I said the Player of the Year would come from five or six players, the ‘or six’ that I refer to is Sam Habergham. My initial list was five players long, but on reflection I thought it would be wrong not to at least consider Sam.
He’s the Steady Seven left back that just gets his head down and gets on with the job. Is there enough in that for the top award? Is just being average every week enough to eventually win you the Player of the Year?
Firstly to say he is just average, just a ‘seven’ every week is grossly unfair to Sam. I think it took him a short while to settle in the side, but as the season has worn on he has become a rock on which we can always depend. Whilst other first team players have been rested and had time away from the pitch to recuperate, quite often Sam has not. We’ve lacked cover at left back all season and as such he’s had to play on through every knock and niggle that he’s had. When virtually every player got rested away at Gateshead in the FA Trophy, Sam played.
In fact he’s only missed three games all season, the disastrous first leg of the Trophy semi-final, the Trophy game at Welling and the trip to Barrow. He’s missed three games, and yet he’s missed 20% of the games we’ve lost. That speaks volumes about his steady, calming influence. When he got injured in the warm up against Barrow he was replaced by Sean Long, and we suffered our heaviest league defeat of the season. Granted the right-footed Long looked a little lost at left back, but not having steady Sam there was detrimental to what we wanted to achieve.
He’s had many different wingers ahead of him, but he’s managed to work a partnership with each one. He effortlessly overlaps his advanced team mate, and we’ve seen him whip in some wicked crosses as well, none more deadly than the cross-cum-shot that gave us our only goal of the Sutton game. Crucially his dead ball delivery has been good as well, when we do waste a corner it is rarely because of a poor delivery. One of our main threats is from set pieces, and to be effective from those you have to feature someone that can deliver a set piece. He may not quite have the left foot of Sean Newton, but in every other aspect of his game he is better, and for me Newton is the best left back we’ve had in ten years. Until now.
Is he the stand out player of the season? Will his consistent performance be enough for him to win Player of the Season when so many others have produced moments that will live forever in the memory? My gut reaction is probably not, but don’t be surprised if his reliability and set piece delivery doesn’t sneak him in for the away player, or whatever the third award was the Brad won last season.
The next little segment is going to be tough, because although Sam does so much for the team on every occasion he plays, can we really pick out three stand out moments?
The trip to Gateshead in the FA Trophy was certainly a tricky tie. Most of the first team were rested, Sam being of of the only regular players to start the game. The worry was he might be suffering from fatigue, the games were coming thick and fast and he’d be forgiven for maybe dropping down a gear for 90 minutes. Of course he didn’t, no player of Danny Cowley’s would, but Sam was excellent as we beat a full-strength Heed 3-1. He got himself on the score sheet with a driven daisy-cutter of a free kick, importantly drawing us level after they’d taken the lead. It was a vital goal from an unlikely source, and it was just rewards for his excellent performance.
Every player was superb against Burnley, and if this was a run down of every single player then I’d probably mention this game a thousand times. I’m bringing it up with regards to Sam for two reasons. Firstly as a defender he had to be resolute, but as an attacking full back it took a great amount of stamina and application to play his normal game against a side five divisions higher. To go to a Premiership team and play 4-4-2 took managerial balls, to make it work took immense concentration from the players, and on the day Sam was immense, as were his team mates. It was also a game that epitomised his set piece delivery, firstly whipping a corner over that caused enough trouble to force a second, and then whipping one onto Luke Waterfall’s head moments before Sean Raggett stole the headlines.
Forest Green (H)
It’s another goal, his third of the season and the second one I’m picking out as a key moment. It wasn’t just his goal though, once again he was excellent all afternoon. We’d fought back from 1-0 down to make it 1-1, and that’s when he stepped up to be counted. Firstly he cleverly overlapped Terry Hawkridge who slipped a lovely reverse ball for Sam to stride on to. As we’ve seen so often this season he burst into the box and fired a beautiful cross into the danger area. It wasn’t a Lincoln head that got there, but it was quick enough and at the right height to cause issues, and Martin Kelly nodded into his own net. 2-1, and we were back in control. The game was put beyond doubt by another Habergham free kick, and almost carbon copy of his strike away at Gateshead. From being 1-0 down we’d found the courage to go 3-1 up, and Sam Habergham had played a crucial role in that. Steady seven? More like starts at seven, and gets better from there.
That leaves just one more player to put forward as my candidate for Player of the Year. I’ll be doing that tomorrow, along with a look at some of the other players who can count themselves unlucky not to make the nominations. The truth is we’ve had such a wonderful season that it will be a tough call to give a single award to any one player.