The IRN-BRU Phenomenal Award winners have been named for the month of January. After much debate, a judging panel consisting of respresentatives from the Scottish media decided upon the winners.
The winners for January are:
- FIRST DIVISION MANAGER OF THE MONTH: IAN McCALL (PARTICK THISTLE)
- SECOND DIVISION MANAGER OF THE MONTH: BRIAN RIED (AYR UNITED)
- THIRD DIVISION MANAGER OF THE MONTH: JIM McINALLY (EAST STIRLINGSHIRE)
- PLAYER OF THE MONTH: SCOTT FOX (PARTICK THISTLE)
- YOUNG PLAYER OF THE MONTH: JOSH FALKINGHAM (ARBROATH)
- GINGER BOOT AWARD: GAVIN SWANKIE (ARBROATH)
IRN-BRU First Division Phenomenal Manager of the Month – Ian McCall (Partick Thistle)
Partick Thistle’s resurgence in the First Division was recognised with Manager Ian McCall being awarded the IRN-BRU Phenomenal Manager of the Month for January. The Jags defeated Stirling Albion 6-1 and promotion chasing Dunfermline Athletic 2-0 as well as putting Falkirk out of the Scottish Cup in 2011’s first month.
Despite his awards stretching to double figures over the years, McCall was delighted to receive this one as he advised: “This is great for our staff and players as they have been great throughout 2010 which was a year of adversity for Partick Thistle.
“We have stuck together well and I have told the Board that I genuinely feel that we have the makings of a really good team. We will maybe not challenge this season but in the ultra competitive First Division, you never know.”
McCall beams as he talks about his squad saying: “We have a group of 18 and 19-year-olds that look like they can make it and a group of 23 and 24-year-olds that excite me. I have made a plea to the Board to keep them together as we can do something.”
The lack of cash at Firhill reminded McCall of his troubled times as Manager of Clydebank, Morton and Airdrieonians although the time at Maryhill has been worse.
McCall said: “Last year was the toughest of my career and when you consider some of the other clubs I have been at, that tells you how tough it was.
“At these other clubs, everyone knew about the troubles but at Thistle it was different. Thistle are a very special, unique club where the fans want you to be challenging for things regardless of what is going on and that made it difficult.
“We are only looking forward now and have a really good Board who understand that we are on the verge of building a good side. We built a good side before but it was broken up as we sold players like Gary Harkins but bearing in mind he went for the second highest transfer fee in Scotland 18 months ago, it shows we could not turn it down.”
McCall finished by saying: “This award has vindicated the faith I had in the players earlier in the season. We have all come through a tough time together and are stronger for it.”
IRN-BRU Second Division Phenomenal Manager of the Month – Brian Reid (Ayr United)
An unbeaten run of four League games that included three wins and, of course, their Scottish Cup success over SPL Hibernian was more than enough to see Ayr United boss Brian Reid named as the IRN-BRU Phenomenal Manager of the Month for January.
The Honest Men defeated Dumbarton, Alloa Athletic and Stenhousemuir to aid their promotion push as well as entertaining Sky Sports viewers as they defeated the Edinburgh side 1-0 live on TV in their Scottish Cup Fourth Round replay.
Reid said: “It was great to get back to playing games and great to do so well. We knew after the first game at Easter Road that we were in with a chance against Hibs. We created chances that day and took confidence from that especially as our record at Somerset Park is pretty good.
“Most people say you only get one bite of the cherry against a SPL side but at Somerset Park, we have a really good record and Mark Roberts scored a great goal to take us through.
“We were undefeated in January and it was a really good way to start 2011. It was good to be playing after building up a backlog of games and this is a great memento for the players and I for that period.”
Defeat by St. Mirren in the next round of the cup on the first Saturday of February still rankles with Reid who said: “We were confident going into that game as we were at home but we were a weakened side. We had players out of position and did not have as much power up front as I would have liked.
“We lost an early goal that settled them down and then another one right on half-time which was a bad time to lose one. We will just have to move on and concentrate on the Second Division.
“The Board will be happy with the finance that has been brought in with the SKY money and undoubtedly, a cup run helps clubs like ours in the Second Division but from a footballing point of view, I wanted us to reach the Quarter Finals.”
With their success, Reid is hoping that players will want to come in and join his squad as he explained: “There is a lot of football still to be played and a lot of midweek games coming up. At present, we only have a small squad of players so any injuries or suspensions will hurt us and although we have good players, it would be good to bring some new faces in.”
Reid has already started looking saying: “We can still have the possibility of Emergency Loans and that has proved successful already for us in the past with Stuart Bannigan of Partick Thistle having a fine spell at the club.
“You do not want to dive into the transfer market and waiting in the summer paid off as that allowed us to pick up Eddie Malone and Ryan McCann after the transfer window closed as they did not have full-time clubs.
“Hopefully, I can get some new faces in as we are down to 14 or 15 players with young guys who are not quite ready yet for football at this level.
“The Board have been good to me money wise but the budget now is less than it was two seasons ago so this has been a really tough season to recruit players.”
IRN-BRU Third Division Phenomenal Manager of the Month – Jim McInally (East Stirlingshire)
It would be correct to describe January as a roller-coaster month for East Stirlingshire and their Head Coach Jim McInally. The Shire opened 2011 in the manner they closed 2010 back in November by winning as they defeated Clyde 2-0. They then triumphed 1-0 over Buckie Thistle in the Scottish Cup and followed that with a fantastic 5-3 win over League leaders Arbroath on the latter’s own Gayfield pitch.
The high that this run brought was quickly extinguished in the wake of it having been decided that the club had fielded an ineligible player, namely goalkeeper Michael Andrews, in the cup tie and the match was awarded to the Highland League side.
McInally’s men put their disappointment behind them to defeat Berwick Rangers 1-0 in the last game of the month to have a record of played four and won four.
The Head Coach said: “It has been a painful time at the club and full credit to the players for getting on with things in the manner they have. To go out and get a result against Berwick says a lot about them when you consider the disappointment they were feeling about the Scottish Cup.”
McInally added: “When you consider we had gone nearly two months without a game, it was a great achievement to go out and win four in a row. We had played Spartans on 20th November and that was us until we faced Clyde on 15th January, some eight weeks later.”
The Shire faithful will be hoping that January’s run is a sign of things to come with McInally saying: “We have a squad of only 16 players and playing Saturday - midweek - Saturday is a big ask but we have got ourselves into a position where we can think about looking up the way as opposed to worrying about what is happening below us.”
IRN-BRU Phenomenal Player of the Month – Scott Fox (Partick Thistle)
Partick Thistle goalkeeper Scott Fox is delighted that the award of the IRN-BRU Phenomenal Player of the Month for January will put him in the headlines for on the field activities as opposed to off the field events that have stalled his career so far.
Fox started his career at Celtic and made it all the way to being Artur Boruc’s deputy, after a loan spell at East Fife. However, he left the club aged 22 and faced a year in the wilderness.
He explained: “I left there after Gordon Strachan moved on and then there was a dispute as Celtic were asking for a training compensation fee for my development as I had left them before I was 23.”
Fox had to sign on as an amateur at Queen of the South last February however, things looked on the way up last summer when he joined Dundee.
Fox said: “I was frozen out of football as a result of the Celtic situation and then played for nothing at Queen of the South.
“I went up to Dundee thinking my luck would be changing however, I was one of the nine players let go when they entered Administration.
“I was one of the creditors and I let the Players’ Union deal with it. All I would say is that I am delighted they are still in business but I am not looking back just looking forward.”
Scott joined the Jags, again as an unpaid player, in October however, he has now been rewarded with a two and a half year contract after the longest run of consecutive games in his career.
Fox said: “To me it has been a long time coming but more games leads to more confidence and more confidence leads to better form. I am really enjoying it at Thistle and I had no hesitation signing the contract because they have treated me really well.
“I know from bitter experience that the grass is not always greener elsewhere. At this stage of my career, I just want to play football and that is what I am getting at Thistle.”
Playing is important to Fox who added: “I wanted games and that is what I am getting. I have been in the situation where clubs see you as a gamble as no-one has seen you play. I was on the bench for Celtic 11 times but if you have not proved yourself in a game, it does not count for much.”
Although the Jags lost to St. Johnstone in the Scottish Cup recently, Fox is still positive about the rest of the season.
He said: “We all wanted a good cup run but that is gone now however, we have plenty to play for. After waiting for so long to get playing, we have two games a week and I cannot wait. Knowing you have another game coming up is a really good feeling.”
IRN-BRU Phenomenal Young Player of the Month – Josh Falkingam (Arbroath)
Arbroath midfielder Josh Falkingham’s career plans have proven to be bang on course as his fine form and three goals in January were recognised when he was awarded with the IRN-BRU Phenomenal Young Player of the Month.
From the outside, it looks like Falkingham gambled on coming up to Scotland a year ago and then took a further gamble when he dropped down from the SPL to the Third Division. However, the 20-year-old thought out the implications of each move carefully.
He said: “I had been with Leeds United since I was eight-years-old and lived through the David O’Leary Champions League days at the club as a youngster.
“I was given a two year scholarship deal in 2007 and, when that ended, I was given a six month professional contract.
“My career had been progressing well under Gary McAllister as he had given me a squad number and included me in first team squads.
“I played alongside Fabian Delph, who has just moved to Aston Villa, but I picked up an ankle knock and never featured after Simon Grayson came in and my deal was not renewed.”
The chance to continue his career in England never materialised and Falkingham headed north to join St. Johnstone 12 months ago saying: “I thought through things and decided why not? I was not getting any games down south so I thought if I went up to Scotland and played some games, I may get noticed.
“Derek McInnes gave me a deal and also gave me a debut against Falkirk.”
An extended deal was not offered however, Falkingham had done enough to impress former Perth team-mate Paul Sheerin, who wanted to take him to Third Division Arbroath following the latter taking over as Player/Manager at Gayfield.
Falkingham said: “Derek was great with me and although it was disappointing not to get a new contract, he explained the circumstances behind it. Paul had seen me play in bounce games when he had taken the side and was really keen to sign me.
“I weighed everything up again as I was moving to part-time football but Derek offered me the chance to keep training with St. Johnstone a couple of days a week and that means I am still involved in the game for most of my time.”
The Leeds born youngster mapped out what he thought could happen if he accepted the move and his plans have proven to be accurate.
He explained: “I was 19 then and felt I had to play games. I had spoken to other clubs and they would all ask me how many competitive games I had played in and the answer was not many.
“Clubs do not want to take a chance with an untried youngster. They cannot afford to nowadays, so I thought Arbroath would give me games on my CV.
“I thought I would go there, have a good season and get my name noticed and take things from there. So far, it has gone to plan and this Award shows that everything is working out as planned.”
Falkingham added: “There is a big difference to be on the brink of playing in the Championship to the Scottish Third Division but I am enjoying it and 2011 is going well.
“I scored twice in a local derby against Montrose and then in the game that put us top of the League against Stranraer and now this.”
IRN-BRU Ginger Boot Winner – Gavin Swankie (Arbroath)
A magnificent seven goals in January saw Arbroath’s Gavin Swankie walk away with, or should that be, walk away in a special pair of Ginger Boots courtesy of sponsor, IRN-BRU, to match the pair won by team-mate Steven Doris earlier in the season.
Swankie opened the year with a double in the 5-0 Angus derby win over Montrose and added another brace over the border when Berwick Rangers were defeated 4-0. Ironically, he never scored in his side’s highest scoring game of the month as the Red Lichties went down 5-3 to East Stirlingshire but he returned with a hat-trick in their next game against Stranraer at Stair Park.
Swankie’s goals helped Paul Sheerin’s side win 4-3 and move to the top of the Third Division and just for good measure, he started February with another double, this time against Albion Rovers in a 3-0 win.
The three times Arbroath player, who has also had spells at Dundee and St. Johnstone, said, “The Ginger Boots are a great thing to win and now I have a pair that matches Steven’s. I also got the match ball from the Stranraer game so January was a good month for collecting things.
“I would love to add a Third Division Championship medal to my collection but there is a really long way to go in the League.”