Martyn Fotheringham admits he cannot believe his Montrose boss Stewart Petrie is not in the running for manager of the year accolades after overseeing a phenomenal Leicester-like fairytale at Links Park.
The Gable Endies were crowned Ladbrokes League 2 champions on a dramatic “Helicopter Saturday” watched by nearly 2,400 fans.
The Angus club knew that a point against Elgin would see them clinch the title no matter what their long-time challengers Peterhead did in their game with Edinburgh City.
They were hoping for an early goal to settle the nerves but opposition keeper Iain Ross did well to save a Lewis Milne free-kick in the 23rd minute and also made a stunning stop to deny Terry Masson.
Then, right on the stroke of half-time, Montrose were dealt a hammer blow when Shane Sutherland hit the back of the home net with a sweetly-struck free-kick.
Petrie’s words of wisdom during the break had the desired effect with his players taking the game by the scruff of the neck in the second 45 with skipper Jamie Redman netting what turned out to be the crucial equaliser in the 50th minute, rifling home from six yards, to the absolute delight and relief of the home support.
The Angus side had further chances to put the game to bed but they comfortably saw out the remainder of the match with the home fans streaming onto the pitch in celebration as the final whistle sounded.
The players then came back out later to receive their medals and the trophy – only the second time in the club’s 139-year history that Montrose have been won a league title, the first one coming back in 1984/85.
Saturday’s triumph put the seal on what has been a remarkable turnaround in fortunes since Petrie took over just 16 months ago with the club rock bottom of the table.
And Fotheringham insists “SP” deserves more recognition for what he has achieved.
The 35-year-old midfielder said: “I’ve had 18 years as a player and this is the first medal I’ve ever won so I’m incredibly proud right now.
“We deserve it. We have been up at the top for the majority of the season and have held our nerve to win the title.
“We kept hearing in the last six weeks that we had the hardest run-in but look at how well we did.
“Everyone single one of our players deserves to have a winner’s medal round their neck right now for the work they have put in – not only today – but over the season.
“At half-time I actually said to (assistant boss) Ross Campbell that in some ways their goal is a good thing because it will give us a shake.
“You saw how we responded in the second half. We came out with the bit between our teeth.”
Fotheringham added: “It’s great for the manager and I don’t really think he has had the praise he deserves for everything he has done for this club.
“I find it incredible that he isn’t even mentioned as a contender for manager of the year.
“I know that maybe we are down in the bottom league and it isn’t as fashionable as some of the bigger leagues but the job he has done here is incredible.
“His record with Montrose is phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal.
“What he has done to this club is bordering on a Leicester City story if I’m honest. We could have been in the Highland League right now but – from nowhere – we have come back and won the League 2 title.
“We have one of the smallest budgets in the league and no-one gave us a chance but we’re now champions.”
Fotheringham admitted that the medal around his neck meant so much to him after previous last-day heartbreaks.
He added: “I’ve had three promotions and I’ve lost two Helicopter Saturdays so you can imagine how special this feels to me right now.
“I was at Forfar last year when we lost the title to Arbroath on the final day and was also there a few years ago when we lost it to Morton on Helicopter Saturday.
“So, this is the best moment of my career and it will be a good night ahead for all of us!”