Often Partisan

Players of the Season.

With the player of the season award poll now closed and the trophy ready to be presented to the winner tomorrow, I thought I’d share some thoughts on other players who I think are worthy of being presented with accolades this season.

As many have pointed out it’s been a mixed bag this season results wise and that lack of consistency has made it harder to pick one player out for his overall contribution. However, it’s been a good season for the younger pros and I think that there are some players deserving of plaudits away from the main prize.

Breakthrough Young Player of the Year

One thing that has impressed me this season is that there have been so many younger players who have come through the ranks and have made their league and/or first team debuts – players like Will Packwood, Mitch Hancox, Callum Reilly, Koby Arthur, Reece Hales and also not forgetting Jack Butland who despite having caps for GB and for England hadn’t made a senior Blues appearance until this season.

There are two real standout picks for a player who has come from the academy/reserve teams to really cement themselves in the first team in Hancox and Reilly. Reilly held his place in the middle of the park despite older, more senior pros being fit again with a string of decent performances whilst Hancox has gone from third choice at the start of the season to being continually chosen on the teamsheet – pushing out Ben Gordon completely and forcing Paul Robinson to play at centre-back. It’s difficult to pick between the two, who have been firm friends at the club since both came to Wast Hills aged 8 but I think Mitch Hancox just edges it based on how much he has improved and how much he is virtually an automatic pick now.

Development Squad Player of the Year

I’m lucky enough to have seen quite a few of the Development squad fixtures this season and I have to say, I’ve been impressed by some of the young players who are “bubbling under” the first team squad. Ryan Higgins, who was taken on non-contract forms after being released by Everton at the end of last season has consistently done well at right back or right midfield and I’m not surprised that Nick Townsend has done well enough to get himself a regular spot out on loan having seen some of his remarkable shot stopping first hand. I’ll confess I had no idea who Reece Hales was at the start of the season but his workrate and his skill have propelled him to a cameo in the FA Cup at 17 and a first pro contract at the end of this season.

I’m of the belief that playing competitive reserve fixtures has benefitted Blues greatly; it’s given the younger players something to play for in those games and with the added bonus of getting the chance to play at the first team stadiums for some games home and away it’ll have been an education for them in how the step up to first team action is likely to be. The limitation on older squad members in the Development Squad team has forced coaches to bring through younger talent which has also enabled their development and it’s my personal belief that it might force teams to drop the amount of older pros within their ranks – which could have interesting consequences on how the league works.

The one player who has impressed me most in these Development Squad games has been one who has had the most to gain – without a contract and potentially being forced out of the game, this player has given his all for the team and was given a first team squad number in the second half of the season. That player is Ryan Higgins.

Under 18 Player of the Season

I will confess this is a harder category for me; I’ve only seen two FA Youth Cup games this season and thus I have to base my thoughts on those and the u18s I have seen for the Development Squad and the first team. However, in saying that it seems obvious to me that the level of ability in the u18s team this year  has been a marked improvement on players of recent years; there is a much larger concentration on improving skill and technical ability in the young players and as a consequence we have some youngsters who are really good on the ball and who want to play the game the right way.

In the u18 FA Youth Cup games I was impressed by winger Demarai Gray, midfielder Reece Brown along with the previously mentioned Hales. Gray is everything you want in a winger – tricky, nippy and the kind of player who loves to get past his man and get the ball in the box. Brown was like a pocket dynamo; he might be a little on the small side but his range of passing is excellent and as a playmaker in the centre of the park he was the heartbeat of the side. Hales reminds me of Geoff Horsfield – a bustling, big striker who uses his strength and excellent work rate to batter defences into submission and I suspect the kind of player Blues fans will immediately take to.

Honourable mentions have to go to Liam Truslove, who has looked very useful in the u21 team when I’ve seen him in midfield; James Fry who looks to have the capabilities of a proper rugged centre-half and is the captain of the u18 side and young Irish left back Bobby Moseley who is continuing the fine production line of left backs in the side following Mitch Hancox and Amari’i Bell. However, I’m going to go with Reece Hales as I think his rise has been meteoric this year and his attitude and workrate are an inspiration to his team mates.

Clubman of the year

This is one of my favourite awards that the club give out – an award to a player who has been under-rated, who has given their all and has generally been there for the team all season without too much in the way of plaudits. There is an obvious candidate for this award this season – the only player I felt guilty about leaving out of the Player of the Season nominations. This player came into the team after a trial and started off with just monthly contracts yet has never given less than his all on the pitch in every game he’s been involved in – even when played out of position. Not only all that, but from what I’ve seen he’s a leader on the pitch and someone for the younger players to look up to; and from what I’ve seen a thoroughly nice guy off the pitch. This player is Paul Robinson and I have to salute him for his outstanding contribution to the team this year.

As mentioned previously I will be presenting the Often Partisan “Player of the Season” trophy to the winner tomorrow at Wast Hills, and I will hopefully have some pictures of the man in question receiving the trophy to share with you all.

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15 Responses to “Players of the Season.”

  • colin townsend says:

    Spot on with all the lads you have talked about reccce hales James fry and Ryan Higgins have all impressed me with there work rate this year , Mich hancox , over all , this kid would run though a brickwall if aasked too,and just to let you know nick loving it at oxford city , a hard working group of players… its looking to be a great place for him to learn his trade , playing 3 games in 7 days is hard going ,but what his learning is priceless ,and can only make him into a better player ,fair play to Lee Clarke and his staff who travel to the games to watch nick KRO

    • almajir says:

      I’m chuffed for Nick, it’s the kind of step up he’s needed and it will do him the world of good.

      Good to hear Clarky is watching him too, I had heard that he’d been to watch him once or twice.

      • Northern Exile says:

        As I mentioned after watching his debut, he’s gone straight into the team there and doesn’t look out of place at all. He dealt well with the added pressure of a home debut against his local team as well! Especially since that was the rowdiest Solihull crowd I’ve seen for a long while (albeit not going all that often for a few years now). I think the pace and physicality of that league will help his development a lot, too.

        It’s incredibly lucky (and exciting) that just as the club has fallen into trouble we have the handy situation of the investment in youth first beginning to pay off. I’m guessing Nick will take up the #2 role next season, and Hancox, Reilly, Arthur, a fit Packwood and others will be pushing to get into that first team. A massive cause for optimism and a good advert for the club to buyers, I reckon.

  • mark says:

    DAN our future from just your summary just shows blues fans where our future does lie. The club deserve the plaudits, manager, his staff, and staff right throughout the club…I have made comments before, and going to keep saying it. Blues fans needs to look at the bigger picture. These are exciting times to be a blues fan to see the rise of bluenose footballers who will run through brick walls for club. It time for the fans to bury the hacket now, begin to show their passion, their desire in getting behind, and supporting these lads. This could be protentially be biggest thing to happen to blues by some miles, each of blues fledging could possibly be gold nuggets. I cuffed to bits……..as ever love reading your Blogs mate…….

  • Paul Carter the visionary he says:

    Dan, have you got my Poster of The Season trophy ready?

    Can you present it to me on the pitch before the Blackburn game please.

    Cheers.

    • almajir says:

      You’re in for a disappointment Paul – due to work commitments, I won’t be at the Blackburn game.

  • Paul Carter the visionary he says:

    Only slightly annoying fact in your précis Dan is that there doesn’t appear to be any stand out forwards coming through.

    I’d really love to see one.

  • Paul Carter the visionary he says:

    I hadn’t realised he was a forward.

    I don’t know everything you know Dan.

    How I’d love a 20 goals season man to come through.

    Is he a Brummie Dan?

    • almajir says:

      Maybe not, Paul, but I’d expect you to realise when I compare someone to Geoff Horsfield I’m talking about a striker.

      Yes, he’s a Brummie. Most of the kids coming through are.

  • Paul Carter the visionary he says:

    It’s so fantastic the involvement and time that Lee is giving these kids. He seems to know when to blood em, how long to give em it’s fantastic. Is Lees own lad involved?

    Just been thinking about all the anti Clark posts we used to get. Cringeworthy lol.

  • Glyn rees says:

    If we had a blogger of the year then you would win hands down Almajir. A very big thank you to you , for all your hard work and long may it continue . You have given me hope for the future kro4ever

  • bluenoserob says:

    would be great to have a crop of brummie kids getting a go in the first team next year.Might be the only bright note in what might be another difficult year.

  • Bluehobba says:

    Great blog.

    It has been a horrible season for all Bluenoses and isn’t over yet. For the youngsters to come in and perform as they have done is quite remarkable and sets a good tone for the future of Blues. I would think that for Hancox to play alongside Davies and Robbo, the things he has picked up, similar players won’t get the chance to.
    If and when we do get new owners, I hope they take notice of the youth set up and would like to think if they are gonna “waste” a million quid somewhere along the line then “waste” it on the Youth as they are the future of our club and it will be money well spent.
    I’m sure we could do a lot worse than give Robbo a new contract to help nurture Hancox along.
    I we can beat Bristol Away on Tuesday then it would be good to get Reilly and others back in for the last 3 games.
    KRO


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