The 2017/18 WOAP Player of the Season vote proved to be the closest in our history.
Our team of writers voted on their top five-performers, and in the end the top two were separated by a solitary point. They both dominated the poll. However, the finishers in third, fourth and fifth also stood out from the rest.
In total, 12 players received a top five vote, although many writers admitted they struggled to find enough players they deemed worthy of appearing on the list.
Here’s our top five.
In 5th place… Paul Taylor
By Katie Whyatt
At one point, it looked like the nominees for the Goal of the Season Award might read: Paul Taylor, Paul Taylor, Paul Taylor, Paul Taylor, Tyrell Robinson and, ahem, Paul Taylor. As the season trickled towards its indifferent middle, Taylor was the side’s maverick nonconformist, revelling in his propensity for the outrageous, laughing in the face of Expected Goals, producing as a matter of routine the 30-yard thundershocks of impossible that made him the squad’s early trailblazer.
In a season defined, in several respects, by the absence of the likes of Billy Clarke and Mark Marshall, Taylor was the signing closest to a success story, the only one able to conjure up moments of magic ex nihilo, indifferently bending and arrowing balls wherever he chose like a golfer warming up at a driving range.
If there were moments during the 2016/17 season when McCall’s men were too lateral, spinning the ball on the edge of the area but struggling to forge an opening, Taylor promised to bring the incision they had previously lacked. It is tempting to consider, sometimes, what he could have been for the team that fell short in their play-off final precisely because of this lack of menace. Indeed, there is something to be said for how, in window billed as one of youth, Taylor, 31, for long spells of the season looked the most refreshing signing, whether out wide, as part of a front three or at number ten.
It probably wouldn’t have changed anything, and certainly not the season’s outcome, but you wonder, sometimes, if the campaign would have ended with such a timid whimper had Simon Grayson not been denied the chance to utilise Taylor’s craft and pace.
In any case, you’d have wanted better build-up play from both manager and player, but it was a sad footnote to the season that a player who could draw 30,000 eyes from 15,000 heads with an audacious flick of his right boot departed before we had a chance to see his trademark fatal finish one final time.
In 4th place… Charlie Wyke
By Tim Penfold
At Christmas, Charlie Wyke was my front-runner for this award. A series of excellent performances, combined with very healthy goal and assist tallies, marked him out as the best striker the club has had since Wells. His physical presence was vital to the way the team attacked, and his hold-up play created plenty of chances and assists. He’s also something of a penalty-box predator and a good finisher, scoring his 15 league goals from just 58 shots on goal.
We spent much of January worried that he was going to leave, and were pleased that the reported interest in him came to naught. But a poor second half of the season – only four goals and two assists since Fleetwood on New Year’s day, combined with the needless red card against Plymouth – has dropped him down this list.
He’s not the only player to have performed poorly since January, but it takes him out of contention for first place in this award.
In 3rd place… Tyrell Robinson
By Katie Whyatt
As post-match quotes go, it was as ridiculous as the moment he had just conjured.
“As the ball went through, and the keeper’s running out, I thought, it’s here – again,” began Tyrell Robinson, steadfastly refusing to betray the faintest sliver of bemusement at how, for the second time that month, he had adroitly slipped past the keeper and nestled the ball in the far corner to seal all three points for his City side. And there he was, speaking like a veteran who had done it all before. Of course, he had. By the time the winning goal of the seven that flew in against Rochdale had hared over the line, that finish had practically become a party trick for him. Even he couldn’t shirk the pang of déjà vu as he geared up to repeat the feat.
It is scarcely believable that 4-3 victory was Robinson’s first ever league start. Even more ludicrous is the fact that Robinson was aged 1 year, 7 months and 23 days when City secured promotion to the Premier League in 1999. Robinson has lived his first full season at Valley Parade like an all-action comic book hero, legs whirring and churning and galloping and leaping as he proceeded, again and again, to reel in all the unsuspecting keepers League One had to offer him.
If Robinson’s City career began with a bang, his steady maturation over the subsequent months remained equally pleasing, and his performance in April against play-off chasing Shrewsbury was as complete as they come. Robinson that night carried the main offensive burden for Simon Grayson’s side at an age the rest of us struggle to carry drinks without spilling them.
On one level, this is deeply concerning. Just how bad will Tyrell Robinson, born more than a full calendar year after Euro 96, insist on making the rest of us look? We have another two years to find out.
In 2nd place… Colin Doyle
By Tim Penfold
Very few people would’ve predicted that Colin Doyle would be a major candidate for player of the season last summer. He was subject to some quite unfair criticism on social media, particularly after an error nearly cost a goal on the opening day, and there was a groundswell of support for playing either Rouven Sattelmaier or Lukas Raeder. However, his performances in the first few months of the season were solid until injury took him out against Scunthorpe.
In his absence his reputation soared. It was as if nobody noticed the importance of a calm, competent keeper until he was suddenly missing. His replacements, particularly Sattelmaier, struggled badly, and suddenly everyone was desperate for Doyle to return.
Doyle’s second half of the season, with the exception of that day at Blackpool, was generally solid and he also had the personal highlight of picking up his second international cap. His City highlight came the following day – his level of commitment in racing back from international duty for the Gillingham game stood out all the more in a squad that seemed to be lacking it.
He was the one name on the out-of-contract list that everyone wanted to keep, and is a worthy runner-up for player of the season.
And the winner is… Matt Kilgallon
By Jason McKeown
During the 2017 close season of transfer panic, it barely registered on the radar that Matt Kilgallon had renewed his contract. The veteran centre back had only made seven league appearances during an injury-hit 2016/17 campaign, and his contribution to Bradford City looked set to be the smallest of footnotes.
Yet how vital that new contract proved to be. Over the 2017/18 season, Kilgallon emerged from the sidelines to become a key member of the revamped team. An impressive opening day display against Blackpool set the tone; especially during a first half where he covered the mistakes of others, by producing perfectly-timed last-ditch tackles to stop certain goals.
And during a campaign of inconsistency, Kilgallon has remained a reliable constant. He’s figured in 40 of City’s 46 league matches, where his leadership and drive has proven hugely influential. He’s also chipped in three important goals, most memorably the late winner at Portsmouth in October right in front of a packed out away end.
If this proved to be a year where too many senior players disappeared when the chips were down, Kilgallon cannot be accused of joining others in hiding. He remained a vocal force during the toughest of times, and was hurt more than most by the Blackpool fall-out. He is an articulate and candid speaker about the team’s failings, as I personally saw first-hand whilst working as a match summariser for the Pulse. Twice in defeat on the road – at Bury in October, and the Rotherham nadir in January – Kilgallon emerged from the dressing room at full time, placed on the radio headset, and told listeners how it is.
Such honesty was appreciated and was made more credible by the excellent career Kilgallon has enjoyed. His experience at Leeds, Sheffield United, Sunderland and Blackburn means he has seen the good and bad of football, and he has the confidence to challenge others when they fall short. With a contract extension shrewdly arranged by the club, Kilgallon’s know-how will be vital next season. He is surely the front runner to become the next Bradford City captain.
City have conceded more goals over 2017/18 than in any season since 2010/11, and in that respect it seems strange the club’s two best performers were at the back. But the team’s defensive failings have largely been in spite of – not because of – Kilgallon (and Colin Doyle’s) level of performances.
A dependable, essential and dedicated professional, Kilgallon deserves to feel proud of his own personal displays over the course of a difficult season. Whoever lines up alongside him next season, they would do well to follow his example.
The 2017/18 Width of a Post player of the season was voted for by Jason McKeown, Mahesh Johal, Phil Abbott, Mark Scully, Nick Beanland, Mark Danylczuk, Andrew Baxter, Gareth Walker, David Lawrence, Tim Penfold, James Pieslak, Alex Scott, Ian Sheard and Katie Whyatt
Past WOAP Player of the Season winners
2011/12: Luke Oliver
2012/13: Gary Jones
2013/14: Stephen Darby
2014/15: Rory McArdle
2015/16: Reece Burke
2016/17: Mark Marshall
Categories: 2017/18 season review
Well, if Taylor was our best at producing something “ex nihilo” I can only comment: Quae cum ea nobiles ita sint.