The various official player of the year awards are taken pretty seriously by Dons fans. Our final home game of the season, whether we have won something that year or not, are seen as a celebration of what is normally another year of achievement. The various player of the year awards are handed out on the pitch, usually an excuse to unpack the, erm, ‘inconsistent’ radio mic and play Guess Every Third Word as the gongs are handed out left, right and centre.
The Anonymous Don End Of Season Awards are rather less illustrious… there’s no on pitch presentation for a start, the winner doesn’t get their photograph taken with me with the trophy… in fact there is no trophy, and beyond this post the winner isn’t actually even formally informed of the decision. Plus, the official awards are voted on by the fanbase, the Anonymous Don Player of the Year is my personal opinion, which tends to devalue the whole experience for the winner somewhat…
Still, I’ll press on nonetheless. At this point it might be an idea to remind you who you voted for (or didn’t vote for… or perhaps didn’t even vote?) in the official awards. Seb Brown scooped the award voted by the Junior Dons, as well as the Young Player award, whereas Sam Hatton picked up the main award. But what if I was Supreme Overlord of all things AFC Wimbledon? If my vote was decisive, whose mantlepiece would be carrying a little extra weight as of this weekend?
Firstly, a few honourable mentions. Steven Gregory has been an England C regular all year, and has been the lynchpin that TB built his midfield around. It’s almost a shame that Gregory has been so consistent, and fortunately so injury free, that us Dons fans didn’t really get the opportunity to see what effect his absence would have had… aside from a couple of substitutions here and there, and of course Saturdays chance to see stand-in Ricky Wellard’s decent performance, albeit in a game that rarely went beyond jogging pace. Wellard himself deserves praise for his professionalism, heading off to Cambridge on loan and coming back a different player.
As first year professionals I’m sure Christian Jolley and Ryan Jackson didn’t expect to have as much game time as they have done, Jolley seeming most likely to force his way into POTY reckoning after a storming first half of the season, and getting into double-digits on the scoring charts.
Defensively, the Dons have been strong all season, despite injuries dictating a fair bit of juggling of the centre back partnership. Ismail Yakubu has been a real rock, the mid-season arrival of Jamie Stuart was an inspirational move, yet much of the credit must go to Fraser Franks and Ed Harris, young players who were outstanding when called upon, either of them could go on to have long careers in the Football League. Plus you have to wonder how close to winning the big one Brett Johnson would’ve come had he had a full season under his belt…
The Dons defensive meanness explains why, in my opinion, Seb Brown misses out on an award. Having said that, Seb has been the standout keeper in the division this season, his agility and shot stopping were beyond question before the season started, but I did expect us to have to put up with a mistake every so often – as part of the learning process. However, I was delighted to be proved wrong… Seb made just one obvious error, at Crawley, a game we were destined not to win anyway. Even if you are feeling harsh and consider that worthy of points dropped against his name, Seb has more than made up for it over the season, saving us countless more… perhaps his greatest moment being a wonderful full stretch save to tip a shot destined for the top corner to win the points at home to Kettering.
Pipping Seb for my Young Player of the Year award is Sam Hatton. There was a reason so many of you voted him your player of the year, Sam finished last season as a squad midfielder. He had enough promise in the position to probably go on and have a decent career in the Conference… yet Terry Brown decided at the start of the campaign to switch him to full-back. This proved to be a revelation… Hatton has always been a tough in the tackle, and picked a decent pass when given the time. As well as this he gets up to support attacks on the right in an almost Husseyesque manner… ok, he doesn’t have the lightning pace Hussey had, but he arguably has a more of an advanced footballing brain on him, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Dons don’t find themselves in the Football League next season that Hatton will. Either way, holding onto him could be a real struggle this summer.
And yet… I didn’t vote for Sam for the big one. While Sam has been outstanding, on the rare occasions he has been missing from the lineup we have coped well enough. In fact there is only one player in the squad I feel is indispensable, to the point we look a vastly weaker side without him. Step forward the Anonymous Don player of the year, Danny Kedwell.
Yeah, I know what a few of you are probably thinking… this isn’t exactly original thinking, AD. And its true, but my argument is the POTY award should go to just that… not the most improved player, not the guy with most potential, but the guy who turns it on here and now. Danny Kedwell is more than a forward who scores goals for us… much, much more.
He holds our forward line together, in fact as captain he occasionally seems to carry the entire team on his shoulders… the word ‘playmaker’ is normally used to describe a scheming midfielder, but I can think of no better piece of footballing terminology to describe him… many of his goals this season have some at the end of moves he has started himself. When he first came to the club I took one look at him and thought ‘here’s the target man we’ve been looking for’ but it almost seems derogatory to label him in such simple terms.
Lets face it, Danny Kedwell has been The Man for us this season, in my honest opinion it almost seems a slap in the face that he hasn’t won an award. Yet you get the impression he watched the presentations and saw the bigger picture… here were two young players, the future of the club, sharing out the awards, and the huge boost in confidence that comes with it. Danny is our captain, our leader, and if we find ourselves visiting Bradford or Southend next season we will owe it largely to him.