- IRN-BRU SFL PHENOMENAL THIRD DIVISION MANAGER OF THE MONTH: IAN LITTLE (Berwick Rangers)
- IRN-BRU SFL PHENOMENAL YOUNG PLAYER OF THE MONTH: RYAN DONNELLY (Airdrie United)
- IRN-BRU SFL GINGER BOOT WINNER: To Be Announced
IRN-BRU SFL Phenomenal Third Division Manager of the Month – Ian Little (Berwick Rangers)
Berwick Rangers' Interim Player/Manager, Ian Little, was more than happy to doft his Christmas hat towards his former Meadowbank Thistle Manager, Terry Christie, at Hampden as he picked up November’s IRN-BRU SFL Phenomenal Manager of the Month Award.
The former Scotland youth cap was appointed as the Interim Manager at Shielfield at the end of October following Jimmy Crease’s resignation and he made an unbeaten four game start last month. A draw against Elgin City, whilst playing with only 10 men, got Little off and running before wins were secured over East Stirlingshire, Queen’s Park and Montrose to lift the sponsor’s award.
Little, who also played at Stenhousemuir and Alloa Athletic with Christie, is the last remaining outfield player from Livingston’s previous incarnation still to be playing at senior level although he has seen his playing time reduced since he took over the managerial duties. The striker, along with goalkeeper Rab Douglas at Dundee, are keeping the Meadowbank Thistle flag flying and the 38-year-old was more than happy to discuss the influence that Christie had on him.
Little said: “Terry built a great team spirit at Meadowbank and that still exists as we all meet up once a year for a Golf Day. Rab and I are still playing but the rest of the guys look fit enough still to be involved. Graeme Armstrong is still running to a high standard and he is 55.
“The fitness of the guys is not a surprise when you consider Terry’s methods. He was a very intelligent Manager and was really knowledgeable about football. He would get good football players and good athletes together and then organised us superbly to get good results.”
The fledgling Manager added: “Tactically, Terry was great and we were nearly promoted to the Premier Division one season. Some people viewed him as negative but he could certainly get his team to grind out results. I am pleased that I still keep in touch with him and his son Max.”
Sandy Clark is another Manager that earns praise from the Tranent based joiner who said: “I went to Berwick in 2004 to play for Paul Smith and he was sacked not long afterwards. I had lost my way at Alloa and was going the same way at Berwick but Sandy came in and basically kicked my backside.
“He sparked me into life again and I have really enjoyed being there ever since apart from having a couple of serious injuries.”
Little started coaching at the club when another former Meadowbank man, John Coughlin, became Manager and he stepped things up through Michael Renwick and Allan McGonigal’s time in charge before becoming Crease’s assistant three years ago.
He said: “December did not start well with a defeat from Clyde but November was good. I had been Jimmy’s assistant so it was difficult starting as the Manager after he had left but I went in and changed a few things.
“To pick up this award is an added bonus and it is a reward as much for the players as it is for me. Their response has been great and we have a good squad at Berwick. The Elgin game I could not do much to influence things as we went down to 10 men quite early. In the other three games, I was able to change the team about and show everyone it was a squad game I was after.”
Little’s opening run was viewed as a success by The Borderers’ Board of Directors and he was given until the end of December to prove he is the man to take the club forward and is positive about the opportunity.
He said: “It gives me the chance to try other things at training and at games. I will look to do as much as I can for the players during that time. I played in the first game but I got a wee bit of criticism for that so that gave me something to think about.
“At the moment, I have a back injury so I am out anyway but I intend to play again.”
IRN-BRU SFL Phenomenal Young Player of the Month – Ryan Donnelly (Airdrie United)
Airdrie United’s exciting striker Ryan Donnelly was a clear winner when the judging panel got together to decide November’s Phenomenal Young Player of the Month. The 20-year-old was however, surprised that he had been chosen as he explained: “This is my first award and I could not believe it when the Club Secretary, Ann Marie Ballantyne, called to tell me. I had never thought about winning it and I think I put it out on my Twitter account within seconds.
“It was a great month for me, well apart from the Albion Rovers game at the start of November.”
It certainly rained goals for the Excelsior Stadium side last month as they were involved in four games that produced 34 goals with Donnelly contributing six of his side’s 20 counters in the month, including his first ever treble.
The Diamonds lost 7-2 to their neighbours before drawing 4-4 with Forfar Athletic when Donnelly scored three quarters of his side’s goals, then knocked 11 without reply against Gala Fairydean in the Scottish Cup and then a 3-3 tie with Arbroath.
The goal-grabber said: “I scored five or six hat-tricks for the youth side but my one against Arbroath was my first at senior level.
“I have been working hard on getting into good positions and taking chances when they come my way and things fell into place pretty well last month.”
The Gala cup tie was a bit strange for Donnelly as he struggled to find the net as his colleagues were racking up goals and he said: “I had two great chances that day and I missed them both. I was getting into the right areas again but I was missing opportunities and the Manager kept on winding me up by looking for the number 10 board to take me off.
“Eventually I got a goal, the tenth one, and the Manager and the rest of the boys eased off on me a bit.”
Donnelly’s form has sparked interest from other clubs but the player, who lives in the shadow of The Diamonds' home ground, said: “I am in no hurry to leave Airdrie unless a full-time club comes in that are going to involve me in games most weeks. I was a substitute a lot last season and that can be hard going as I want to play.”