Awards season is upon us
Hi, hope you are all well.
With just a handful of games left this season. We have reached the stage where individual players will be receiving recognition for their efforts over the 2008/09 campaign through the various Player of the Year awards.
The most notable of these are those from the polls conducted by the Professional Footballers' Association and Football Writers' Association, which will be announced on the 26 April and 28 May respectively.
In these opinionated times that we live in, with so many fans now expressing their views on radio phone ins and internet message boards, I am sure they will provoke plenty of comment - not least because of the amount of Premier League football we all watch on television. It will be interesting to see whether the players the fans would single out for the top gongs are any different.
The players who make the biggest impression on me are often the ones who are the most understated and who, in terms of their work on and off the ball, can easily be taken for granted by supporters. These are the men who can be relied upon to give a solid display every week, and do a lot of the leg work that is required for the more apparently exciting players to flourish. While these players may not get the public acclaim afforded to some, they certainly get it from their own team mates, not to mention their opponents.
I have lost track of the number of end of season dinners I have attended where the Players' Player of the Year award goes to a player in this mould. Past examples include Richard Shaw at Coventry City, Michael Nelson at Hartlepool United and Adam Tann at Notts County. None of them were headline grabbers but all were respected for the contributions they made to the team.
Which player would win your "unsung hero award" in the Premier League this season?
I'll confine my nominations to League Two and they are (drum roll, please): Barry Roche (Morecambe), Stephen Dawson (Bury) and Jack Lester (Chesterfield).
You could argue that my selection of goalkeeper Barry Roche is somewhat biased, given that he is on my journalism course. If anything, this made it harder for me to choose him because I have had to endure him telling me how good he has been on a weekly basis for the whole season!
But, as much as it pains me to say it, he has been nothing short of magnificent this season. This is his first season at Morecambe, following his surprise departure from Chesterfield, and according to their manager, Sammy McIlroy, he has been their most influential player.
Unfortunately for Barry, one of his claims to fame is a howler he made while playing for Nottingham Forest at the start of his career. He was trying to clear a routine back pass when the ball hit a plastic cup and bobbled into the net. The big man won't thank me for bringing that up - in fact he will probably beat me up! - but if he keeps up the form that he has shown this season, that embarrassing moment will surely be totally forgotten.
My next choice, Bury's Stephen Dawson, is once again not one of the better known players in League Two but if you were to ask any other midfielder in the league who has played against him, they would certainly be aware of Stephen's attributes as a player.
Having joined the club in the summer from Mansfield following their relegation into the Blue Square Premier he has slotted into the Bury midfield very well, forming a good understanding in that department with Brian Barry Murphy. Stephen is a player I have always liked and without being disrespectful to Bury, I thought a team from a higher division might have been keen to secure his signature when it became clear he would be leaving Mansfield.
For those who have not seen him play, he is an aggressive midfielder with a high level of fitness which enables him to be effective all over the pitch. Having played against him this season, I can vouch for the fact that he is the type of player who never lets you have time on the ball while at the same time repeatedly tests your own stamina levels with forward runs. In short he is exactly the kind of team mate that you want.
The final name on my shortlist is veteran Chesterfield striker Jack Lester who despite his advancing years is still far too good to be playing in League Two.
I have played against Jack many times over the years and having witnessed him play this season it is clear he is still as sharp as ever. Having never been blessed with what could be described as lightning pace, he has compensated for this with his football intelligence. His link-up play is second to none and he is a midfielder's dream in that you know that when the ball goes up to him, he is not going to surrender possession easily. In fact you can already be planning your next pass, safe in the knowledge that he will find you with the ball. That is quite a rarity in the lower leagues.
I remember speaking to our central defenders following our 1-0 defeat at home to Chesterfield back in January. They told me that it was particularly difficult to play against Jack because of the positions that he took up. Unlike a lot of strikers who specialise in either running the channels or holding the ball up, Jack is good at both. In these previous instances the defenders can set their stall for either type of player, but a player who can do both makes life a lot harder for them.
Needless to say, after the frustrations I have had this season, I am not expecting a nomination for a Player of the Year award - at least not one of the orthodox kind.
The only category in which I think I have excelled has been that of impressive substitute warm-ups!