It’s been a season of ups and downs for PNE, but a season loaded with impressive performances from the team itself and the individuals within it. Here, I will run down the awards and give my thoughts on the winners and their competitors.
Sir Tom Finney Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year
Ben Davies has had a fantastic season at the heart of the Preston defence. We have admittedly struggled at times to keep our opponents’ attacks at bay as much as we would like, but Davies has barely put a foot wrong all season.
Davies’ career has come on leaps and bounds since moving into centre-half from left full-back, where Simon Grayson predominantly utilised him, like Graham Westley before him, but Davies’ ability in the central left side of the defence has shone through this year, particularly in the second part of the season after being regularly partnered by young stalwart Jordan Storey.
The early campaign’s constant rotation due to injuries did the defence no favours. Davies was partnered one week by Tom Clarke and by Paul Huntington the next and, as Huntington’s legs are starting to fall short of requirements for the pace of Championship football, the defence did suffer through no fault of Davies’ at all.
Voted for by fans and players alike, Davies, who won the Young Player of the Year award just last season, told the club’s official website that he wants to “keep improving and keep doing everyone proud” after picking the award up on Saturday evening.
Taking nothing away from Davies’ achievements, he may not have been quite such a runaway winner of both awards were it not for the injury crisis that plagued North End seemingly all campaign. Other candidates such as Alan Browne and Callum Robinson would almost certainly have given Ben a closer run for his money had they not spent so much time out injured, a whole four months of the season in Robinson’s case!
Young Player of the Year
This year, the Young Player of the Year award went to Jordan Storey, partner at the back of this award’s previous winner, and winner of the Fans’ and Players’ Player of the Year awards this year, Ben Davies.
The 21-year-old found himself a little starved for minutes in the opening stages of the season but, amongst the season-long injury crisis, began to force his way into the back line the moment he had the opportunity to do so with a few short runs in the team.
He made his debut for the club just two weeks before his 20th birthday in the home win over Morecambe in the cup and looked solid before coming in and out of the team for the first half of the season, playing a handful of games here and there, usually as cover when Huntington or Davies were unavailable.
That was until around December when he began to make the right side of centre-half his own and he had cemented his place by the time North End started their massive upturn in form after the turn of the year. Notably scoring and assisting in a 4-1 away win at Loftus Road, he soon became one of the first names on the team sheet and has formed a solid partnership with Ben Davies.
With Storey being 21, and Davies just 23 himself, PNE look to have a fantastic partnership at the back not only for now but for the future too.
Goal of the Season
Alan Browne vs Bolton Wanderers
Alan Browne could have had his own goal of the season contest if we’re being honest. His left-footed volley into the top corner, on the turn, from 25 yards out at Deepdale against Bolton in the early stages of the season is a pretty deserving winner though.
Also in contention would have been his curler at home to Hull, Callum Robinson’s opener vs. Brentford at Deepdale and a few other superbly taken goals North End have scored over the course of the season.
Browne came close to eclipsing even his winning effort with a wonderful volley against Norwich, only to see it crack off the underside of the bar and away to sean Maguire who calmly finished with a left-footed effort past Tim Krul.
Similarly, Callum Robinson, also against Norwich but this time earlier in the campaign at Carrow Road, almost scored a stunning solo effort after running with the ball from his own half, only to be denied by the crossbar.
Scholar of the Year
Adam O’Reilly, the young central midfielder, was truly the standout scholar in North End’s youth ranks this campaign. The under 18s captain won the accolade for the second season in a row in the year that saw him make his first-team debut, coming on as a late substitute in our 1-1 home tie with Aston Villa.
The 17-year-old, capable of playing both a deeper and more advanced role from central midfield and who frequently pops up as a goalscorer to boot, put pen to paper on his first professional contract in January and will be looking to next season to maybe make more of a breakthrough into the playing squad. As a side note, he scored this stunner earlier in the month, too. Jack Baxter’s wasn’t bad either.
— Preston North End FC (@pnefc) April 20, 2019
Community Player of the Year
First up, there’s the Community Player of the Season award, which was won by striker Louis Moult. Moult has seen his opportunities in the first team limited this season but has had a huge impact in the community off the field. Taking part in the club’s regular soccer school and youth outreach programmes in the community was but part of his contribution.
Louis also shot to prominence in December 2018, when he made public the effect the passing of his own mother had had when inspiring him to work to combat homelessness and addiction, in the Lancashire Evening Post. He followed this with a harrowing interview in the Mail in which he recalled the death of his mother to alcoholism, as well as the work he has done to combat these issues. He has also been down at The Foxton Centre helping out there with all that they do for the homeless in Preston.
It was this stark and open vulnerability and willingness to expose his life in such a way that made Moult’s efforts in the community all the more impressive and commendable. A supremely deserving winner of the Community award.
Congratulations to all the winners, they are all a part of a special squad that can be more than capable of challenging for Premier League promotion. Hopefully, they can carry their successes into next season! UTW!!