By Jason McKeown
The Width of a Post writers were asked to vote for their top five players of the 2012/13 season, which saw 10 different players receive votes.
In fifth place…Rory McArdle
No one was a greater representative of City’s admirable endurance than Marathon Man Rory McArdle. Sure, he may not possess the classiness of Andrew Davies, the timing of Luke Oliver or the decision-making of Carl McHugh, but for all round solidness and reliability, McArdle has impressed greatly.
McArdle can be labelled ‘no nonsense’ with his boot-the-ball-upfield-ask-questions-later approach – exactly what is required in League Two. For the large part McArdle was wonderfully consistent, and his carbon copy headers against Aston Villa and Northampton will go down in folklore.
A superb first season at Valley Parade included being called up to the senior Northern Ireland squad – when was the last time City had a British player who achieved that? – McArdle featured time and time again for City, forming a key part of the back four. His 56 appearances saw City produce 20 clean sheets. Simply outstanding.
In fourth place…Nahki Wells
Nahki’s second proper season as a professional footballer saw the emergence of a swagger that was backed up with numerous goals. No City player has scored more in a season than Nahki’s 26 since Dean Windass in 2004/05.
The Bermudian went into the season with transfer rumours that never went away; although signing a new contract early doors meant there was less doubt that he would leave. Wells scored all manner of goals and remained at the top of the League Two scoring charts throughout. Despite a dip in form, which led to a goal drought between February and April, he came back strongly. His greater fitness, compared to last season, evident throughout.
It was fitting that Wells finally got his moment of glory at Wembley. After disappointment at missing out of Carlisle’s squad for their JPT Final in 2011 and getting hauled off early in City’s League Cup Final appearance in February, it was very much third time lucky when he fired home Garry Thompson’s flick on to make it 3-0. How richly deserved it was, after Wells produced his best game for City at Burton in the play off second leg, which did so much to get us back to the national stadium.
In third place…Stephen Darby
The player’s player of the year achieved a feat in his first season that was beyond many of his predecessors – becoming a popular right back. We City fans have long had reservations about our full backs, and the early impressions of the lightweight-looking Darby suggested he could face a difficult time winning people over.
But win people over he did. The direct benefit of Luke Oliver’s season-ending injury in October (forcing Rory McArdle from right back to centre half), Darby has been a revelation. Strong, tenacious, tough in the tackle and excellent going forward. He and Garry Thompson’s partnership on the right flank proved increasingly effective as the season wore on.
His poor performance against Burton Albion in the play off semi final first leg was a shock for how out of character it was: Darby having a bad game? The consistent 24-year-old doesn’t do them. No surprises he bounced back in the second leg so strongly.
Having previously experienced numerous loan moves, Darby has quickly got over any disappointment at not making it at Liverpool to settle in superbly in West Yorkshire. There is no reason why he can’t occupy our right back slot for many years to come.
Just a shame about the chant!
In second place…James Hanson
This was the year in James Hanson really came of age. The year in which even some of his fiercest critics in the stands admitted defeat and began to appreciate what he offers. 15 goals represents a season’s best for James Hanson the professional footballer; a handful of which especially will never be forgotten.
For if Hanson will never exactly become a great goalscorer, he is certainly a scorer of big goals. At Villa Park in January, the tie-clincher that took City to the cup final; securing a momentum-building point late on against Southend on Good Friday; sealing City’s place in the play offs with the winner against Burton in April; that wonderful strike at Burton in the play off second leg and, of course, his looping header at Wembley.
Phil Parkinson has really taken Hanson’s development forwards, after it stuttered under Peter Taylor and Peter Jackson. James began the season in superb goalscoring form and, despite a dip midway through the campaign, was still a key player. City just never look the same side when he isn’t in it. A strong run of late form reflected that of his team, and the local boy’s rise from shelf stacker to Wembley hero was complete. A true fairytale.
The accolades don’t come Hanson’s way often enough, but he is clearly highly rated by his manager, team mates, opposition and majority of City fans. That includes Width of a Post; we have all the time in the world for this hard-working and talented striker.
And so the Width of a Post 2012/13 Player of the Season is…Gary Jones
It’s amazing to recall now the mixed response that Gary Jones’ arrival last summer triggered. Having just turned 35 and being let go by Rochdale, many people feared that we’d signed a player over the hill and unlikely to prove effective.
To say that Jones has smashed all expectations is an understatement. Not since Stuart McCall’s return to Valley Parade in 1998 has one player had such a colossal impact on performances, team mates and supporters. Jones is hero-worshipped to a level that puts him on a par with McCall, Peter Beagrie, Darren Moore and Chris Waddle. At every game – before, during and after – his name is sung loudly and proudly.
Jones embodies everything that we supporters crave in our players. A never-say-die attitude, a tremendous level of work rate and a drive that brings out the best of others. You can visibly see Jones lifting the performances of those around him. The glue holding everything together; the catalyst behind the evidently strong team spirit.
Despite his advancing years, Jones has shown great energy in the role of box-to-box midfielder, equally adept at winning possession as he is setting up attacks. He doesn’t get into the opposition area as often as he did at Rochdale, but routinely plays a role in the build up to goals. Most notably, his set piece expertise was a regular feature of the cup run and Jones played a big part in all five goals netted against Arsenal and the two Villa matches.
City have been a team of heroes this season, but no one more so than Jones. The courage and character he has demonstrated time and time again has been the inspiration behind this incredible season.
Gary Jones, take a huge bow. Width of a Post’s player of the season by some distance. Captain Fantastic, leading City to a first promotion in 14 years.
Not bad for a 35-year-old. Not bad at all.
Special mention to James Meredith who received a lot of votes and narrowly missed the top five. The Width of a Post 2012/13 Player of the Season was voted for by: Gareth Walker, David Pendleton, Ian Hemmens, Mark Danylczuk, James Storrie, Phil Abbott, Jason McKeown, Mark Scully, Alex Scott, Joe Cockburn, Damien Wilkinson, David Lawrence, Rob Craven, Ian Sheard, Mahesh Johal, Tim Roche and Luke Lockwood.
Categories: 2012/13 season review