Dec 21 2011 by Colin Paterson, Airdrie & Coatbridge
RED-HOT Ryan Donnelly says the influence of his father has turned him into a goal machine.
The Airdrie striker has been a revelation this season, bagging 22 goals in 22 games.
In-form Donnelly struck six times during November – a record that was enough to see him named SFL Irn-Bru Young Player of the Month.
And the 20-year-old was quick to acknowledge the part played by dad James in his rise to stardom.
“My mum, Caroline, and dad have been coming along to watch my games since I was a wee boy,” Donnelly told Advertiser Sport.
“They are both proud of what I’ve managed to achieve so far and it’s nice to repay the faith they had in me.
“My dad ran Rochsoles Boys Club, which is where I started out. When I was 7, I was playing for the under-9s.
“He knows a fair bit about the game and he was always on my back. He never treated me differently from the other players.
“He was working on Saturday but came in at half-time for the Brechin game and saw me score two goals.
“Dad has always been there for me and told me to keep working hard as I would get my chance.”
Donnelly’s career might have taken a very different path had it not been for the intervention of Diamonds manager Jimmy Boyle.
At the end of the 2009-10 season, then boss Kenny Black told the youngster that he wouldn’t be offered a new contract.
Within days, the 48-year-old was sacked and Boyle was put in temporary charge at New Broomfield.
Donnelly returned and was determined to grasp the first-team opportunity denied to him – and many other kids at the club – by the previous manager.
“It was disappointing to be told that I wasn’t going to get a new contract,” Donnelly recalled.
“I didn’t feel that I’d been given a fair chance in the team.
“There were times when I used holidays and half-days at work to go and play closed-door games against the likes of Rangers.
“But even then I was only getting 20 minutes here and there, so it was hard to make an impression.
“It hadn’t even sunk in that I’d been released when the gaffer phoned and asked me to come back.”
Interest has been registered from other clubs in the Diamonds marksman but Donnelly is keeping his feet on the ground.
“The gaffer has said there have been enquiries,” he said. “But I’m focusing on keeping this run of form going.
“There is no point in letting things get to me. I’m happy at Airdrie and happy playing every week.
“I know how soul-destroying it is not to play games and I don’t really want to experience that again.”
Donnelly revealed the young player of the month gong came as a surprise – as he didn’t realise the prize existed.
He commented: “I’m delighted to receive this award and it does mean a lot to me.
“I had forgotten that there was a young player of the month award until I was told that I’d won it.
“It’s especially pleasing because it’s across the whole of the SFL.”
Donnelly is close to breaking United’s single-season scoring record, currently held by Allan Russell.
Should he notch up another five, he will surpass the 26 netted by Russell during the 2007-08 campaign.
“If someone had told me that I would started every game to this point I never would have believed them,” he added.
“That is an achievement in itself but it’s quite scary to think of the number of goals I’ve scored as well.”