Bruce picks up January gong
Aston Villa head coach Steve Bruce has been named the Sky Bet Championship Manager of the Month for January.
Never one to worry about the doubters, Bruce’s tactical nous and organisational skills helped Villa land a maximum 12-point haul from four games and move up to third in the Championship, conceding just a single goal in the process.
Aston Villa assistant manager Colin Calderwood, who picked up the award on Bruce’s behalf, said: “We’ve had some tough games in Bristol City and Sheffield United, teams in around us, and the importance of those games brought us to a new level of performance.
“We had difficult moments in those two games especially but we ended up coming out with positive results and I think it’s that type of thing that helps get runs going. Our performance level has been good but the quality of our goals has been excellent.
“This is as talented a group as any, certainly going forward, but it’s the togetherness of the dressing room which is a telling factor and that’s something that has been fundamental in a lot of the successful clubs throughout the country.
“The dressing room has been good and been noisy, with the right level of concentration and fun within it and when you’ve got that it’s a great platform. Behind the scenes that’s one of the biggest things I’ve noticed as a coach or a manager.”
George Burley chairs the Sky Bet Manager of the Month judging panel.
He said: “Steve Bruce is using all of his considerable skills to breathe new life and vigour into Aston Villa, who are really in the mix for automatic promotion.
“Excellent wins against fellow promotion contenders Bristol City and Sheffield United made January a month to remember for Villa fans.”
Sky Sports’ EFL pundit Don Goodman said: “Steve Bruce’s first full season at the helm at Villa Park has been far from plain sailing with ups and downs along the way and even discontent in some quarters.
“But in January, Steve let the results speak for themselves and Villa were a fearsome force, winning all their games and charging into automatic promotion contention. He has a proven track record at this level and it would be foolish to doubt his promotion credentials.
Gills boss Lovell lands League One prize
Gillingham manager Steve Lovell has been named the Sky Bet League One Manager of the Month for January.
Gillingham were 23rd when Lovell took charge in October. A maximum 12 points from 12 in January, which included comeback wins against Rochdale and Fleetwood and victories at high-flying Charlton and Scunthorpe, lifted Gills up to 10th.
Lovell said: “We didn’t have the best start to the season, and work had to be done but we just managed to get the players working hard together as a unit and fortunately enough it turned and we’ve had a decent run since then.
“It’s hard to put a finger on what has been behind the turnaround, it’s just playing players in positions where they could be the best for the team and for the football club and getting a mutual respect with them.
“They’re a really good bunch of players, they’ve worked hard and they are still doing that now.”
Sky Sports’ EFL pundit Don Goodman said: “After a very difficult start to the season I feared for Gillingham, but by turning to one of their own when Peter Taylor left the club, they’ve pulled themselves out of a tricky spot and are now thriving in League One.
“It was clear from day one that Steve had a clear idea of how he saw the team shaping up and time has proved him to be spot on; he’s getting the best out of the whole squad.”
Ainsworth wins award for Wycombe efforts
Wycombe Wanderers manager Gareth Ainsworth has been named the Sky Bet League Two Manager of the Month for January.
There were four games, four victories and 11 goals in January, including a thrilling 3-2 win at leaders Luton, as Wycombe rose to second in the table. Ainsworth had to dabble in the loan market to combat a lengthy injury list among his squad.
Ainsworth said: “This award is for the boys really. The manager picks the team and they go out there, but once they cross that white line; they do the job, so I’m really proud of the boys, we’re on a good run at the moment and I couldn’t do it without them.
“I think being the player that I was, a forward player, an attacking winger, I try to manage as I played, no holds barred attacking formations, getting at teams.
“We sacrifice the odd goal at the back for that, but scoring goals is what people want to see, it’s the way to win games and we addressed that a couple of years ago and I’m glad to say it’s been paying off in droves for the last two seasons.”
The Sky Bet Manager of the Month judging panel comprises former Ipswich Town manager George Burley, Sky Sports’ EFL expert Don Goodman; EFL Marketing Director Drew Barrand, League Managers’ Association Director Olaf Dixon and Sky Bet EFL trader Mikey Mumford