As you know I’ve been running down the six players I think are in with a shout of getting Player of the Year for the 2016/17 campaign. I’ve named five so far, and before I talk about who got my vote, I’d like to touch on two players that I haven’t mentioned as candidates.
There are reasons I don’t think they’ll win the award, but I didn’t want their contribution to not be mentioned on the blog. Everyone who has pulled on red and white this season has contributed, but outside of the other candidates these two had to be given a shout.
Farm’s has missed one game this season, and in that game we conceded two goals. He is undoubtedly one of the finest shot stoppers in the National League, and a contender for the National League team of the year. Whenever called upon he has been exemplary this season, and despite having such a good defence in front of him he has been called into action.
Last night was a perfect example of what he does. We’re 1-0 up with minutes remaining, and from nowhere Chester have a wicked strike on goal. Farms launches himself to his left to not only stop the shot, but gather the ball in as well. By holding onto the ball he creates another minute where we have safe possession, be in it his hands or high in the air looking for the forward players.
It isn’t just his shot stopping that has been an asset this season. He has provided a vital ‘out’ ball time and time again, moving towards the edge of his box to give a defender another option. I thought we’d get caught out using this tactic eventually, but so far he has always dealt with the balls back comfortably. He’s had some dodgy balls played back too, often it hasn’t just been a case of receive and deliver, but he has been forced to move quickly and clear accurately on the volley.
I don’t think Farms will win the award, and I know by typing this I’m risking a roasting from my other half. She asked me to fill in a voting slip last night on her behalf, and she has already demanded to know why I haven’t mentioned him in the five candidates. However, as a keeper in a top of the table team you do have to leave the headlines to the outfield players, and your role is more functional at times. Every successful team has a great keeper, but not every great keeper has a successful team in front of him. If he’s called into action more, he gets noticed. If the ten outfield players are average to poor at best, nobody else will stake a claim and the keeper finally gets recognition he deserves. Paul Farman has won it once, and that was in an average team where his heroics stood out.
Don’t let him not being mentioned in my top six fool you. Just because he wasn’t providing the killer crosses from the left, or the vital headers to score in the last minute of games, he was every bit the hero. When you win 1-0 against Eastleigh and your badly hurt defender scores a late winner, he’s going to get more plaudits. That is still the case even if, at 0-0 you pull of a couple of worldy saves to keep your team in it. I guess they’re the breaks you get in the sticks.
I know that won’t bother Farms one bit. I spoke to him once about City, and he made it clear one of his sole ambitions in life was to get Lincoln City to the Football League. He is as passionate as anyone in the stands, and he is a credit to the club he has served amicably over the last few years. His clean sheet count and his appearance count are testament to what this club means to him and vica versa. I say a legend in the making, and that will be rubber stamped in over the next three weeks.
After cleaning up last season it was always going to be tough to repeat the feat, and I don’t know if we’ll see Brad picking up any individual silverware this season. That said I could be left with egg on my face, because I may be under estimating the fans love for a player who gives everything he has to the club.
On the pitch Bradley has been excellent all season. He’s had to play in midfield as well as full back, and he’s had to fight to keep his place ahead of pressure from Sean Long. I think the fact he has moved around and he has missed a few games means that the other candidates have an edge on him though. He’s done everything he did last season, but he has stiff competition from all over the park. Last season the only player anyone thought might pick up an award was Rheady.
Here’s where I might be missing a trick. There are different types of fans and different ways to rate a player. I’ve worked on all round contribution, and what they individually bring to the collective. I’ve omitted Brad from the top six (he’d be seventh in line) because I think, on the whole, the other six have stood out a little more. That said many fans rate blood, guts, determination and most of all blood curdling tackling ability as key abilities of a potential Player of the Year.
Last season Brad didn’t win it because he had the best technique of the side, nor did he bring the biggest goal threat. Brad won it because he gave a shit about what he does when he steps onto the pitch, and he’s hard enough and passionate enough to be able to show it every week. Fans love that, and you never know they might just love it enough this season to forget the towering centre halves, the robust centre forward or the flying winger. Those players do their bit, but is anything they can produce half as satisfying as watching Bradley Wood pile into an opposing player with absolute ferocity, only to win the ball fairly and simply get up and walk away?
He isn’t all hard tackles and heart-on-sleeve desire either. Sometimes he is as effective as a forward player, not just with the occasional goal but from the flank or in the channels. His link up with Nathan Arnold against Dagenham was excellent, they overlapped each other beautifully. He knocks lovely little inside balls to, and can be as much a part of intricate build up play as he is in sweeping fast moves down the flank. In fact as I write this I’m beginning to wonder if I should have had a seventh candidate!
I think the other guys I’ve mentioned have had wonderful seasons, and Brad has as well. That is always going to be the case in a team that reaches the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup, the Semi-Finals of the FA Trophy and currently sit top of the National League with five games to go. Virtually every player has to have a good to great season, but there is only ever going to be one player able to be voted Player of the Year.
Brad is another player, like Farms, who is truly in love with this football club. He’s spoken of his desire to end his career here if he could, and he wants to bring success to us as much as anyone. When Imps fans queued in the cold he came down with a flask to give something back. When there was a fund-raising dinner where players were invited to join fans on their tables, he was the first to put up his hand. He has often told me he is a community player, someone who believes in getting out there and giving back to the club. He understands our club, he knows what is expected of everybody connected with it.
It is often hard to explain to a fancy winger that has just been booted into row Z by a force greater than a Jedi, that the guy who has just gone through him is actually a mild-mannered family man with a burning desire to do good in his local community. I’ve stopped trying to be honest, the nurses at the shattered limb and broken reputation clinics won’t let me in anymore anyway.
Photos by Graham Burrell