PAT AND DELE IN AWARDS SCRAP

HE’S GONE FROM ZE­ROTO HERO

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Jamie Holt

MID­DLES­BROUGH’S Pa­trick Bamford and MK Dons’ Dele Alli are in the run­ning for two tro­phies at the 10th an­nual Foot­ball League Awards tonight.

Boro striker Bamford, 21, on loan from Chelsea, has been short­listed in the Young and Cham­pi­onship Player of the Year cat­e­gories, while Alli, 19, now on loan from Spurs, has been nom­i­nated for the Young and League One honours.

The third player in the hunt for the Young Player ac­co­lade is Nor­wich winger Nathan Red­mond, 21.

MK Dons boss Karl Robin­son, who pre­vi­ously had Bamford on loan, said: “Nathan Red­mond is ob­vi­ously in there as well, but it will be nice watch­ing Dele and Pa­trick go toe-to-toe fight­ing for a na­tional award.

“The two of them have played a tremen­dous part in the club’s his­tory and they have a great re­la­tion­ship.”

Wat­ford for­ward Troy Deeney and Ip­swich hit­man Daryl Mur­phy make up the Cham­pi­onship short­list, while Bris­tol City mid­fielder Luke Free­man and Pre­ston’s free-scor­ing Joe Gar­ner are on the one for League One.

The three play­ers in con­tention for the League Two gong are Wy­combe’s Al­fie Maw­son, Bury’s Danny Mayor and Shrews­bury’s Ryan Woods.

Other cat­e­gories in­clude the Fam­ily Club of the Year, Com­mu­nity Club of the Year, Player in the Com­mu­nity, Sup­porter of the Year, Goal of the Year, Ap­pren­tice of the Year and the Sir Tom Fin­ney Award.

There will be also be two spe­cial cat­e­gories to mark the 10th an­niver­sary of the event – the Club Hero Award, recog­nis­ing a mem­ber of staff at each of the 72 Foot­ball League clubs, and the Team of the Decade with 11 play­ers and a manager se­lected based on per­for­mances from the past ten sea­sons. The win­ners will be an­nounced at a gala cer­e­mony at The Brew­ery, Lon­don.

SAT be­fore the Press af­ter Not­ting­ham For­est’s de­feat to Wat­ford, Dougie Freed­man spoke for many a green-eyed Cham­pi­onship gaffer. “Give me Troy Deeney,” said the Reds boss,“and we’re talk­ing about a dif­fer­ent re­sult. It’s as sim­ple as that.”

Which, in a nut­shell, is why the Wat­ford striker should walk out of the Brew­ery Ho­tel this evening with the Foot­ball League’s Cham­pi­onship Player of the Year award un­der his arm.

Valid ar­gu­ments can be made for scores of oth­ers. Chris Martin’s ex­cel­lence was un­der­lined by his ab­sence. Derby were top of the league with four wins from five when the striker fell vic­tim to a ham­string in­jury in Fe­bru­ary.

Buc­ca­neer­ing

With­out his goals, buc­ca­neer­ing hold-up play and canny games­man­ship, the Rams dis­in­te­grated, two wins from ten games turn­ing a ti­tle tilt into a play-off scram­ble.

Daryl Mur­phy has scored con­sis­tently in an Ip­swich side that cre­ates few chances. Matt Ritchie has scored 11 and made 15 of Bournemouth’s 89 goals. Grant Lead­bit­ter cap­tains Mid­dles­brough with distinc­tion and class.

But were those play­ers lined up against a play­ground wall, I think ev­ery manager in the di­vi­sion would make Deeney their first pick. It isn’t just the goals, how­ever im­pres­sive a tally of 65 in three sea­sons may be. It is the link play, the clever runs, the de­cep­tive pace and mon­strous, 15-odd stone of mus­cle that leaves cen­tre-halves clutch­ing thin air.

For the jet-heeled strik­ers who fol­low him like flies on a buf­falo – Matej Vy­dra, Ikechi Anya, Odion Ighalo – he is a dream come true, his power and ag­gres­sion giv­ing them the con­fi­dence to make runs, to gam­ble on the shoul­der of cen­tre-halves.

Yet more im­por­tant than any­thing in the sport­ing arena is what Deeney rep­re­sents. Less than three years ago, the 26-year-old was sat in a Manch­ester pri­son cell.

Charged with af­fray for kick­ing a grounded man out­side a night­club, he served a third of his ten­month sen­tence and emerged a gen­uinely changed man.

Gone was the lazy, booz­ing brawler who fell asleep dur­ing his GCSEs, turned up on day four of a trial with As­ton Villa and had to be dragged from his bed just to sign with Wal­sall. In his place was a mo­ti­vated young man acutely aware of the op­por­tu­nity his tal­ents had be­stowed.

“There were plenty of harsh words said to me in pri­son,” re­calls Deeney, who also stud­ied maths and english whilst be­hind bars.“Old timers would say:‘We’re here be­cause we’ve got no qual­i­fi­ca­tions, no prospects.We do th­ese things be­cause we’ve got no choice.You do’.

“It was a case of see­ing my­self from the other side and re­al­is­ing what a good life I had.”

Now mar­ried with two kids, Deeney un­der­stands the power of his story; the kid from the bleak Birm­ing­ham es­tate who sur­vived pri­son to be­come a star.

He is at the fore­front of Wat­ford’s com­mu­nity and char­ity work, try­ing to in­spire the next gen­er­a­tion of dis­ad­van­taged kids to fol­low suit.

Recog­ni­tion

In per­son, too, he is no thug – more a ge­nial gi­ant who en­livens a dress­ing room and knows there is more to life than foot­ball. It’s why, with ru­mours of Pre­mier League bids cir­cling, he com­mit­ted his fu­ture to Wat­ford last sum­mer.

At a time when the Ched Evans saga has spot­lighted the process of re­demp­tion and re­morse, Deeney is the per­fect ad­vert for the jus­tice sys­tem.

He didn’t deny what hap­pened. He didn’t at­tempt to jus­tify it. He apol­o­gised, served his time, and put things right the only way he could – by mak­ing the most of his tal­ent and giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity. That de­serves recog­ni­tion.

CON­TENDER: Dele Alli

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