THE SCOUTS HAVE THESE GEMS FROM BEEN WATCH­ING LOWER LEAGUE

SEA­SON AND PICKS HIS TEAM OF LEAGUE TWO

The Football League Paper - - NEWS -

USU­ALLY, a player of the year award will raise hack­les and spark de­bate. No­body ever agrees on these things. Ex­cept this year, when al­most ev­ery man­ager and ev­ery player nom­i­nated Ch­ester­field’s Gary Roberts, the Spire­ites play­maker whose skills have be­witched ev­ery de­fender in League Two.

That’s why the for­mer Ip­swich and Hud­der­s­field man forms the cen­tre­piece of my League Two team of the year. Mind you, ev­ery mae­stro needs an orches­tra and Roberts is ably aided by a stel­lar sup­port­ing cast.

GOAL­KEEPER

SAM SLO­COMBE - SCUN­THORPE ONLY York kept more clean sheets than Scunny this sea­son and that was in no small part down to the hero­ics of long-serv­ing stopper Sam Slo­combe.

No Iron fan will for­get his re­mark­able stops against Torquay and Portsmouth and nor will boss Russ Wil­cox, whose un­beaten 28-game run en route to pro­mo­tion owed much to his keeper’s for­ti­tude.

Com­mand­ing, as­sured and the best shot­top­per in the di­vi­sion, Slo­combe has cer­tainly proved value for money since his £3,000 trans­fer from Bottes­ford Town in 2008.

RIGHT-BACK

RYAN LEONARD - SOUTHEND Tech­ni­cally a mid­fielder, Leonard started his Southend ca­reer at right-back and has filled in plenty of times since so I’m shoe­horn­ing him in.

Why? Be­cause the 21-year-old has been in­stru­men­tal in earn­ing Phil Brown’s boys a place in the play-offs.

Once gan­gly and awk­ward, Leonard has grown into his 6ft 1ins frame to be­come a ma­raud­ing pow­er­house ca­pa­bale of dom­i­nat­ing any game.

“He’s over six foot tall, he’s strong, pow­er­ful, quick and can cer­tainly strike a ball as well,” said Brown. “I think he’s only just start­ing to re­alise what he’s got in his locker.”

CEN­TRE-BACK

IAN EVATT – CH­ESTER­FIELD The bedrock of Ch­ester­field’s pro­mo­tion cam­paign was play­ing in the Pre­mier League with Black­pool three years ago, so it should come as no sur­prise that he took League two at a can­ter.

Un­com­pro­mis­ing at the back but deft on the deck, the 32-year-old was tai­lor-made for boss Paul Cook’s at­trac­tive style of play and ex­celled back at the club where he started his ca­reer more than a decade ago. What’s more, af­ter a year out through in­jury, he looked like he’d never missed a kick.

“People for­get he was out for that long,” said boss Paul Cook.“But that’s tes­ta­ment to Ian. He’s a great cap­tain and we’re lucky to have him.”

CEN­TRE-BACK

JOHN MCCOMBE - YORK CITY OK, so he only played half a sea­son. But when that half a sea­son in­volves con­ced­ing just three goals in 16 games, set­ting a new club record for clean sheets (22) and turn­ing your new em­ploy­ers from rel­e­ga­tion bat­tlers to pro­mo­tion con­tenders, it mer­its recog­ni­tion.

When McCombe – mys­ti­fy­ingly re­leased by Mans­field – joined York in Jan­uary they were 20th in League Two and sep­a­rated from the bot­tom three only by goal dif­fer­ence.

They even­tu­ally fin­ished sev­enth with McCombe and fel­low new re­cruit Keith Lowe form­ing an in­vi­in­ci­ble part­ner­ship that didn’t con­cede a goal from open play in 23 hours.What were the Stags think­ing?

LEFT-BACK

MICHAEL ROSE – ROCHDALE ON re­turn­ing to Rochdale in Jan­uary last year, one of Keith Hill’s very first moves was to sign Rose, the vet­eran full-back who started on the books at Man United.

In­cred­i­bly, he was the only per­son to take an in­ter­est fol­low­ing the 31-year-old’s re­lease by Colch­ester – and how his ri­vals must rue that over­sight now.

Af­ter a decade slog­ging round the lower leagues with the likes of Here­ford,Yeovil, Stock­port, Swin­don and Colch­ester, Rose has pro­vided vi­tal bal­last to Hill’s young side, his nous and ex­pe­ri­ence vi­tal in the tense clos­ing weeks as well as a won­der­ful left foot.

The kind of player who is al­ways in the right place at the right time, the Dale skip­per has been a mas­sive hit at Spot­land.

MID­FIELD

JIMMY RYAN – CH­ESTER­FIELD EV­ERY team needs a self­less grafter to hold things to­gether and un­sung hero Ryan was un­doubt­edly that man for the Spire­ites.

Tiger­ish and tire­less, only keeper Tommy Lee made more ap­pear­ances for Ch­ester­field this term, an in­di­ca­tion of the for­mer Liver­pool trainee’s im­por­tance to Paul Cook.

Signed from Scun­thorpe in the sum­mer, Ryan is a class act at this level and won a place in the League Two team of the year whilst at Ac­cring­ton in 2010. The 25-year-old didn’t quite make the cut this time, but he gets a place in my XI.

MID­FIELD AN­TONI SARCE­VIC – FLEET­WOOD RE­JECTED by first Man City and then Crewe, Sarce­vic was forced to kick-start his ca­reer with Ch­ester, all the way down in the North­ern Pre­mier League.

For a young kid with ex­trav­a­gant talent but lit­tle in the way of tough­ness, it could have been a death knell, but the 22-yearold ex­celled.

Con­sec­u­tive pro­mo­tions to the Con­fer­ence were capped by a stun­ning re­turn of 17 goals in 47 games last sea­son, all from mid­field.

And when Fleet­wood came call­ing last sum­mer, Sarce­vic wasn’t about to let an­other big chance slip through his fin­gers, netting 14 goals to win a place in the team of the year.

MID­FIELD

KE­VAN HURST – SOUTHEND THERE are cer­tainly more spec­tac­u­lar wingers than the Shrimpers’ stal­wart, who this sea­son passed 100 ap­pear­ances for the club. But it would be hard to ar­gue that any are more ef­fec­tive.

In short, Hurst is a striker’s dream, a cross­ing ma­chine and dead-ball ex­pert who in­vari­ably finds a man. Just as he did last sea­son, the 28year-old fin­ished the cam­paign with more as­sists than any other player in the di­vi­sion, a mam­moth 13.

Most im­pres­sive of all, though, the for­mer Sh­effield United and Ch­ester­field man was also Southend’s top scorer with 12 for the cam­paign. If only they could have Hurst pick­ing out Hurst!

MID­FIELD GARY ROBERTS – CH­ESTER

FIELD BACK in De­cem­ber, I sent a text to a hand­ful of man­agers ask­ing who was the best op­po­si­tion player they’d faced. With­out ex­cep­tion, ev­ery League Two boss said Gary Roberts.

“Quick, skil­ful, far too good for this league,” said Rochdale’s Keith Hill. “Scores goals, makes goals, shouldn’t be any­where near League Two,” added Chris Wilder, then still at Ox­ford. And so it went on, with a few com­ments about Ch­ester­field’s budget chucked in for good mea­sure.

Like Nureyev at a school disco, the 30year-old was per­form­ing way be­low his sta­tion – af­ter all, it was only 2012 when he in­spired Hud­der­s­field to pro­mo­tion from League One. Now he’s got an­other one on his

CV, with ten goals and ten as­sists en­sur­ing both the League Two ti­tle and the PFA player of the year award.

FOR­WARD

SAM WIN­NALL – SCUN­THORPE KENNY Jack­ett hasn’t got much wrong this sea­son, but the Wolves boss might have dropped a clanger by al­low­ing lo­cal boy Win­nall to leave the club last July.

Though, in fair­ness, it’s no sur­prise he was shown the door, with thirty-three ap­pear­ances and nine goals in two years hardly in­dica­tive of a fu­ture star. But some­times a club and a player just click. So it was with Win­nall and Scun­thorpe, who have sim­ply sat back and watched as their sum­mer free­bie plun­dered 23 goals in just 42 games, fir­ing the Iron back to the third tier.

Short, nippy and deadly in the box, the 23year-old is now a tar­get for pretty much ev­ery club in League One.

FOR­WARD

SCOTT HO­GAN – ROCHDALE RE­LEASED by Keith Hill dur­ing his first spell at Dale in 2010, Ho­gan was none too fussed about foot­ball, liv­ing it large in Manch­ester and play­ing part-time for the likes of Wood­ley, Halifax and Stock­bridge Steels be­fore pitch­ing up at Hyde last sea­son.

But Hill never for­got the speedy young tear­away and in the sum­mer of­fered the 22-year-old an­other shot. Like Sarce­vic, it rep­re­sented a big jump. And, like the Fleet­wood man, he made it look easy.

Seven­teen goals – in­clud­ing two hat-tricks – pow­ered Rochdale to pro­mo­tion, prompt­ing Hill to sug­gest his young striker could play in the Pre­mier League.

“He’s got a re­ally bright fu­ture and he’s des­tined to play at a very high level,” said Hill. “He’s got power, ter­rific pace, he’s got tech­nique. And he’s got some­thing that’s un­coach­able – that nat­u­ral in­stinct in front of goal.”

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