With the season now officially over and supporters starting to look desperately towards other sports for entertainment now seems as good a time as any to cling on to football with the announcement of our Readers’ Player of the Year. Having elected to open up the poll to you, the intelligent, reasoned folk which constitute our readership – yes both of you – we were pleased to receive well over 100 votes over the course of last week. And so, allow me to peel open this special manilla envelope lifted from the work stationary cupboard and tell you that the winner of the 2010-11 Viva Rovers Readers’ Player of the Year is…
…He’s my friend, he’s your friend, he’s GEORGE FRIEND!
Congratulations indeed to George Friend, winner of our Readers’ Player of the Year with a whopping 28% of the total votes. Its been a remarkable season for Friend who began as a left-back and, despite a point-clinching injury-time goal at Watford, struggled to convince supporters he was a suitable replacement for the much favoured Gareth Roberts. Indeed, during the FA Cup replay at Wolves as Friend showed as much technical worth against his former club as the rest of the Rovers side in a dismal 5-0 defeat we ourselves tweeted “somewhere under [Molineux] the real George Friend, is bound and gagged in a broom cupboard”.
Yet, as Rovers injury crisis deepened and Friend became one of the few players available to Sean O’Driscoll with four working limbs he was deployed at centre-back in a makeshift defence. He proved to be anything but makeshift and brought a calm reassuring presence to the tissue-paper like resistance which was masquerading as the club’s defence. A succession of supporters’ Man of the Match awards toward the end of the season highlight the remarkable improvement in his form aided by a consistent run in the side, and have also done much to boost his popularity. Factors both acknowledged in the voting for this award. Congratulations to George, who Viva Rovers will now try to accost at a pre-season fixture and thrust an award upon him accordingly.
Second place in our poll was Jamie Coppinger. The club’s longest-serving player polling 24% of the vote in recognition of arguably his best season for the club yet. Seven goals and a constant threat to opposition sides throughout, he continues to edge himself into the list of all-time great Rovers players.
In third place we had a tie with two players both picking up 16% of your votes; Billy Sharp and Mustapha Dumbuya. Despite missing several months of the season through injury Sharp still managed to score 15 goals and finish as the club’s top-scorer to merit the record transfer fee paid out in the summer; indeed the lack of a cutting edge in front of goal in Sharp’s absence was particularly noteworthy. Dumbuya came on leaps and bounds in pre-season and duly made a real impact on the side in the regular season, making the full-back position his own before his and Rovers’ progression was cut short by injury. A hugely popular player, despite his taste in footwear, his off the field presence is as notable as his on-pitch worth.
To run through the other vote recipients; James O’Connor came fifth with 5%. Sixth place was James Hayter with 4%, just ahead of midfielder John Oster who received 3% of the vote. Captain Brian Stock picked up 2% of votes from our readers whilst ninth place was shared by Shelton Martis, Gary Woods and Simon Gillett who all polled 1% of your nominations. Thank you to all who voted.