It is that time of year again when fans are making their overall judgements on how good or how bad a season they have had, with many probably looking to the manager to take the credit (or more likely the blame). Each year there are some managers that cover themselves in glory and seem to be able to get the best out of their players, but on the other hand it is part and parcel of the football calendar that each year we see head coaches lose that bit of spark they once had or fail completely at their job. With various awards being handed out around this time of year it is only fair that we recognise the achievements of those men who lead from the front.
The Perennial Underachievers managerial awards will be handed out (not literally) on a league-by league basis over the next week with a top three in each division (I am cheating a little here, I just didn’t want to upset anyone and pick one). You may agree or disagree with these selections but each has gone through a rigorous set of checks to be awarded with their coveted 1st, 2nd or 3rd place award.
We will start with a ‘special mention’ post for those who just missed out and we will end on a ‘would rather be forgotten’ section for the few managers who have been hounded by fans and the media for simply not doing very well!
As a point of principal I would never nominate a Celtic manager for a domestic managerial award. This is mainly down to the fact that it is a given that Celtic should walk the Premiership. However it has to be said that Ronny Deila has been a breath of fresh air in terms of how he handles himself and how he has Celtic playing. After a sticky start they are now playing a much better brand of football compared to their style under Neil Lennon.
At Aberdeen Derek McInnes has continued his impressive tenure with another fine season but much of his hard work was done last year so he has just missed out on an award. Tommy Wright at St.Johnstone is continuing the very solid and consistent development of his St.Johnstone side so he deserves a mention too.
Finally there is a manager who made a huge impact on the Premiership this year but is missing from the final list, mainly due to him not being here anymore. Alex Neil worked wonders with the Hamilton team and for much of the early season they were playing some brilliant football, beating anyone and everyone in their path. He was rightly awarded for his efforts with the chance to manage in the English Championship with Norwich.
The Championship this year has been a fascinating watch in terms of how teams adapted to having a very top-heavy league with the addition of Hearts, Hibs and Rangers. This season has seen a fairly definite split in the league so the first honourable mention comes from the lower end of the league. Although he has only been in charge since December it has to be said that Mark Burchill deserves a mention as he has been in charge of Livingston during a very turbulent time for the club. He has managed to win some important matches at the tail end of this season despite an atmosphere of chaos behind the scenes. Saving Livi from relegation is a massive achievement.
One manager who was so very close to being on the winners list is Peter Houston. He does seem to divide the Falkirk fans at times, and although he did not manage to get his team into the playoffs this season (something most fans would have expected) he does get huge credit for getting Falkirk to their first Scottish Cup final in six years. More will be expected from him in the league next season.
The league’s big boys have struggled for large parts of the League One campaign so there is a slightly surprising look to the top of the table as we end the season and credit must go to those managers in charge of sides like Stranraer, Forfar and Brechin (more on them later though). It has been a fine campaign again for Gary Bollan at Airdrie as he continues to build the foundations of a side that will surely be challenging for promotion next year, the fans will be looking for that extra push next season as they have moved slowly up the league table in recent campaigns. Last year’s League Two winners Peterhead have also navigated themselves through a tricky year with a very respectable position and Jim McInally was once again at the heart of that. The Blue Toon have provided a stern test to everyone in the league and they too might be looking towards the playoffs next year.
It isn’t often you leave a league winning manager off of an awards list (Ronny Deila you are in good company) but for me Jim Duffy misses out on an award partly down to the fact that although Morton did win the title is was done rather laboriously and at times this season Morton really struggled under his stewardship.
Another league that threw up some surprises (and one that ended up quite differently to my early year prediction) was League Two. A special mention to two managers here, first of all Jim Weir at Elgin. He has taken a side that finished 9th last season and ensured that they were fighting towards to the top end of the table this year. They had an inconsistent season but one that was a big improvement on the previous campaign. The big managerial rollercoaster of the year has to be the story of the quite brilliant but then totally awful Arbroath. Before Christmas Allan Moore had the team taking apart almost every team in the division, scoring goals for fun in the process. Despite all that the Lichties suffered a total collapse in form that saw them win only once in 16 matches. Moore was relieved of his duties and Arbroath have since claimed a playoff place (just) so he still deserves credit for those early season performances.