It’s always the mark of a very good season when the Player of the Year vote comes around, and instead of going “well he wasn’t bad..and he hasn’t let us down”, you are spoilt for choice. During the early Conference years someone like Luke Young figured highly by being ‘the best of a bad bunch’ and the guy who would try everything to turn games in our favour. Cracking player Luke, but his years were often upset by dips in form and of course injuries. But this year we have several contenders, this year we have a number of players who could easily figure in the NL team of the year.
At the back Kyle Cameron was immense from October until his injury, and the same can be said for Ben Whitfield. Meanwhile Danny Wright was tremendous up until his Boxing Day knock, and his value got even higher as we struggled for goals in the New Year. On-loan players Sam Sherring and Adam Randell have arrived and exceeded all our expectations, bringing not only oodles of talents but brilliant professionalism and compose for ones so young. It’s especially been a pleasure seeing Adam develop as the season has gone on, improving by the game and helping to inspire some United victories almost singled handed. YPOTY? By the skin of his teeth over Sam!
Sure those lads have been great but there’s only two real contenders for Player of the Year I’d say and that’s (unsurprisingly) Connor Lemonheigh-Evans and Asa Hall. Let’s look at the players in different areas and see how they match up this season (with assistance from Torquay Stats):
GOALS – ASA HALL (13), CLE (10)
Any debate over top scorers at the start of the season would probably not have included Asa Hall, but here we are in May and the skipper has 13 goals – 3 more than his nearest rival Connor. This could have been more without a couple of missed penalties, but by any stretch of the imagination Asa’s goal tally is superb – with a crucial headed winner at Sutton a big moment in the title race. CLE should also be proud of his efforts in front of goal. His goals have often been crucial, including late winners at Halifax and Weymouth, both sublime in their own ways. With Danny falling foul to injuries our promotion bid has often hinged on midfielders bagging the goals, and boy they have stepped up to the mark.
ASSISTS – ASA HALL (6), CLE (13)
Due to the nature of his role in the team and the creativity in his play, CLE is always likely to have more assists than Asa Hall. His interplay and movement has been a joy to watch, with the game at Stockport showcasing all his ability as he outfoxed a defender to win a penalty and then fed Jake Andrews with a killer pass in the build up to the 2nd. He sits joint first overall with Ben Whitfield on assists, which illustrates just how busy the winger was prior to injury. Asa Hall’s attacking forays have actually surprised me this year. The skipper has always been dangerous on set pieces, but he’s also been encouraged to get forward by Gary Johnson in open play and cause havoc in the box.
MINUTES – ASA HALL (2936), CLE (3592)
Connor has been a constant presence in the team this year, and has maintained a remarkable work rate over that time – a testament to his fitness and conditioning that has improved every year since becoming a Gull. At 34 it was a concern for me whether Asa Hall could play enough games this season. With the Saturday/Tuesday doubles coming thick and fast, could the skipper still be a big influence? Those concerns have been well and truly trodden on. Tiredness has crept in occasionally, especially as the winter months kicked in – but overall a fantastic effort from him.
TT MAN OF THE MATCH – ASA HALL (6), CLE (7)
The MOTM awards have been dished out to most of the squad as the season has gone on (Rob Street missing out mind!), but the two midfielders have garnered most votes. In tight games especially, the leadership and drive from both men has shone through. Team mates look to these two for inspiration and they have delivered again and again. Both should be shoe-ins for the National League team of the year when the end of season awards are dished out, otherwise I’m demanding a recount.
CONCLUSION – HALL OR CLE
It’s not often two players have such brilliant seasons and make this choice so hard! Asa Hall has defied his age to be fantastic in that midfield – doing his usual job of breaking up attacks, tracking opponents, winning headers (etc etc!), but also becoming a pest for opposition defences. A proper example for the young players to follow and someone who deserves to pick up a trophy at the end of the season. However saying that, Connor pips Asa for the POTY award for me. When the Lemon is on song and finding pockets to play in, the team have prospered. I love seeing him roam behind the strikers, thread intricate passes and score goals, but he also has the hunger and desire to close down defenders and make his own luck without the ball. It’s a pleasure to watch him play and if anyone is ready for league football it is him.
Two top chaps and two key men as we strive to reach the Football League. With these players on form the play-offs hold absolutely no fear.