There have been seasons when the player of the season picks himself. Think of last season, when Luke Young was clearly head and shoulders above everyone else in a grim campaign.
This season is the exact opposite. It’s a reflection of the contrast with last season that there is a remarkably wide field of contenders for the trophy. In fact, of the 29 players we’ve used in the campaign, I can make a case for a staggering eleven of them!
In fact, I’m reluctant to leave it at that, as our three longest-serving players, Shaun Pearson, Mark Carrington and Paul Rutherford have all made massive contributions at key points of the season, while maintaining an impressive consistency of performance, but haven’t played enough games to be considered contenders.
Rob Lainton won the award two season ago, and his standards haven’t dropped, so he is clearly a contender. Unusually, he’s not the only keeper we should consider though.
Lainton’s injuries have meant Christian Dibble was called upon to stand in for nearly half the league campaign. Considering his experience last season, when a good start faded after a couple of costly errors, Dibble’s extended run in the side could have been problematic. Instead, he was a superb stand-in.
For the first time in our history, two of our goalkeepers have kept 8 or more clean sheets in a season. Keates might have a job on his hands to maintain such strength in depth between the posts.
Those clean sheets have come as a result of a solid defence as well as reliable goalkeeping, and plenty of defenders are in with a shout.
Since switching to playing wing-backs, Reece Hall-Johnson and Jamie Reckord have been essential to how we approach games. Hall-Johnson has impressed all season, scoring on his debut and offering a constant attacking threat. At first there were questions about his defending, but the switch to a wing-back system has certainly reduced any concerns.
Reckord started a little slower. Certainly, my recollections of his performances for Solihull meant I expected a little more of him. As the season has progressed, his value has become increasingly evident, and again, the switch to wing-backs has suited him.
In his case, it has simply given him greater license to go forward. The goal he scored against Dagenham encapsulated the value of using them to give us width, as Hall-Johnson’s cross found Reckord in the six-yard box.
At the back Fiacre Kelleher and Theo Vassell have proven to be excellent signings.
The big Irishman has been consistent, reliable and dominant, while watching Vassell regularly run down fast opponents has been one of the guilty pleasures of this season.
There are a trio of strong contenders in midfield. Luke Young, like last season, is consistently excellent, and has added a more regular goal threat to his game, hitting double figures for the first time.
Jay Harris, especially after the turn of the year, has rolled back the years and dominated midfield with his tireless endeavour.
Jordan Davies, now he has settled into a regular role supporting the strikers, has been a sublime addition to the side.
Kwame Thomas and Dior Angus round off the contenders. If Thomas hadn’t succumbed to his Achilles injury, he might have been the favourite for the trophy. Our top scorer, he has led the line in the grand manner, consistently getting the better of centre backs in the air, and making good use of his mobility to get into scoring positions.
You might argue that if Angus’ goals earns him the right to be considered, then Adi Yussuf ought to be a candidate, as he scored 6 goals in considerably fewer games. Quite apart from the manner of his departure, Yussuf’s goals tended not to be as important as Angus’. Four came against sides currently in the bottom three, and although he scored against high-flying Sutton, we were already 2-0 up when he struck.
In contrast, Angus has tended to score important goals against our play-off rivals. He took Bromley apart, scored an equaliser off the bench at Maidenhead, and got the key second goal to cement our fast start at Halifax.
Further to his goals, Angus’ pace has brought an extra threat to our attack. He was lacking match sharpness when he arrived, but nonetheless slotted straight in, and made an instant impact to our style of play. His arrival was tactically crucial to us, especially once Thomas broke down.
So who are you going to choose? Click the link and make your choice!