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.
- IRN-BRU SFL Phenomenal First Division Manager of the Month – Jackie McNamara (Partick Thistle)
- IRN-BRU SFL Phenomenal Second Division Manager of the Month – Allan Johnston (Queen of the South)
- IRN-BRU SFL Phenomenal Third Division Manager of the Month – Jim McInally (Peterhead)
- IRN-BRU SFL Phenomenal Player of the Month – John Boyle (Airdrie United)
- IRN-BRU SFL Phenomenal Young Player of the Month – Steven Lawless (Partick Thistle)
IRN-BRU Phenomenal Second Division Manager of the Month – Allan Johnston (Queen of the South)
Queen of the South Manager, Allan Johnston, led his team into their Ramsdens Cup Quarter Final tie against Rangers with the IRN-BRU SFL Second Division Phenomenal Manager of the Month Award in his kit-bag for August.
Johnston enjoyed a fine first month of the season with his side winning twice and drawing once in the League without conceding a goal as well as seeing off Hibernian and Alloa Athletic in The Scottish Communities League Cup and Morton in The Ramsdens Cup.
The Doonhamers have built on that start to see off Arbroath and Ayr United in the League with 10 goals being scored and now, of course, a penalty shoot-out success at Ibrox and the Palmerston Park boss, who was appointed to his post in April, said: "Last month was a good month at Queen of the South especially the players. They have responded well since I got the job and I cannot ask for more from them.
"This Award is not for me or for Sandy or even for the players but is for everyone at the club to enjoy. The Directors made a big decision to keep us full-time. They are ambitious and desperate for us to do well and getting their backing has made my job easier."
Johnston is pleased to be learning his trade at the Dumfries club as he explained: "I started doing my coaching badges a number of years ago but there are not that many jobs in Scotland especially at full-time level. To get one at Queen of the South represents a gamble as it is my first job and hopefully, I can repay the club for taking the chance.
"We were able to bring in good players with a bit of experience in Willie Gibson and Derek Young and they help win awards like this but it is very much a team effort with everyone working for each other. We have a lot of young players and Nicky Clark is only 21 but seems to have been around for a long time. The majority of players are 19 or 20 but they are ambitious and want to improve."
The 38-year-old added: "We are only just over one month into things but if they keep on improving then they can go anywhere in this game."
Turning to the Rangers cup tie earlier this week, Johnston said: "Everyone was desperate to play and having that competition for places is what you are after as a Manager. It was a massive game for all the players and it was the first time a lot of them experienced playing in front of a big crowd in such a big ground."
Queens, of course, played the Ibrox side in the Scottish Cup Final in May, 2008 although none of the present squad featured in that game with Johnston saying: "Paul Burns is the only player from that time but he has been away and then come back and was actually cup tied after playing for Dunfermline earlier in the season."
Johnston was a player at Ibrox for just over a year at the start of the Millennium and he also scored a hat-trick at the ground back in 1996 when he was playing for Heart of Midlothian as the Tynecastle club won 3-0 against their hosts.
The Player/Manager, who was only a substitute on Tuesday night, played down that achievement 16 years ago by recalling: "That day I was lucky enough to get the goals but it was a great team performance. I was in the right place at the right time to score.
As for selecting himself for Queens, he said: "If I am to be involved, I need to justify myself being in the team. I have been involved a few times this season and whilst I have a lot more experience than the players, it does not matter if they are 15 or 16 years of age, they will play if they are good enough."
The 18 times capped Scotland player was also keen to praise the role that one time Ibrox forward and former Hearts boss Sandy Clark has played.
Johnston said: "It has been a team effort but bringing in Sandy has been a massive appointment for me personally. I had worked with him at Hearts when I was a young player and I knew the qualities that he had. He is a really good communicator, a good organiser and the perfect foil for myself.
"It really is a partnership with Sandy. I trust him and that is why I brought him in. Everyone at the club deserves recognition for the work they have put in but I think it is only right that Sandy gets a special mention."
Following on from Queens' dramatic penalty shoot-out victory against Rangers on Tuesday, the SFL once again spoke to the Doonhamers' boss at Hampden the following day at the The Ramsdens Cup Semi-Final Draw and Johnston reckons that he gave his side’s trip to Brechin City on Saturday more thought in the hours after his team’s success at Ibrox than the win over Ally McCoist’s men.
The Palmerston Park side knocked Rangers 4-3 in the penalty shoot-out out following a 2-2 draw after 120 minutes of pulsating action and was fully refreshed at the Semi-Final Draw that paired his side with Second Division rivals Arbroath which also paired Cowdenbeath against Partick Thistle.
Johnston said: “The boys were flying after the game but I was more concerned about facing Brechin as that is a really tough game especially at their place. Don’t get me wrong, beating Rangers is massive but the League remains our priority and I went to sleep thinking more about the Glebe Park game than the Ibrox one. You just have to move on.”
Despite his lack of a celebration, Johnston is proud of his side’s success saying: “It is still a David versus Goliath event as Rangers have SPL quality players. It was a real test for our boys to play in that kind of atmosphere and in front of a big crowd for the first time.”
Johnston added: “We are far from the finished article as there were parts in the game where we could have done better. When they went down to ten men, it was probably our worst period of the game and there is something to be learned from that.”
The former Ibrox player backed Rangers' boss McCoist to bounce back from a stuttering start in the Third Division and their Ramsdens Cup exit saying: “I spoke to Ally briefly after the game and he passed on his congratulations. I am sure he will turn things around as he has done in the past.
“I have enough on my plate being the Manager of Queen of the South without looking at Rangers' results but their team is only gelling just now.”
IRN-BRU Phenomenal Player of the Month – John Boyle (Airdrie United)
Airdrie United’s striker, John Boyle, was stunned to learn that he had been chosen as the IRN-BRU SFL Phenomenal Player of the Month for August despite scoring five goals as he thought there were stronger candidates than himself.
The Diamonds' frontman said: "It was a real shock to me when the club told me I had been chosen for this award. I know I scored five times and we have stepped up a division but a few players have been doing really well this season. Andy Little has been scoring a lot of goals for Rangers and John Gemmell has been more than decent at Stenhousemuir so I am shocked but really pleased.
"You don’t really think about awards when you are doing your job on the pitch but away from it, you think about who could win it and I had not thought about me winning it."
Boyle talked through his August performances saying: "I had a great opening game in the League with a first half hat-trick in the 4-1 win over Dumbarton and I followed that up with a goal in our win at Livingston. I also scored when we lost 2-1 to Dunfermline but this season is not about me, the main thing is getting Airdrie established in this division."
The goal against The Pars appeared to come at a price as Boyle was carried off immediately after scoring with many at the game believing that he had collided with an upright however, the 25-year-old was pleased to put the record straight.
"A lot of people have asked me about hitting the post but my knee had actually given way before I got next to it. I had been hurt in a challenge with John Potter earlier in the game when he landed on it. I tried to run it off but when I headed the ball in, I felt it go."
Boyle added: "I scored the goal and that was the main thing."
The award is all the sweeter for Boyle as at one stage he looked to be heading away from his home town team as he said: "I felt that I could have played more last season and I spoke to the Manager Jimmy Boyle about that at the end of the campaign. He was very honest with me and said that he did not think my fitness was what would be required. He did tell me that if I proved myself then he would give me a chance so basically I went and got myself fitter.
"He told me my ability was not in question but I had to get fitter so I sacrificed my holiday with my pals and went to the gym and gave it a go. I had a point to prove."
Fans of the Junior game would no longer recognise Boyle who stepped up to the senior ranks in 2011 from Auchinleck Talbot as he said: "I am a lot fitter and stronger than my days at Auchinleck. The Manager at Airdrie wants to get the best out of you and if you are not giving your best, you will not be playing."
Boyle, of course, may not be easily recognised as he is now one of three 'J. Boyles' at the club as he explained: "The Manager, Jimmy, has just signed Jack so there are a lot of JB’s there now. Jack has joined us from a club in Jersey and he is a really good player. He is getting fitter as well after joining us late in pre-season."
The three JB’s have one aim with award winner Boyle saying: "Staying in the First Division will make this a successful season for us. Eighth or above will do but of course, you will take staying up via the Play-Offs as opposed to finishing tenth."