Placing my vote for the Nottingham Forest ‘Player of the Year’ award is traditionally one of my favourite pastimes. I’d usually lock myself away throughout the voting period, reviewing the footage from the season at hand and witling the squad down via a cruel process of elimination, before releasing white smoke from my chimney to indicate that a winner had been chosen.
Having received strongly worded letters from both neighbours and the local fire brigade, I decided to abandon tradition this year. Instead I will be unveiling my personal nomination in today’s ‘Red Revolution’.
Over the past couple of seasons it’s been particularly hard to pick a ‘Player of the Year’ for Forest, because there have been a plethora of worthy candidates. This season the process has been difficult for a completely different reason.
I’m sure our players would be the first to admit that things haven’t exactly gone to plan in the 2011/12 season … but I still genuinely feel there are a handful of players whose overall contribution deserves special praise.
After losing at home to Derby County, things appeared so bad that I thought I might be in with a chance of winning the award myself. I’ve only got a very small mantle piece and so it comes as a great relief to me that, since that day, five excellent candidates have come to the fore.
Before I reveal the five I feel ought to be considered for the award, it is worth mentioning that a few of the squad who have made exceptional contributions to the season have been reluctantly omitted from my thoughts, purely because they’ve only been available for half of the season.
Dexter Blackstock has been outstanding over the past few weeks, having returned from injury midway through the season. His tireless and intelligent efforts when leading the line have played no small part in our recent turnaround of fortunes.
Danny Higginbotham has proved to be a very shrewd January loan signing. He is a superb organiser with a wealth of experience, and we look a significantly better side with him in it.
Last but not least, Adlene Guedioura has been phenomenal since joining us on loan from Wolves. He’s like an Algerian Roy Race. I’d don a Derby shirt and ride a sheep bareback down the A52, if I thought it would convince him to sign a five-year deal with us.
These players have certainly been a major influence during the latter part of the season but my final five candidates have been selected because of their contributions throughout the entire campaign.
Chris Gunter has not only been Forest’s most dependable and consistent player throughout the season but has shown amazing spirit and endeavour in even the most hopeless of times. He’s as bombastic when thwarting wingers as he is when blitzing down the right flank. He’d be a very worthy winner.
Joel Lynch has had something of a breakthrough season. There was a moment in the season, as he nonchalantly glanced in the equaliser in the home tie against Ipswich, when Lynch looked a cast iron certainty for the award. He looked imperious on that day, throwing his body into challenges and arrowing forty-yard diagonal passes with pinpoint accuracy. He was like a modern day Robin Hood.
It’s been a landmark season for Lynch and I can’t wait to see him back at the heart of our defence next year. I guarantee he’ll get better and better.
Marcus Tudgay was deemed surplus to requirements by Steve McClaren and it’s testament to his ‘never say die’ attitude that he’s managed to fight his way back to prominence. It’s an attitude that is there for all to see on match days, as he relentlessly charges down defenders and leaps above people twice his size to win headers. Tudgay was particularly instrumental in Steve Cotterill’s opening few games but has scored some invaluable goals throughout the campaign.
It’s also been a remarkable season for Garath McCleary. His legendary four goal heroics at Elland Road have given him every chance of being Forest’s top scorer this season, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he picked up the ‘Player of the Year’ award aswell.
His frightening pace and bamboozling feet have always made him a player full-backs fear to play against, but this season it’s his emphatic finishes that have ascended him to Championship stardom. In addition to his oozing talent, it’s also evident that he’s worked incredibly hard at becoming a better player when not in possession. He’s a truly excellent candidate for this prestigious award.
Despite the fact that I would warmly and sincerely applaud any of the players I have already mentioned, were they to be presented with the ‘Player of the Year’ award, my own personal choice would be none of the above.
I’m plumping for a man who has consistently galvanised the City Ground with calculated strokes of his left boot, a man who has inspired those around him and left gaping onlookers awestruck, a man who has single-handedly brought us victory with his craft and ingenuity. I am, of course, talking about Andy Reid.
Reid, who has racked up the highest number of assists this season, has also proved to be a true leader of men on the pitch. The combination of his ravenous appetite for the ball and his wand-like left foot has re-ignited his love affair with Forest fans; he may be seven years older but I genuinely believe he’s come back better than ever, which is perhaps the highest compliment he can be paid.
Andy Reid has given me a reason to renew my season ticket next year and, in my view, his contribution deserves the highest acknowledgement.
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