For the last few weeks most football fans when debating Player of the Year have been speaking about Gareth Bale, Robin van Persie and Luis Suarez; this Sunday though the Football League will take centre stage with its annual awards. One of the main awards is the Championship Player of the Year, and this week the three nominees were announced.
The first nominee is Crystal Palace striker Glenn Murray. Along with Wilfried Zaha, Murray has provided the firepower for Palace’s promotion challenge. Having signed from rivals Brighton in 2011 Murray’s first season at Selhurst Park was disappointing with just seven goals in 44 games.
This season though he has come alive with 30 goals in 36 appearances. Murray is good in the air, has great hold-up play and terrific strength. He has a very similar style of play to Rickie Lambert and Grant Holt, who have both thrived at Premier League level and it was rumoured that Roy Hodgson watched Murray along with Zaha in Crystal Palace’s game with Bristol City earlier this season.
The Blackpool winger is thoroughly deserving of his nomination. Despite a lot of speculation linking him with moves to Liverpool and Swansea, Ince has managed to keep a high level of performance and continues to be the Tangerines standout player.
Ince already has 18 league goals and the second highest assists in the league with 11. These all-round statistics and his high energy style of play probably make Ince favourite for this award, even more so when you consider that he is playing in a team that has been struggling for the last few months.
The young Watford striker on loan from Udinese has certainly made a big impact. Vydra has 20 goals already this season, including an incredible run in January where he scored seven goals in four games, including three braces. The scouts have been flocking to Vicarage Road to see him in action.
A good turn of pace and clinical finishing has seen Vydra’s value soar and there will be a number of clubs interested if Watford do not get promotion to the Premier League. While they may be in pole position to sign him due to their owners having stakes in both clubs, a valuation of £10 million will not put bigger clubs off and at just 20 years old there is amazing potential in him.
On Sunday the League One and League Two player of the year awards will also be decided. In League One the vote should be extremely close. Leon Clarke kept Scunthorpe in the battle for survival pretty much single-handedly in the first half of the season, before a move to Coventry has seen him fire them to within touching distance of the play-offs.
After winning the League Two version last year with Swindon, Matt Ritchie finds himself nominated once more. With nine goals and nine assists for the Robins before a deadline day move to Bournemouth he once again proved what an all-round threat he is.
The final nominee is Alan Judge of Notts County. At 24 years old Judge has this season proved what an exciting player he could be. Excellent dribbling skills, always taking full-backs on and a bullet of a shot on him has made Judge an exciting player to watch and a move to a Championship club in the summer may be on the cards.
In League Two the favourite is surely Tom Pope of Port Vale. With 27 goals in 44 games this season Pope has fired Port Vale to within touching distance of promotion. Just behind Pope in the scoring charts is 37-year-old Jamie Cureton, who once again this season has shown what a natural goal scorer he is with 20 league goals which has helped Exeter into the play-off places. The final nominee is Bradford captain Gary Jones. Jones was instrumental in Bradford’s fairy tale run to Wembley in the Capital One Cup and his box-to-box style makes him a useful player at both ends of the pitch.
By Chris Newman