As the long season gradually begins to draw to a close, us fans must feel the unmitigated similarities to the previous one. Just over a year ago, an unmotivated blues side hosted a somewhat thrilling, yet depressing game to the 19,381 fans that witnessed a Kuszczak own goal within three minutes, and a 91st minute chip from Tom Ince to immediately cancel out the hopes of at least a point, salvaged by Che’s equaliser 20 minutes from time. A blues side, lead by Gianfranco Zola, sat 18th in the championship, just 6 points off safety on 46 points. At the time of writing, we now sit 20th, on 40 points, 3 off the relegation zone – we must now hope that Monk’s revolution isn’t destroyed by woeful officiating last week, in our 1-1 draw with Burton Albion. We all hope that we have played them, especially Lloyd Dyer, for the last time. Who do you think should be named our player of the season? A player who’s provided the blues faithful with glimmers of hope throughout the bleakness?
The first player who must be in with a shout, is Jonathan Grounds. The man who arrived from Oldham on a free at the start of the 14/15 season, signed by Lee Clark, has been largely criticised throughout his tenure at St. Andrews. Yet this season has been extremely consistent – playing 29 games for Blues, averaging a 6.9 rating on ‘whoscored.com’. Grounds has been a mere glimmer of hope throughout our tumultuous season. Until his recent injury he had made more appearances than anyone, following his early return to the side, he’s yet to make an appearance following the emergence of youngster Wes Harding. There are few players, especially the fourteen signings made by long-gone Harry Redknapp, who deserve to be our player of the season, yet when you’re being managed by tactically-inept Steve Cotterill -who is also long gone- do you expect the players to have the ability to play to their full potential?
Another contender for the award is Jacques Maghoma, the tricky, silky Congolese winger has made thirty-nine appearances in Royal Blue this season, chipping in with four goals and five assists. Stats that may not initially shock you, but for a team that’s scored only 31 goals in the championship this season, Maghoma is inevitably in the running, as his trickery down the left wing dazzles the fans, providing them with hope. It’s clear, similar with the majority of players now, he wants to do well for the club, and isn’t selfish when on the attack.
The third and final player is one of the three Brentford Boys signed during Redknapp’s raid late in the summer transfer window, full-back Maxime Colin. The Frenchman has been deployed on the right and left side of defence, when covering Ground’s injury later on in the season, emerging as a fan favourite who possesses flair when attacking, yet determination when defending. Chipping in with two goals and an assist in the championship this season, Maxime is a player who is most likely the favourite to win the award – what do you think? Compiling a list of players who deserve to be in the running for the player of the season, a season where we’ve only won 11 times so far, is much more difficult than I initially imagined, and in a season where we’ve only won 11 times, we must look at the ‘sorrows’ of the team, the players who much was expected of, but are yet to come good.
The first player who I believe has been a large disappointment this season is Jota, a player who unarguably has been incredible under Garry Monk, who has currently scored five and assisted three, it goes without saying that much more was expected from the Spaniard, who was signed for a record of around seven million pounds from Brentford. Jota was a player who Steve Cotterill thought wasn’t good enough to start in the first 11, and at one point was dropped out of the whole 18 – it’s inevitable that under Monk he’s began to prove his worth to the fans, his electric pace and skills on the ball will prove vital next season.
Another player who was inevitably going to feature in this section, was Cheikh N’doye, a player who, like most, has improved under Monk. Signed from Angers in France, captaining his side to a 1-0 loss against giants PSG. He’s gained undeserved hate throughout the season from fans, and sometimes it’s clear why he receives a barrage of abuse. Brought in as a large midfielder, who was expected to easily break down the oppositions attacks, it was clear that the only attacks he was breaking down was our own – attacks which came very rare under Steve.
I conclude this feature on a question: who do you think deserves player of the season, and who do you think has disappointed during the bleakness?
By Jack Blenkiron