Dave Seddon's PNE Press View
The player of the year award vote at Preston North End will be one to watch with interest.
In a season which has got better and better, who ends up with their hands on the trophy is no formality.
Ben Pearson? Tom Clarke? Aiden McGeady?
I will throw those three forward for starters and there will be others who will no doubt attract votes.
The trio I have mentioned have all contributed to what has turned into an exciting campaign which could yet extend into the play-offs.
For a spell this season, it looked like Pearson would win it hands down.
Out of the picture for the first six weeks and not even in a matchday squad, the midfielder’s rise back into the plans of Simon Grayson was impressive.
Game after game through the autumn, Pearson was a big influence –the driving force in North End’s engine room.
Perhaps those yellow cards (14 and counting) and two suspensions have got in the way a touch in the last couple of months.
However, Pearson is still the heartbeat in the centre of the pitch and that without a consistent partner next to him – Paul Gallagher, Daniel Johnson and Alan Browne all having played there.
Without doubt, McGeady is one of the most talented footballers I have seen in a Preston shirt for quite a time.
The Everton loanee has made such a difference over the last few months in terms of their attacking play, giving PNE a wow factor.
‘Maradona’ turns, flicks, quick feet, slide-rule passes and seven goals, the nearest of which came from 10 yards and the furthest out more than 25 yards.
McGeady’s impact has been really felt from the end of December onwards.
A couple of injuries were to limit his involvement in the first half of the season, and he sat out most of October and also spells in December.
He stood out in the New Year’s Eve draw against his previous loan club Sheffield Wednesday and a week later led Arsenal a merry dance for 45 minutes in the FA Cup.
The goals started to come in February and it is worth noting that he has found the net for the last three games.
It has been a captain’s knock from Clarke, and he is the only ever-present in the 40 Championship games played to date.
Like a lot of his team-mates, the skipper put in some shaky performances earlier on in the season.
Again in a similar vein to many in the squad, he grew into the campaign.
Clarke’s move to right-back in the last four games has been a successful one, and you have to wonder why it wasn’t done a game or two sooner as other options were explored first.
Those are my main three candidates, although I’m sure Callum Robinson, Chris Maxwell and Jordan Hugill will pull in votes, so too Paul Huntington – judging by the admiration for his liking for wearing black boots!
Greg Cunningham too has been a picture of consistency, the tough time he got from Nottingham Forest’s Ben Brereton last week a rare off-day.
The Irishman certainly will not give up the trophy he won last May without a fight.
I’m leaning towards a vote for McGeady at present but will hold on casting it until the trip to Leeds United is out of the way.
I just think his sway on games these last two or three months has been influential in North End getting up into the chasing pack.
Young player of the year is an interesting one too – it is open to first-team players aged 22 or under at the start of the season.
Pearson, Robinson and Alan Browne are the three eligible.
It is a toss-up between Pearson and Robinson for me, with Pearson getting the nod – just.
You cannot argue with the progress made by Robinson this season, his play streets ahead of what it was last year when he came on loan from Aston Villa for the third time.
What about goal of the season?
There have been some great finishes in among the 59 Championship goals and seven in the two cups.
I’ll go for Hugill’s first goal at Aston Villa as the best.
A counter-attack which started in PNE’s own half saw Hugill get the ball on halfway and power forward before finishing with a fine shot into the far corner from the edge of the box.
McGeady’s first against Brentford in February is my second choice, a cracker of a finish from distance with his supposed weaker left foot.
In third I’m going for DJ’s curler against Blackburn at Deepdale before Christmas.
The curl he got on his shot, taking it out and back in, was precision stuff, it was a first-time effort too.
I was sorely tempted by McGeady’s late equaliser in the reverse clash with Rovers at Ewood Park last month in that it was an excellent team goal and included THAT pass from Gallagher.
In all the voting categories there will be a difference of opinion and I’m looking forward to seeing the final results at Simon Grayson’s charity game on April 30.