After an excellent start to 2017, Annan Athletic have been rewarded with two awards.
On the back of four successive wins for the Black and Golds, Jim Chapman and Cumbrian Gavin Skelton were named Scottish League Two’s manager and player of the month respectively for February.
Many managers have then fallen victim to the so-called manager of the month “curse”, struggling to replicate their form in the following games after winning the award.
But Chapman’s Annan kept up their winning run as David McKenna converted a penalty to score the only goal of the game in their win over Elgin City. But Athletic were beaten by Stirling Albion on Saturday and denied a sixth straight win.
Annan’s upturn in form since the turn of the year has coincided with the arrival of Skelton, who made his debut on New Year’s Eve in a victory over Clyde, after a wait for international clearance because he briefly turned out for Appleby AFC.
But Skelton feels the whole team deserve credit for the run.
On the award, he says: “I was surprised, to be honest.
“I was surprised but it is nice for the club to get recognition. I think it is more a reflection on the group. Obviously, we have been on a good run and it could have been any of the 14 that have been playing regularly.
“That is not just playing it down. It has been a team effort and it has been through our work ethic, to be honest.”
The winners of the awards are voted for by members of the Scottish media and the double success for Annan shows those right across the country have taken notice of the run they have been on since early this year.
“It is nice for the club and it is good for the manager and [assistant manager] John Joyce because they have been great with me since I came in,” Skelton says.
“It is good that we won the awards and we didn’t get hit straight away – we still managed to win against Elgin – so hopefully that will continue.
“We are on a good run but it is important that we keep doing what we are doing – nothing changes. We are desperate to get in the play-offs and, if we can get in the play-offs, who knows?”
Chapman has been quick to praise his assistant Joyce throughout the season and Skelton feels the award is recognition for the pair, not just the boss.
On Chapman’s award, he says: “Sometimes him and Joyce go unrecognised as a pair.
“They work hard and they are doing a good job. It is nice for them to get recognised as a pair because they do work well together.
“And I can only say, since I came in, they have both been great with me. It is nice to have a good relationship with them.
“I knew them before I came in but not as well as I do now. I’m enjoying working with them, and the players have been great with me.”
Skelton knows more than most players about working in management, having started the season as Queen of the South boss and previously having been in charge at Workington Reds.
And the midfielder says it has been “difficult” making the transition from managing back to playing again but feels the Annan players have made it a lot easier for him than it could have been.
He adds: “It is difficult going from a coaching role to mainly being a player again back in the dressing room. But that hasn’t been a problem at all.
“You don’t know how you will adapt but it has been fine being back in the dressing room, playing and having a laugh.”
Chapman has been involved in football management for over 15 years, having previously been in charge of Kilmarnock Ladies, Albion Rovers and Dumbarton, and has managed Annan since 2013.
Since he left Queen of the South last November, Skelton has stated a desire to remain involved in football when he retires
And he says: “You learn all the time. I’m quite old in terms of playing but quite young in terms of coaching.
“So, in the future, I’ll be keen when I hang up my boots. I want to be coaching but who knows what role it is? I might manage but it might be coaching younger players, assistant manager, scouting – who knows?
“I’m open to anything. I don’t pigeon-hole myself because, at 35, I think you are naïve to do so.
“I have learned a lot and reflected over the last couple of months.
“At the moment, my focus is getting Annan in the play-offs.”
Despite the personal award, Skelton would swap it for a play-off winners’ medal come the end of the season.
He says: “I have been lucky enough to have won a couple of promotions. There is nothing like it.
“That is a long way off but the fire is still burning to do well. Without a doubt, once you have had a taste for it and you have that bit between your teeth, there is nothing like a winning team.”