Phenomenal Young Player Of The Month – Tony Watt (Airdrie United)
Tony Watt may have been a late entrant into the world of organised football however, he has more than made up for it with his passage from the SFL ranks with Airdrie United to Celtic in the SPL being marked with the award of December’s IRN-BRU Phenomenal Young Player Of The Month.
Watt talked through his short career saying: “I played a year at Under-17 level and six months in the Airdrie first team and that is about it. I did not play seriously at all when I was younger and only played for fun up until the summer of 2009.”
The Coatbridge youngster explained the change saying: “My friend came through the Airdrie youth system and told me to ’phone up for a trial so I got in touch with Jimmy Boyle. I went in, played a trial and then Jimmy signed me.
“I played well at Under-17 level and scored a few goals, so when Jimmy stepped up to manage the first team in the summer, I followed. I made my debut in an ALBA Challenge Cup tie against Ayr and things have grown from there.”
Watt’s Diamonds career was short as he featured in only 18 games before Celtic beat off competition from Liverpool and Rangers to sign the player for a fee believed to run into six figures.
Asked to describe what attributes attracted the interest, Watt said: “I do not feel it is up to me to describe myself as a player but I am quite strong and as a striker, I do like scoring goals.”
His liking for scoring was seen as a Diamond as he explained: “I scored three times for Airdrie. My first was against East Fife in August, then against Brechin in October and my last goal was against Alloa just before Christmas.”
The Alloa goal was a last minute winner as the Wasps were defeated 3-2 and it was a bit special to Watt as he explained: “I was dropped to the bench for that game as I had not been playing well leading up to it. The Manager put me on and then Jamie Stevenson and his plan certainly worked as we both scored to turn the game around.
“I was really happy after scoring that goal and ran over to Jimmy Boyle and celebrated with him as he has done a lot for me. He gave me a chance in football and I am sure he will give the other boys at Airdrie a chance.”
Watt added: “There are a few boys at Airdrie and in the SFL that can make the step up in the same way I have done and I hope they can do it.
“I am still keeping an eye out for Airdrie results and also hope that Jimmy can keep them doing well in the Second Division.”
After signing for the Parkhead club, Watt was quickly whisked away to join the rest of the club’s Under-19 squad in Turkey as part of their two week Leonardo da Vinci Coaching Initiative.
Asked how it was to swap frozen Scotland for the sunshine of Turkey, Watt said: “I really enjoyed it and it was a great opportunity to get to know the rest of the boys.
“It has been a huge change for me but playing at Celtic is my job and my career now and hopefully, I will do well.”
Phenomenal Achievement Award – Mike Mulraney, Chairman Alloa Athletic
The sponsor’s of The Scottish Football League Championship, IRN-BRU, added a new award to their usual monthly range by recognising Alloa Athletic Chairman Mike Mulraney for his work in keeping football being played in the Clackmannanshire town whilst the rest of the country was frozen solid.
Mulraney, who reckons he has come up with a plan that will revolutionise football without the need of the £500 million suggested by Henry McLeish, had ensured that Alloa’s Second Division game against Peterhead on 4th December was not only the only show in town, it was the only show in Scotland.
The artificial surface at Recreation Park was the only pitch that hosted football that weekend north of Blackburn Rovers’ Ewood Stadium, with Alloa also hosting games against Airdrie and then Livingston during the course of that month when the majority of matches were postponed due to the arctic conditions.
The sponsor awarded the trophy, normally reserved for Manager and Player of the Month winners, for what they have described as a ‘Phenomenal Effort.’
Mulraney joked: “That is me one up on our Manager Allan Maitland as he has not won one this season so I am sure that he will be out to even the score pretty quickly.”
Property Developer Mulraney was delighted to pick up his award at Hampden, although he was modest enough to admit that it was not just him that ensured the game went on.
He explained: “There was a team of people at Alloa that wanted the game on and this award is recognition for their efforts.
“It is great of the sponsor to do this and it just adds to the positive impression we made when we moved 3,500 tonnes of snow from in and around the ground to get the first game on.
“Getting the second and third games on was easier after we got the first one played and to be honest, getting the Peterhead game on only happened because of what we learned last year when we had games postponed.”
??????????Mulraney is an evangelist for the town and football team of Alloa as well as artificial pitches and he reckons clubs across Scotland could see the benefits his club are for the price of one Civil Servants annual wage.??????????
“I am very proud of Alloa where I have lived all my life and I am proud of the role that the football team plays in the town.
“We have established the Alloa Wasp brand at the football club and it would be great to see that rolled out to other sports such as swimming and rugby.
“I have a vision of Alloa Wasp swimming and Alloa Wasp Rugby where black and gold hoops are worn as they are all part of the Alloa Wasp community that is based at the Wasp Centre next to Recreation Park.”
Turning to the development of the game, Mulraney said: “For clubs like Alloa that are based in their local community, an artificial surface has to be the way forward.
“We should stop asking for the £500 million requested by the McLeish Report and do something now that will cost the Government hardly anything.
Mulraney explained his scheme: “Clubs should be encouraged to lay artificial pitches with funding from Banks underwritten by the Government.
“It can done at a low cost if the Government underwrote everything as the one transaction, as better terms could be negotiated.
“All you will need to do is employ one civil servant a year to look after the paperwork and check that payments are being made.
“And payments will be made as clubs will generate revenue by renting out their pitch in the manner that we do. I believe this is a way of allowing clubs to be at the centre of their community from Annan to Elgin and in-between.
“If people are serious about supporting football in Government, they should be looking at schemes like this.”
Mulraney added: “A network of 3G pitches across the country would keep the game getting played and there may well be other Chairman competing for this Award in the future.”
SFL Chief Executive, David Longmuir, said: “Thankfully, we are able to concentrate on something that is positive in the game just now.
“I am delighted that someone who puts his heart and soul into ensuring football is at the heart of his community is being recognised.
“Congratulations to Mike and to IRN-BRU for recognising that the important thing is getting football played.”