- IRN-BRU Phenomenal Second Division Manager of the Month – Allan Johnston (Queen of the South)
- IRN-BRU Phenomenal Third Division Manager of the Month – Gardner Speirs (Queen’s Park)
Queen of the South Player/Manager, Allan Johnston, has made it two out of two after following up on August’s success by picking up September’s IRN-BRU SFL Phenomenal Second Division Manager of the Month Award.
The Doonhamers enjoyed a fine month with a high profile Ramsdens Cup penalty shoot-out defeat of Rangers at Ibrox as well as League wins over Arbroath, Ayr United, Brechin City and Alloa Athletic secured with 14 goals scored and only three conceded.
Last Sunday’s 2-1 extra-time win over Arbroath means that Johnston and his team has a Ramsdens Cup Final to look forward to next April after win number 13 of the season. Last month did however, see their first defeat as Dundee United sneaked away from Palmerston with a 1-0 win in The Scottish Communities League Cup with Johnston saying: “That was also a positive experience as we played really well particularly in the second half and to do so well against a SPL side was great.”
Johnston, who is only a few months into his first managerial role, again spoke of a team effort in Dumfries that he had already praised last month as he said: “The club have had a lot of exposure in the past couple of months which has been great and a terrific boost to the people behind the scenes.”
His players may have to get accustomed to the increased attention with Johnston saying: “Our players put in a great performance at Ibrox and that makes people sit up and pay attention. Hopefully, they will keep getting attention as that will mean our good run has carried on a lot longer.
“The whole club is progressing as our youth side reached last season’s SFA Youth Cup Final and the reserves also got to the SFL Reserve League Cup Final and it is important that we keep bringing players through. Seeing home grown talent progress to the first team motivates everyone involved at youth level.”
The former Scotland star added: “We have continued with a level headed approach despite everything and that suits me down to the ground. I am delighted that we have made The Ramsdens Cup Final but nothing has been achieved yet. There is a lot of important games to come between now and April and in some ways, that will help us.
“The League has to be our priority this season and we can focus on that just now without the distraction of a Cup Final for a few months although everyone will look forward to it when it comes around. We had a really good support with us in the last Challenge Cup Final against Ross County in 2010 and we let them down so when it comes around, we will be looking to do much better this time out.”
Johnston again praised the role of his former Manager at Heart of Midlothian, Sandy Clark, who has helped ease his former player into management in his assistant managerial role at Palmerston saying: “Sandy was my first choice to come in and work with me as I knew how good he was from my time at Hearts when I was starting out my career. He is not here because he is a pal, he is actually here because he does not agree with everything and that is just what I wanted.
“We never used to call each other up when we were not working together or anything like that but we would talk football when we bumped into each other.”
Johnston took his first steps towards the Queens hot seat when he was at Kilmarnock and further managerial figures from Tynecastle in the shape of Jim Jefferies and Billy Brown encouraged him to get involved.
That development continues at Queen of the South with Johnston saying: “This is a great place to prove myself and learning at a so called smaller club will give me invaluable experience. I know Paul Hartley says much the same in that if you start at a larger club, you get everything done for you but at a smaller club, you start realising how much work there is to be done.
“Putting that work in can only improve you as a Manager and coach.”
Johnston is, of course, the Player/Manager at the club although his playing appearances appear to be getting less and less and he is a victim of his own success as he explained: “The players have been playing so well that I cannot justify a place for myself in the team. We have got the level of competition for places that I wanted so I am not going to complain about it.”
The one time Hearts, Rennes, Sunderland, Rangers, Middlesbrough, Kilmarnock, St. Mirren and Scotland attacker said: “I have picked up this second award because the team is doing so well and everyone is working together and when everyone is pulling in the same direction, everything goes a lot better.”
Queen’s Park’s Head Coach, Gardner Speirs, picked up his fourth IRN-BRU SFL Phenomenal Manager of the Month Award since taking on his position at the Hampden club in January, 2008.
This September’s award joins the January, 2010, February, 2011 and October, 2011 awards that Speirs has won with this success coming after Third Division wins over Stirling Albion, Clyde and Elgin City as well as delivering a knock-out blow to Irvine Meadow’s chances of a Scottish Cup upset with Speirs saying: “As each win was earned, our confidence grew and to win 4-0 at a hard place like Elgin was terrific. The only disappointment was The Scottish Communities League Cup defeat from St. Johnstone where I do not feel we did ourselves justice especially after beating Dundee in the last round.
“We were beaten 4-1 and they scored twice in the last ten minutes when we were down to ten men but overall, we can play better than we showed up at Perth.”
The League wins have come with a new look side with Speirs saying: “We went through a bit of a transformation over the summer as we lost five first team players. I brought in one from outside, Michael Keenan from Arthurlie, and the rest of the additions are players that have come through our youth ranks.
“Two of them, Lawrence Shankland and Andrew Robertson, have started the season really well which has really benefited us. Queen’s Park are notoriously bad starters to seasons as we tend to have a few comings and goings every summer as players move on to the professional ranks.”
Speirs’ view of their better than normal start is, of course, confirmed by the fact that his fourth individual award has been won in the earliest month in a season.
The Hampden side’s position at the top of the table has brought more attention than normal this season with the introduction of Rangers to the Third Division however, it has been a case of business as usual although having the Ibrox side could disrupt a sequence that looked to have provided Queen’s crowned Champions.
Speirs explained: “There is more interest in what all the clubs in the Third Division are doing from the media. We have welcomed it and of course, there will be four great Glasgow derbies this season and it is great to have that to look forward to.
“We finished in fourth place three seasons ago, finished in third place in season 2010/11 and just six months ago, we finished in second place. This season you could say that we were therefore in line to win the title but we will just need to see how things pan out now.”
After drawing 2-2 with Annan Athletic last weekend, The Spiders head to Ibrox tomorrow to face Rangers and Speirs is looking for his men to lift their game after a sense of frustration following their draw with the Galabank side.
He said: “Looking back, I have to say that the Annan game was a point gained as we were off key. Normally our passing game is a lot slicker but we were not quick enough and that led to problems when moves broke down.
“That game was an opportunity to be going to Ibrox with a bigger lead but we did not play well enough to get that advantage.”
With the Annan post mortem done, Speirs and his side moved on to start working on the Rangers game this week with Speirs saying: “We started talking about the Rangers game on Monday and everyone knows that we will need to play an awful lot better to have any enjoyment at Ibrox.
“To keep ahead of Rangers, we will need at least a draw and to do that we will need to play very well. We are not finished the first quarter of games yet so you cannot say how long we could be ahead as things have still to settle down in the Third Division.”
Speirs added: “In saying that, I am happy to be going to face Rangers near the top of the table as it would be more difficult if we were facing them and we were several points adrift at the foot. Rangers have won convincingly in the Third Division at home this season so we know how difficult it will be.”