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: DEREK ADAMS (ROSS COUNTY FC)
- SECOND DIVISION MANAGER OF THE MONTH: ALLAN MAITLAND (ALLOA ATHLETIC FC)
- THIRD DIVISION MANAGER OF THE MONTH: GARDNER SPEIRS (QUEEN'S PARK FC)
- PLAYER OF THE MONTH: PAUL LAWSON (ROSS COUNTY FC)
- YOUNG PLAYER OF THE MONTH: BARRY DOUGLAS (QUEEN'S PARK FC)
DEREK ADAMS (ROSS COUNTY FC)
Ross County Manager Derek Adams was delighted to pick up his first IRN-BRU Manager of the Month Award for nearly two years as it confirms the progress that his second placed Dingwall side are making. Adams was the Second Division Manager of the Year in season 2007/08, when he guided County to that season’s divisional Championship, and he won this month’s honour by seeing off Ayr United 1-0 in their opening League game of the year at Victoria Park and then travelling to Dundee to throw the chase for the First Division title open by winning at Dens Park.
Despite their success, Adams only speaks of progress at the club in terms of points and short term targets and refuses to get carried away on thoughts of promotion. The former County striker said, “The progress this season has been tremendous and whilst I have picked up this award for January, it is really a testimony to how well the players have done.”
“The desire this season is to beat last season’s total of 47 points and if we do that, the next target will be to finish higher than seventh place. None of these two things have been achieved and if they are, it will show that we have stabilised as a club and that will be a success.”
One of the frequent compliments paid to the County players this season has been how fit they have looked as they have finished games strongly and that comes as no surprise to Adams who advised, “We have worked hard on the fitness of the players over the past two years and it is something I concentrate on when I look to bring players into the club.
“I watch them move but I am not just after runners, I am after players that can move comfortably with the ball at their feet.”
As well as progress in the League this season, Ross County have also secured their first ever Scottish Cup Quarter Final, where they will face Hibernian at Easter Road after a 4-0 win over Inverurie Loco’s back in January and last Saturday’s 9-0 defeat of Stirling Albion.
There are nine points still to be achieved in Adams pursuit of progress, and with 16 games to play, you will not find many people betting against that particular box in the ‘aims for 2009/10’ being ticked in the Ross County report card.
The foundations for next season have also been laid by the wily Adams who advised, “I have nine of this season’s squad signed up on two year deals and would imagine there will be a couple of other players committing themselves further to what we are trying to build here.”
PAUL LAWSON (ROSS COUNTY FC)
Ross County picked up another award for January with midfielder Paul Lawson being selected as the IRN-BRU Phenomenal Player of the Month after a fine month for the Aberdeen born player that saw his side progress to the Fifth Round of the Scottish Cup and pick up 1-0 League wins over Ayr United and Dundee.
Lawson, who scored the winner against the Dark Blues, started his career at Celtic and was there for six seasons saying, “I signed for Celtic when I was sixteen and stayed there until I was 23 and played four times in the first team. Gordon Strachan gave me my debut against Dunfermline Athletic at East End Park and I also had loan spells at St. Johnstone and St. Mirren before joining County.”
Lawson joined the club in time for their Second Division campaign in August, 2007 and took time to adjust admitting, “It was a bit of a culture shock and I knew it was going to be hard for Ross County to bounce straight back up. It was a good squad that was here and we were all delighted to win the Second Division Championship in season 2007/08.”
Lawson picked up an injury at the start of last season and that hampered him as Derek Adams’ side looked to establish themselves as a First Division team again with Lawson saying, “Survival was the main thing a year ago. It was all about Ross County consolidating and I began the campaign with an injury but was playing better by the end of the season.”
This season has been different with Lawson admitting, “It has been a great six months at the club. We have been playing well and you gain confidence from winning. We are going into games now confident that we will do well and that was not always the case in our first season in this division.”
The midfielder, who has committed himself to the Dingwall side for the next two and a half years, was asked to sum up how it felt to score the winning goal at the League leaders own ground and he said, “I do not pop up with many goals and Dundee were favourites to win that game so I can assure you it was a great feeling.”
ALLAN MAITLAND (ALLOA ATHLETIC FC)
Alloa Athletic boss Allan Maitland made it a hat-trick of managerial awards for the season when he picked up the IRN-BRU Phenomenal Second Division Manager of the Month Award for January. The wily Maitland took his side to second in the table after wins over Stenhousemuir and Arbroath but more importantly, he used the transfer window to good effect. Four new players arrived for areas that his promotion chasing side needed strengthening as the Recreation Park Manager moved in early to avoid a late scramble for signatures.
Maitland said, “I knew we needed more firepower and a left back so I acted at the beginning of the month as opposed to seeing who was available at the end of the transfer window. I had a bit of luck in that Brian Reid was re-shaping his squad at Ayr and that got things going as well.”
Somerset Park strikers Bryan Prunty and David Gormley moved to Clackmannanshire with Falkirk youngster James Bloom coming in on-loan from Falkirk at left back and former Hamilton Academical defender Kevin Welsh was also brought in.
Although their arrival coincided with the cold snap, the ever resourceful Wasps’ boss used the opportunity to gel the new look team together by arranging matches against Junior sides on the artificial surface at the Recs.
The former Clyde and Hamilton Academical boss explained, “The club got a huge lift by bringing these guys in as everyone knew where we needed to strengthen. We used the games against Junior sides to try a few things out and we hit the ground running against Stenhousemuir where of course, Bryan scored on his debut.”
“David Gormley turned the game against Arbroath last Saturday and young James is progressing after an initial period of thinking that you can wait for the ball to land and then attacking it which you cannot do at this level. Kevin will start making his contribution when he gets himself fit after a recent operation.”
A year ago, the Wasps sat near the foot of the Second Division with a relegation Play-Off spot a possibility and Maitland is certainly enjoying the turnaround in his team’s fortunes saying, “It is a much better feeling than a year ago. At that stage, we had not won a game away from home and struggled to get a win full stop."
GARDNER SPEIRS (QUEEN'S PARK FC)
Queen’s Park Head Coach Gardner Speirs is looking to keep turning negatives into positives as he leads his young side up the Third Division. Former St. Mirren player Speirs, who was awarded the IRN-BRU Phenomenal Third Division Manager of the Month after his Queen’s Park side saw off promotion chasing Berwick Rangers 2-0 and then Annan Athletic 3-2 during January, has quietly rebuilt the Spiders’ first team after losing a host of players to full-time football after his first six months in charge.
The former Clyde and Ross County boss replaced former St. Mirren team-mate Billy Stark at Hampden just over two years ago, giving up the job as Assistant Manager to Ian McCall at Partick Thistle to move across Glasgow saying, “I wanted to be my own man again in charge of my own team.”
Speirs added, “Everything about moving to Queen’s Park appealed. There are good people involved, the facilities are fantastic and it is a full-time position with all the work that is carried out in youth development and schools.
“I actually look at aspects of that as a positive thing and it has happened at Queen’s Park for decades now. Of course, it is disappointing to see very good players leave but the Queen’s Park way is to develop new ones and every couple of years you start afresh. The players never get fed up hearing my voice or at least I hope they don’t!”
Playing at the National Stadium is also a huge selling point to players the club want to sign and could also prove to be the catalyst for a surge up the table by the amateur side with Speirs explaining, “The facilities we have are a great way of selling Queen’s Park as everyone enjoys playing there. Opposing teams get a lift and we were not handling that well but we are over that now. The undersoil heating has allowed three games to go on and we have picked up nine points from them and climbed the table as a result. It is better to have the points on board especially as some sides now have six games to catch up on.”
Speirs is not letting recent defeats to Livingston and Stranraer mask the club’s progress saying, “In the games prior to that, we were looking extremely dangerous up front. The first quarter after relegation was disappointing but we gathered far more points in the second quarter and if we repeat that form over the closing half of the season, we will not be far away from a Play-Off place.”
BARRY DOUGLAS (QUEEN'S PARK FC)
It was a double celebration for Queen’s Park as the latest player set to roll off the Hampden Park production line, left back Barry Douglas, was awarded the IRN-BRU Phenomenal Young Player of the Month Award. Douglas is keeping his feet so firmly on the ground that he classes himself as a refrigeration and air-conditioning engineer first and a football player second.
The 20-year-old has been earning rave reviews after making his first team debut just 18 months ago and talk of scouts flocking to Hampden to watch him flying down the wing have left Douglas unfazed.
Rejection at an earlier age may be behind the player’s reluctance to get over excited about a full-time career in football with Douglas explaining, “I was with Livingston when I was younger but they let me go when I was sixteen. That shattered my dreams of being a full-time footballer especially as they said I was too small but you take the good with the bad.
“I walked away from football for a year and never played until I was coaxed back into it by a player at the Queen’s Park Under-19 side. I am delighted he did as they have been a great club to me and I owe them a lot.”
Clubs circling Douglas for a summer signing may find that his workmates play a part in keeping him away from full-time football for the time being with Douglas saying, “This is my third year in my job and my last doing college work but I have another two years to go before I am fully qualified. My grandad is a huge influence and he has told me to get a trade behind me and I speak to plenty of players that wished they had done that when they were starting out.
“I enjoy being at Queen’s Park and I will worry about the future later. If I did worry just now, it would affect my game and I do not want that.”