friday 11th March 2011

IRN-BRU Phenomenal Awards for February 2011

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

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

The winners for February are:


IRN-BRU First Division Phenomenal Manager Of The MonthBarry Smith (Dundee)

Dundee Manager Barry Smith may have been awarded the IRN-BRU Phenomenal First Division Manager of the Month Award for the third time in four months however, he was honest enough to admit that he has not even thought about being a nominee for the Manager of the Year Award.

Barry SmithThat recognition is usually the preserve of the Manager who leads his side to Championship glory however, Smith will be a strong contender if he carries on leading the Dark Blues up the table despite a 25 point handicap imposed after well documented financial issues at the club.

Smith said: “To be honest, I have never even thought about being Manager of the Year, it is not something that I would have even been looking for. The most important thing on my mind is keeping Dundee in this division and everything I have done is about achieving that.

“Picking up awards is nice but to me, this is again recognition to a fantastic effort being put in by a lot of people on and off the pitch at Dens Park.”

The Dark Blues defeated Falkirk, Queen of the South, Raith Rovers (twice) and Stirling Albion as February followed October, November, December and January as unbeaten months with Smith hailing the 2-1 success at Stark’s Park as the pinnacle, so far, of his managerial career that has now seen 17 League games end without defeat.

He said: “Our performance at Raith Rovers especially in the first half was excellent. There have been different attributes in each match that has pleased me but that game was a great all round effort.”

The Dens Park boss also praised the efforts of three players that will make only a small contribution to the Dundee cause in terms of games played.

Smith said: “Neil McCann, Tom Brighton and Craig Robertson will make only a small contribution to the Dundee cause in terms of games played.

“At most, they will play nine games between them as trialists but their contribution to the club has been huge. They came to the club and fitted straight into the team and did really well. They can all be pleased with what they did for us.”

Smith has not had too much time for reflection since his appointment in October saying: “I reckon we are doing the same things we have always been doing since I came in. Maybe if I look back, I will see I am doing one or two things differently but I have only looked forward not back.”

That looking forward does not stretch too far with Smith saying: “Nothing has been achieved yet and nothing will be achieved until we are safe in this division.  I will continue to think no further than the first game."

IRN-BRU Second Division Phenomenal Manager Of The Month – Alan Adamson (Dumbarton)

Dumbarton’s surge up the Second Division table from bottom position at the beginning of February has been rewarded with Manager Alan Adamson picking up the IRN-BRU Phenomenal Manager of the Month Award and their 19-year-old front man Jon McShane winning the IRN-BRU Young Player of the Month Award.

The Sons won five times during the month, defeating Airdrie United, Alloa Athletic and East Fife as well as Peterhead home and away to pick up two more points than they had done in their previous 18 games.   An injury time equaliser denied Adamson’s side a second win over the Diamonds with the only disappointment being a 2-1 defeat that closed the month at Forfar.

March has started well with the Strathclyde Homes Stadium side hitting back three times against Brechin City at Glebe Park to force a draw with their Manager saying: “It has been a tremendous month for Dumbarton and that first game at Airdrie was the catalyst. We played well there and getting the win gave us confidence.

Alan Adamson“The team spirit has grown as was evident recently when we came back three times against a side going for promotion.”

The first signs of a promising 2011 were seen in a 4-1 victory against Alloa Athletic in January however, back to back defeats from Forfar Athletic and then Brechin City had Sons contemplating a season long relegation fight.

Adamson said: “We had shown signs of recovery and then slipped back and that is why the Airdrie game was so massive. The performance was great and whilst we are in a better position, we are still involved in a dogfight.

“In this division, you are only ever two games away from going for promotion or fighting relegation.”

Adamson is a relatively little known figure in Scottish football having spent five years as Assistant Manager to Jim Chapman at both Albion Rovers and Dumbarton before taking control of first team affairs when Chapman moved on to a Youth and Community role at the club.

Adamson said: “I was in the Police Force for 30 years as a beat copper but I was also in charge of the Scottish and British National Police Force sides. There were Conference players in the British side so I knew how to handle players.”

When Chapman left the Coatbridge side in 2007, Adamson followed despite being offered his job. However, this time he stepped in to the vacant position and said: “The first time, I stayed because of loyalty however, this time it felt like the right thing. It was an opportunity that I had to take.”

Despite his success, Adamson’s appointment remains an interim one at the moment and he is not shouting from the rooftops about being appointed permanently.

He commented: “I was asked to keep the team in the Second Division and we will see what happens if I do that. I am not sure what the future holds as football can be a funny business but I am thoroughly enjoying it and it is great to be recognised for this award.”

Adamson added: “Everyone at Dumbarton has pulled together following a difficult start to the season after a fair number of experienced players left. I would to thank them all for their help in getting this award.”

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

Queen’s Park made it ten wins in eleven Third Division games on Tuesday night and the Spiders great run of form has been recognised with Gardner Speirs being awarded the IRN-BRU Third Division Phenomenal Manager of the Month Award for February.

Speirs’ Spiders won six of the seven matches they played last month, with only a 1-1 draw with leaders Arbroath preventing a perfect record, to see the former Clyde and Ross County boss as well as Aberdeen Assistant Manager pick up his second award in the three years he has been in charge at the National Stadium.

SGardner Speirspeirs said: “Results wise, it has been an excellent month and one where we have had to work hard and dig in to get results. The boys have learned how to pick up wins without being at their best in terms of playing flowing football.”

The seeds of Queen’s Park transforming their season look to be buried in the artificial surface at Lesser Hampden with Speirs explaining: “There has been no one great moment where everything clicked together and I firmly believe our good run is down to a lot of hard work from the players and other people at the club.

“When the bad weather came in November and December, we were able to train through most of it as people at the club went out and swept Lesser Hampden clear of snow.

“They did that four times including two days running when the snow fell overnight and covered the pitch again. That probably kept the boys ticking over better than most other Third Division teams so when games started again, we were well prepared.”

Their fine run began with a fortunate win at Albion Rovers and when that was followed by a scrappy home win over Berwick Rangers, confidence began to run underneath the black and white hooped jerseys.

Speirs acknowledged that these wins were perhaps undeserved but were very welcome when he said: “The spirit stayed high but we got a couple of wee bits of luck that helped build confidence. We had not won two matches in a row before and that led to increased confidence.

“Confidence does not make games easy, especially in the Third Division where the teams are so evenly matched this season, but it makes preparation easier as everyone is looking forward to games and they cannot start quickly enough.”

The 47-year-old has remained quiet about his side’s promotion chances saying: “I do not mind being labelled a bit of a bore as I am keeping things quiet about what we could do.

“Of course, I want our run to continue but it is all about the Stranraer game on Saturday now and we face them with the score stuck at nothing each regardless of what has happened before.”

Much has been said about the benefits that Andy Millen has brought to the club however, Speirs sees it two ways saying: “Andy came in at a time when we had some injuries and were low on experience. It is difficult for us to add experience as you tend to have to pay for that.

“This move has worked well so far both ways as Andy’s experience on the park has helped the young lads and the young lads have helped Andy as they have him playing again and feeling part of a team. We did something similar last season with Mark McGeown and Paul Stewart and they helped get us to the Play-Offs.”

Speirs, as ever, kept his feet on the ground saying: “We have a bit of momentum but we need to keep it going.”

IRN-BRU Phenomenal Player Of The Month – Andy Millen (Queen’s Park)

The football writer who broke the story of 45-year-old Andy Millen signing on for Queen’s Park saw his work ridiculed on a Hampden fans website as ‘complete and utter rubbish’, although the language was not quite so nice.

However, he allowed himself a quiet chuckle this week when Millen was awarded the IRN-BRU Phenomenal Player of the Month following sterling performances at the heart of a Spiders defence that conceded only two goals in seven games during March.

Andy MillenGardner Speirs’ side won six and drew one of those games to transform their season and Millen has also been able to smile once more and has fallen in love with football again.

Millen, who started the season as Assistant Manager at Hamilton Academical after serving six and a half years as player and Assistant Manager at St. Mirren, received a phone call from Speirs on a Friday afternoon asking if he would consider playing for the amateurs against Annan Athletic.

After almost three years since playing a senior game, Millen, who had been training at Brechin City to keep fit, was reluctant for non-fitness reasons however, he was talked round as he explained.

“I was initially concerned, not for myself, but because I understood the politics of a 45-year-old playing football at a club with a reputation for giving youngsters their chance. I knew the perception of some would be that I was stopping a youngster progressing but the Manager assured me he wanted my experience because that was something Queen’s cannot normally get.”

Speirs was able to convince Millen by using the example of how Mark McGeown and Paul Stewart came in last season and helped lift his side and Millen agreed to take up the Head Coach’s offer.

The defender said: “There were injuries at the club and I went in for one game. That was postponed so we played it on the Tuesday and I came back in for the next one on the Saturday.”

Millen was smitten saying: “I had fallen out of love with football after what had happened at St. Mirren and then Hamilton Accies.

“I had always thought I would have to leave a management position because of failure however, that was not the case.  At St. Mirren, we did really well getting the side promoted, keeping them up and having great cup runs including reaching last season’s Co-operative Insurance Cup Final.

“At Hamilton, it was down to something else and all I will say is that I can sleep at night.”

The call from Hampden has saved Millen from boredom as he explained: “I am unemployed now so this has given me something to focus on. I am training twice a week and playing again and I cannot thank Gardner Speirs, the players at Queen’s Park and the backroom people there enough for what they have done for me.”

The youngsters at Hampden have surprised Millen not for their ability but for their dedication as he explained: “I am really grateful for the award because there are other players at Queen's Park who could have won it. I have played seven games and the boys I am playing with are a credit to themselves and their club.

“They take nothing out of the game and put a lot in and one of the things I had to be sure about was that I was not denying someone an opportunity.  Hopefully, people will see that I am trying to bring them on by talking them through games. I am like the boys now in that I am playing for the love of the game.”

This was Millen’s first ever recognition as a player which he puts down to ‘never being flamboyant enough’ to win it during his days at the many other clubs he served and he is unsure how long his great adventure will run.

He finished by saying: “I am just passing through here and if I am not playing well enough, Gardner will not pick me. 

“I did not really know him before this and whilst he has been great to me, I know that there are players coming back from injury that will be in if I do not deliver.”

IRN-BRU Phenomenal Young Player Of The Month – Paul McShane (Dumbarton)

To counter a shortage of numbers when the season began, Jon McShane was recruited from St. Mirren on loan and the move has paid dividends with five of the eight goals he has scored this season being netted last month to win him the young player award from the SFL sponsor.

Jon McShaneManager Adamson said: “Sometimes loan players work for you and sometimes they don’t. In Jon’s case after a slow start, it certainly has. He has grown in confidence and that has brought goals from him and I think he is one half of a great pairing up front with Pat Walker.”

“They are my John Toshack and Kevin Keegan and complement each other really well and hopefully, they will keep scoring goals to keep us in the division.”

Adamson’s description of McShane being the strength of Toshack to the guile of Walker as Keegan in the great Liverpool team of the seventies could not be fully appreciated by McShane.

He said: “I am not sure how good they were as I presume they were before my time. It was recently said I bullied Paul Lovering but I think there is more to my game than just being physical. I can play football and be a target man but I certainly prefer playing football.”

“Pat is more mobile than me and gives me great service as does Mark Gilhaney and Andy Geggan and I am really enjoying playing football competitively.”

McShane is a great role model for young players who find themselves too old for the Under 19 squad and not yet experienced enough to be a first team player and that is the reason he left New St. Mirren Park for Dumbarton.

He said: “I finished at youth level last season as this is my first year as a professional and I chose to spend it here getting an education in the game.

“I am playing in competitive matches and playing against experienced defenders every week whereas other guys my age are maybe getting a short kick of the ball as a substitute every couple of weeks.

“I want to be a SPL striker and coming here will help me do that. I took a wee while to settle and then picked up a wee injury. When I came back, Jim Chapman, who brought me here, was no longer in charge but I have established myself in the team now and have scored seven times in the last six games so it is going really well now.”

McShane still trains with his Paisley team-mates during the week and he knows that Paisley boss Danny Lennon is monitoring his progress.

He said: “The gaffer at St. Mirren knows how well things have been going for me recently and he has been great at sending me texts after games saying that he had noticed that I scored so hopefully, he will be texting me again throughout the season.”

IRN-BRU Ginger Boot Winner – Armand One (Stranraer)

By the laws of maths, six into one will not work out but six from One certainly worked for Stranraer’s French striker Armand One during February as he won the Ginger Boot Award from SFL Sponsor IRN-BRU for his half a dozen goals.

Armand OneOne netted a late winner against Albion Rovers, the second Blues goal in a 2-0 win over East Stirlingshire before grabbing a hat-trick when the sides met again and the Stair Park club came out 4-1 winners. Just for good measure, he netted in the final game of the month against Clyde as well.

IRN-BRU had to get a special pair of size 12 boots made for One and the six foot five inch front man was delighted as he said: “The boots are great and I am delighted to be recognised in this way. February was a great month for me and March has started off pretty well too with a couple of goals.

“Perhaps IRN-BRU will need to get another set of size 12’s ready!”