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Friday, 8 February, 2002, 14:39 GMT
Strachan scoops award
Gordon Strachan poses with his manager of the month award
Gordon Strachan poses with his manager-of-the-month award
Southampton boss Gordon Strachan has been rewarded for hauling his side away from the relegation zone by being named Barclaycard's manager of the month for January.

And Ipswich striker Marcus Bent has received the player of the month award for performing a similar feat.

Bent scored five goals in January as George Burley's men clawed their way out of trouble, with five points now between them and third-bottom Bolton.

I am convinced this team will improve
Southampton boss Gordon Strachan

Strachan has guided the Saints, 17th at the turn of the year, away from the bottom three, beating Chelsea and Liverpool along the way.

Strachan said: "It's nice to win this award - especially after the month we had.

"I can't remember a group of fixtures as hard as this, even when I was playing. We thought we were playing in the Champions League!

"We won at Chelsea and deserved to beat Liverpool at home. We were fortunate to get a draw at Anfieldup there when our attitude kept us in it - but we could even have sneaked a win.

"This award says the club and the players are doing okay but doesn't mean everything is rosy all the time.

"It's an indication to the players that if they keep doing things right life becomes easier and more enjoyable.

"Managers always think their team is going to get better - and I am convinced this team will improve."

Marcus Bent with his player of the month award

The Barclaycard awards panel - which includes representatives from football's governing bodies, the media and fans - added: "Managing Southampton could hardly be described as an easy job.

"But Strachan has started his career there with some aplomb.

"He has now got Southampton playing great football, beating opposition like Liverpool - and more importantly moving closer towards the mid-table comfort zone."

The group also praised 23-year-old Bent, saying: "His goalscoring form has proved the 3m fee for Bent from Blackburn is money very well spent.

"It's no coincidence that Ipswich's change in form has followed him signing for them. His speed, pace and eye for goal have tormented some of the Premiership's best defences."

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