Chelsea chief Claudio Ranieri today presented Plymouth Argyle boss Paul Sturrock with his award for topping the table in the Second Quarter of the Tissot Managers Performance League.
The Pilgrims performed superbly during the second quarter of the new league, which pits managers from every division against one another, enabling Sturrock to beat the likes of Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson to the prestigious prize.
As the winner of the previous quarter Ranieri bestowed the honour, in the form of a specially engraved Tissot Managers Performance League clock, on the Argyle boss, who also picked up December's Manager of the Month award for Division Two at the turn of the year.
Plymouth scored an incredible 33 goals in their 14 games in all competitions during the second quarter from October 14 to January 2 as they won ten, drew two and lost just two matches.
www.leaguemanagers.com/tissotmpl/2003-2004/2ndquarter.htmlClick here for the final table from the Second Quarter of the Tissot League
Sturrock's side now have a four point lead at the top of the Second Division, and the Scot has made an excellent start to the Third Quarter after watching Argyle record an impressive 7-0 league victory over Chesterfield last weekend.
Speaking exclusively to leaguemanagers.com about winning the Tissot League award, Sturrock - now level with Ranieri in joint-third place in the overall Tissot Top Twenty table - said: "Well it's a great honour to be at the top of this table, for me, for my team and for the Nationwide, I'm very pleased for them as well because it's difficult for managers in the Nationwide when you've got Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal doing so well; it's very surprising to be in amongst it so I'm very happy and very honoured."
As for the merit of the new league, which easily enables managers from the lower divisions to measure their own achievements against the big guns in the Barclaycard Premiership, the Plymouth boss added: "I think it puts Plymouth Argyle in the papers. We're so off the pace media-wise normally because of the distance and the geography of the place but it's nice to have Plymouth thought of in the papers.
"It might be my name at the top of the table but it's more than that, it's an award for Plymouth Argyle because there's so much hard work that goes on behind the scenes. So I think that it brings some recognition and gives some pride to the staff and the players for what they've achieved and what they're working so hard to maintain at this football club."
One of the men who many of the managers will have been comparing themselves against is Chelsea's Italian boss, who is now level-pegging with Sturrock, just behind Premiership rivals Wenger and Ferguson in the cumulative table. Interestingly, Ranieri had more money to spend in the summer than almost all of the Nationwide League bosses put together!
www.leaguemanagers.com/tissotmplClick here to see the full ongoing Tissot League Top Twenty table
Paul Sturrock spent nothing in the transfer market in the close-season, relying on loan deals and free signings, but he has admiration for the way in which the man who awarded him his well-earned Tissot League clock has conducted himself.
"Well, he's done a difficult job because if you listen to the media there's people breathing down his neck all the time, and also the amount of money he's had I'm not so sure that all the players who have come have been his choice, to be fair. But it's always very, very difficult for a manager who has so much money to spend to spend it right and to get a team playing together and so far it looks as though he's done very, very well."
No team has done as well as his own though at least not in the last three months and despite Plymouth's seven-goal success on Saturday, Sturrock insists he will not become complacent.
"Well I'm worried as far as the next game is concerned because I remember when we played Peterborough and won 6-1 (in March 2003) then we went to Chesterfield and lost 3-2," he told us.
"So the players appreciate that and we've got a very difficult game coming up against Grimsby and we must take each game - the old clichι - as it comes. The nature of football sometimes is that it's hit and miss and you have to be aware that at any time you can come unstuck."
LMA chief executive John Barnwell declared his delight at Sturrock's success in the Tissot Managers Performance League, which he believes has underlined exactly what he had hoped when the concept was conceived.
"Well the original idea was to highlight managers from all divisions in competition against each other and to give the exposure to some of the managers in the Nationwide League who have done exceptionally well, and that is exactly what this has done.
www.leaguemanagers.com/tissotmpl/explained.htmlClick here for further details on the Tissot League
"This Second Quarter, which has been won by Paul Sturrock of Plymouth who has done exceptionally well throughout the whole season so far but specifically in this last quarter is brilliant.
"We've got people in there like Gary Johnson of Yeovil of course he's had all the exposure recently with the cup run he's done extremely well in their first year in the league, as has Dave Penney at Doncaster who is well up there in the Tissot Top Twenty, and Keith Curle at Mansfield and Ian Atkins at Oxford.
"So they are getting the exposure, across the country rather than just locally, and we're delighted that it has highlighted the ability in the Nationwide League - particularly of Paul Sturrock, so congratulations to him."
Claudio Ranieri who won the first quarter of the Tissot League after Chelsea's excellent start to the season, said he was delighted to be handing over his mantle to the Plymouth boss.
He told us: "Oh, I think it's very good. All the managers participate for this award and after I won it, Paul Sturrock takes the award this time. I think it is very important for the Second Division and for Plymouth to have won this award and it is a great honour for him and for the team."