Craig Fowler goes through the list of managers who’ll feel unfortunate to have missed out on a nomination
If you want to read some real nominee griping, then I suggest you check out my article on why Liam Lindsay was robbed of a Young Player of the Year nod by a disgustingly ignorant electorate.
As for the Manager of the Year award, fair play to the voters, they’ve got this one spot on.
Brendan Rodgers - on the verge of the treble (only the fourth in Celtic’s history) and becoming the first manager to complete an undefeated season since the 1800s. Massive resource or not, it’s a seriously impressive achievement.
Derek McInnes - two cup finals and, in all likelihood, a second place finish. We’re used to Aberdeen finishing second, but doing so with Rangers in the league reinvigorates the sense of achievement. And regardless of the end result, two cup finals in one season with a non-Old Firm club is non mean feat.
Alan Archibald - Partick Thistle’s highest finish since the early 80s and their longest Scottish Cup run in a decade, even if it was only the quarter-finals.
And Jim Duffy - his is more of an accumulation award. Morton finishing fourth wasn’t outwith the realms of possibility coming into the campaign, though St Mirren and Raith Rovers were stronger candidates. But it’s the fact he’s turned Morton from a League One side into Premiership promotion contenders in just three years that’s so impressive.
While it might be the opinion of this writer that the players got their voting right, it’s not an observation shared by all, as you would expect.
So, in the spirit of debate, let’s look at the contenders who may feel slighted to have been left off the list.
Tommy Wright (St Johnstone)
Archibald is the new Tommy Wright, even though Wright is still doing his thing and leading St Johnstone to the top six every season.
After a while it stops becoming cool to vote for the same man time and again. That’s why LeBron James hasn’t won the NBA’s MVP trophy since 2013 despite him clearly remaining the best player in the world. Sustained success over time loses its luster and Wright is a victim of that. Because leading a St Johnstone team to finish in Europe ahead of Hearts and just a few points behind Rangers is a job worth commending with a nomination.
Neil Lennon (Hibs)
Chris Sutton made the argument himself: if Mark Warburton won Manager of the Year last year, why is Lennon not even in the running this time around?
Well, there’s two reasons. One, while Rangers remained favourites to take the title, everyone anticipated a strong challenge from Hibs, who’d finished ahead of the Ibrox club the season before. Everyone likes to deride Warburton’s first season now, but we’re forgetting just how big a mess he inherited. And two, Rangers romped to the title with a points total close to Hearts’ record from the season before. Hibs, while winning the title comfortably, have still made harder work of it than they should have, winning only five of 11 games against the bottom three sides.
Although, getting Hibs promoted is still something Alan Stubbs failed to achieve in two years, and they were excellent in the defence of their Scottish Cup crown. And, regardless of expectation, it’s hard to knock winning a league title.
Jack Ross (St Mirren)
What a turnaround. A draw against Hibs on the final day will see St Mirren safe from automatic relegation when they looked doomed earlier in the season.
Admittedly, some of St Mirren’s dreadful pre-2017 form was under Jack’s stewardship, though it’s since become clear his hands were tied by the ageing, ramshackle squad he inherited from Alex Rae. Since the January transfer window the newly furnished squad has been on an absolute tear. In fact, since the January window SLAMMED shut, no team in the second tier has accumulated more points than the Buddies.
David Hopkin (Livingston)
It seems like it’s been a procession in hindsight, but we’re forgetting that Livingston’s march to the League One title started with most pundits picking Alloa Athletic to win the third tier. Not only have the Livi Lions defied that prediction, they’ve won the division at a canter.
Some will point to their full-time status in what is predominately a part-time league, but it’s not always as simple an advantage as people make out. While Livingston are able to sign full-time players, they’re left scrapping the barren of that particular talent pool. Alloa, on the other hand, could sign some of the best part-time players; the guys who have the ability to go full-time but would rather make a comfortable living and play football in their spare time, rather than train five days a week and earn £150.
It is an advantage, but it’s not as straight-forward as some would like to make out.
Dick Campbell (Arbroath)
It’s not too much of a surprise to see Campbell’s absence from the nominations list, seeing as they haven’t been running away with the League Two title. In fact, when the ballots were sent out, they were probably a distant second to rivals Forfar Athletic.
Forfar’s collapse and the Red Lichties newfound consistency means they go into the final game this weekend requiring three points to lift the title. If they do, it’ll provide more evidence as to why it doesn’t make much sense to vote on these awards with several weeks of the season still to go.
Gary Jardine (Edinburgh City)
Jardine’s turnaround with City is similar to that of Jack Ross’ at St Mirren in that it comes with the caveat of them struggling with him in charge. And, unlike Ross, Jardine was there from the very beginning.
But no team has ever won promotion to the bottom tier of Scottish football before. Entering uncharted territory, they didn’t know how strong the team needed to be. Incorrectly, they thought most of the players that got them there would be able to keep them up. An early season record of four points from 11 games showed that not to be the case.
However, Jardine did an excellent job of rebuilding his squad on the fly, adding experienced pros who’ve played at a high level in Mark Laird, Josh Walker and, of course, Derek Riordan. Since their dreadful start they’ve recorded the fourth best record in the fourth tier and will surely fancy a run at the playoffs next term.