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Sharpshooter Symons gets my vote for prize
10:40am Wednesday 25th April 2012 in Steve Carley By Steve Carley - Midlands Sports Journalist of the Year 2013, @stevecarleyWN
ON Saturday night, Worcester City will bring the curtain down on the season by crowning their player-of-the-year.
An accolade everyone should want to win and one which the recipient should be duly proud, particularly given the campaign City have had.
To finish seventh after being written off as relegation fodder is nothing short of exceptional, even if it didn’t end with a coveted play-off place.
However, I believe there is a shortlist of three for the top prize — Mike Symons, Kevin O’Connor and Tom Thorley.
Although that won’t exactly come as a surprise to most, it doesn’t make their impact on the team’s achievements any less.
Even by their own high standards, O’Connor and Thorley have again had fine campaigns, but we’ll come to them later because it is Symons who gets my vote as player-of-the-year.
First and foremost, he deserves to win for being City’s leading scorer by a country mile.
His 19 goals, 18 of which have come in Blue Squre Bet North, are the chief reason Carl Heeley’s men were in the promotion hunt for so long.
When Danny Glover and Mark Danks left St George’s Lane last summer, it was not immediately obvious where Worcester’s goal threat was going to come from.
But Symons stepped up to the plate, scoring on his debut as well as adding a hat-trick against Histon 10 days later.
He has gone on to score at a rate of a goal every other game, something just about any striker would be delighted with.
What’s more, it seems manager Heeley was the only person who saw it coming when he plucked Symons from rivals Gloucester City.
Although the 26-year-old was well thought of by the Tigers, they were happy to let him go in the belief he didn’t score enough goals.
Seeing Symons leave a club which he virtually lives next door to, and do what he has done a few miles up the M5, can’t sit well at Whaddon Road.
There are also more facets to his game than just goals. His hold-up play has been some of the best seen at the Lane in ages, which in turn makes goals for other players, while his close control has also caught the eye.
Despite all this, however, Symons has had competition for the award, chiefly from the midfield engine room of Thorley and O’Connor.
Heeley wasted little time in tying these two to contracts last summer and the team has once again been built around them.
Making O’Connor skipper in October has also proved a shrewd move as it has brought an air of authority to his game. The Irishman plays every match as if his life depended on it and his energy levels only serve to inspire those around him.
Likewise, Thorley is another who seems to be like the Duracell bunny and, despite a slow start following his stint in China at the World University Games, his link-up play, not to mention six penalties, has been vital.
Following two excellent seasons, it is easy to forget that the University of Worcester student has only just turned 22.
Although they have been the stand-out trio in my eyes, it would be wrong not to give an honourable mention to the likes of Tyler Weir, who could have been in the reckoning with more games, Jacob Rowe and Michael Taylor.
Rowe has established himself in the team, although far from the finished article, is developing into a commanding centre-half.
Striker Taylor also has a long way to go but few can deny his impact over the past couple of months has been both exhilarating and unpredictable.
Saturday’s winner, however, should be less so.