Three wins over Arbroath, East Fife and Ayr United and a draw with Stranraer in February were enough for Stenhousemuir Manager, Martyn Corrigan, to pick up the IRN-BRU SFL Phenomenal Manager of the Month Award for the Second Division.
It was the Warriors boss first Award since taking charge of the promotion seeking Ochilview side last summer when he left his role as a player and coach after David Irons could no longer combine his managerial role and working in the Police Force and Corrigan said: “I am delighted to be chosen as the winner for February and I think it is a great recognition for the work that myself, and my assistant Kevin McGoldrick put in to ensure we had a good season.”
“We had started the season really well in the Second Division and in Cup ties. We lost only once in our opening 9 games and knocked Kilmarnock, the holders of the Scottish Communities League Cup out at Rugby Park. We then took Inverness Caledonian Thistle to penalties in the next round after drawing 1-1 at Ochilview after extra-time.”
Corrigan added: “However the second quarter in the league has held us back in terms of going for promotion. We slipped down to seventh place as we had a bad run with injuries and had 7 different sending offs, some of which were very harsh. That led to a lot of players missing as we have a squad that is big on quality but not so big on quantity and that costs us.”
As players have returned Stenhousemuir’s form improved and 35 year old Corrigan said: “As we got the guys back and added a couple of quality signings in January our results improved. I have to give credit to the players for the hard work they have put in to get us back into the promotion chase.”
Corrigan’s side are enjoying good form just now, however they will not catch Queen of the South in the hunt for the title as the Ochilview boss explained: “Allan Johnston and Sandy Clark have done a great job at Palmerston and deserve great credit for it. We played them a couple of weeks ago and did really well in the game but they still ended up with the 3 points in a 2-1 win.”
“It is hard to produce good results week in and week on especially in games when it looks like the chips are down but they have done that week in and week out. They will be worthy champions.”
Whilst the Second Division title may have gone, promotion is still very much on for Corrigan’s men, who presently sit sixth, and if they make it or indeed get into the play-offs they will be creating history.
In their 129 years of existence Stenhousemuir have never reached the top Division in Scotland or the First Division when a three tier structure was launched in the 1970’s. They have never even made the play-offs for the First Division and Corrigan is hoping that this is the season they finally break that run.
Corrigan said: “Last season under David Irons finishing fifth was the highest the club has ever finished. It was also their best ever tally of points in the Second Division.”
“We are trying to improve on that and getting to the play-offs this season would represent improvement. Like everyone else in the league we wanted to win it at the start of the season but that is not going to happen now. We have to look to finish as high up as we can.”
The maroon shirted side came close to history last season before their fifth place finish just a point below Airdrie who were eventually promoted in the aftermath of Rangers joining the SFL last summer.
Corrigan said: “It was disappointing to lose out to Airdrie and not get into the Play-Offs especially as it happened on the last day of the season when we lost at Forfar. However looking back it was progress from the previous year when under David and Kevin it was all about avoiding relegation. Dundee, Airdrie and Stranraer all got moved up at short notice with the Rangers situation and they have all struggled a bit since. We want to get up and stay up so perhaps missing out last season was no bad thing.”
“They are given it their all to stay up and Jimmy Boyle has done a great job at Airdrie but I don’t know if you would want the pressure of not picking up many wins throughout the season. You want to go up and be competitive and the longer you have to prepare for that the better your season should be.”
Corrigan added: “In saying that the play-offs and promotion is a long way off and we have to get to the play-offs first.”
Corrigan is adjusting to life as a first season manager and he said; “I miss playing football which is not surprising as I played for a long time and played in a lot of games. Unfortunately it all ended rather abruptly last season when I ruptured my achilles but thankfully I had started thinking about what I would do next already and was doing a bit of coaching here.”
“I was fortunate that when Davie stepped down he recommended me to be the new manager and that Kevin was already here. There is a good balance between us but you are only as good as your players and you only get your best out of players by treating them right. Hopefully we get that balance right at Stenhousemuir.”
Whilst Stenhousemuir opted for a manager, player/ managers are popular at the moment with four in the Second Division alone and Corrigan said: “There have been a few guys that have come down from the SPL to take jobs and on the playing side they have probably not found that big a gap between the leagues. We beat Kilmarnock and then took Inverness Caley to penalties and ran First Division Falkirk close in the Second Division so the standard is really good.”
“The main difference is in getting your messages over as you have much more time with your players at a full time club. If Stenhousemuir were full time we would progress but that is just not feasible financially.”
Whilst expansion into full time football is unlikely at Ochilview the club will continue with their Award winning Youth set-up as the Warriors grow their own players with Corrigan saying: “We are seeing the fruits of the club’s labours in that area. One of our first team players Sean Dickson came through the Youth ranks and his form is so good just now that he is now being watched by several bigger clubs.”
“Others will follow the example Sean has set probably next season when we promote a few boys into the first team squad. Scottish football is at a crossroads just now and we all want the next generation to come through and entice fans to come and watch them.”
“We are well placed for that.”