The four nominees for Manager of the Year have been announced, with only one manager from the top flight gaining a nomination. While Jim McIntyre, Jim McInally, Mark Warburton and Peter Houston will fight it out for the award, we take a look at the six biggest snubs of the award.
Robbie Neilson – Hearts
It will always have been difficult to match last season’s achievements for Neilson. Winning the Championship by 21 points over your biggest rivals would be hard to beat regardless of the stature of your club. Neilson, realistically, would have expected his young squad to have at best challenged for the top half of the table. His squad certainly was not expected to so easily overtake the rest of the league and arrive at the business end of the season comfortably qualified for Europe. For that, he should at least be in the discussion, and possibly deserves more credit for his achievement than Houston does for Falkirk’s performances in the Championship.
Mark McGhee – Motherwell
McGhee took the Motherwell job in October when the Fir Park club were languishing at the wrong end of the table. Replacing the ineffectual Ian Baraclough, McGhee has turned the fortunes of the Steelmen around in less than 20 games. An unbeaten December that included three wins out of three and a victory over Celtic at Parkhead was rewarded with the Manager of the Month award, while a five match winning run from late February till early April cemented Motherwell’s spot above the split. It may be down to how close the mid-table is, but for a manager to bring a team close to relegation up to fourth in such a short time frame, he surely deserves to be in the discussion.
Allan Johnston – Dunfermline
To win any league in March is impressive, and that is exactly what Johnston’s Dunfermline side managed after a 3-1 victory over Brechin City on the 26th of March. Appointed in May last year, Johnston has taken a side that was average last season, finishing seventh in League One, and turned them into a close to unstoppable winning machine. With a goal difference of +52, and having conceded the second least number of goals in the whole of the Scottish Football League with 30 (only 4 more than Celtic who have conceded 26), Johnston’s perfection of attacking fluidity and stern defensive football is astonishing. His achievements have already been noted with two Manager of the Month awards, for December and March, which begs the question as to why he is not in with a chance for the big one.
Alan Stubbs - Hibernian
It would be fairer to judge Stubbs and Hibs’ season after the Scottish Cup Final, as they could, by that point, have broken a 114-year duck in the competition and possibly have secured promotion to the Premiership. On the other hand, Hibs fans could want him out if he fails in his pre-season objective to get them back to the top flight. Stubbs’ season has been a mixed bag, and the archetypal season of two halves. Before Christmas it looked as if Hibs would push Rangers all the way, only for the club to fall off the proverbial cliff and find itself scrabbling around struggling to fight for second rather than the title. It remains to be seen whether Stubbs will succeed in any of his aims this year, but two Cup finals is as impressive a showing as any. It could, of course, still turn out to be one of Hibs’ greatest ever seasons.
Ray McKinnon – Raith Rovers
McKinnon has done superb work at Raith. Appointed at the end of May last year, replacing the sacked Grant Murray, McKinnon has taken one of the most reliably mid-table teams in Scotland (last four seasons finishing positions, 6th, 7th, 6th, 7th) and guided them into the promotion play-offs. Results like their 3-3 draw against Rangers earlier this month, their 2-2 draw against Falkirk at the weekend, and their 2-1 victory over Hibs in March mean that they have the ability to cause problems in the Championship play-offs. In fact, you could argue that McKinnon’s work is what has made the battle for second place between Hibs and Falkirk so crucial for both those sides’ promotion hopes.
Gary Naysmith – East Fife
Naysmith’s work at East Fife has been a slow burner. Taking over when the club was relegated to League Two back in 2014, Naysmith has had to rebuild the club all the while attempting to return to League One. Last season will have been considered a job well done for Naysmith with a play-off spot confirmed with a fourth placed finish, only to lose in the semi-final 4-2 on aggregate after extra time against Stenhousemuir. This season was threatening to be Naysmith’s last with his job reportedly under threat around January when East Fife sat sixth. An upturn in form followed and after an unbeaten run that lasted until the weekend, they were crowned League Two champions. Considering the money being floated around by Barry Ferguson’s Clyde, and the pressure on Naysmith earlier in the season, that success is a huge achievement.