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Football League Review: Lambert heads 2012 Roll of Honour

Tuesday 13th March 2012
It always seems slightly bizarre to me when the Football League awards are handed out in March, when there is still a dozen or so games left of the season and plenty of time for there to be dramatic changes in the league tables and still plenty of opportunities for somebody to make themselves a hero for their club. However, the annual Football League awards were handed out this weekend, and for that reason, I'm dedicating this week's blog to the winners, and a very deserving bunch of winners they are too.

I don't think there is much question over the winners of each particular award, with Southampton striker Rickie Lambert taking the top gong for Football League Player of the Season. I'm not sure I can say anything that hasn't already been said, but the fact remains there couldn't be a more deserving winner of the award this season. The 30-year-old, who has netted 25 times so far this term, has been an absolutely integral part of the Southampton side which has taken the Championship by storm this season, with Nigel Adkins' side topping the table in their first season back in the division, following on from their promotion from League One last season. Lambert's contribution, both in terms of the goals he's scored, and also his overall contribution to the way in which Southampton play, have been a credit to the club who are widely considered to be one of the best attacking teams in the Football League and it is for that reason that they are enjoying the success that they are currently having.

Huddersfield Town's Jordan Rhodes was named League One Player of the Year, with the Scottish international in phenomenal form for both club and country this season. Rhodes has already scored 30 goals in League One and will surely add to his total before the season's end, in what has been a remarkable display of goal-scoring ability, having scored multiple goals with both feet as well as his head. Probably the biggest surprise of the season with regard to Rhodes was the fact that nobody came in for him during the January transfer window, or at least not with an offer than even came close to Huddersfield's valuation of the 22-year-old. It gives a team great confidence knowing they have a player amongst their ranks who only needs to be given half a chance and there's a good chance he'll find the net, and the effect Rhodes has had on his team has been clear for all to see, with Huddersfield flying high in League One.

The winner of the League Two award, Swindon Town's Matt Ritchie, has had a similar effect on his club, with the key difference being him pulling the strings from midfield rather than leading from the front. Ritchie has been the heartbeat of the Swindon midfield, and the player who always looks like most likely to make things happen in a side which started the season in slightly inconsistent form but soon found their stride and, coupled with the unrivalled passion of manager Paulo di Canio, have taken League Two by the scruff of the neck and now look the favourites to win the division. Ritchie's contribution from midfield this season has been nothing short of sensational, and I believe the Portsmouth trainee has the ability to play at a much higher level than he is currently. Whether he'll be able to fulfil that potential with Swindon or whether a move to a higher level awaits remains to be seen, but I can certainly see him staying with Swindon next season should they make it into League One, which I fully believe they will do.

The Young Player of the Year award was awarded to Crystal Palace starlet Wilfried Zaha, who has been in sparkling form for Dougie Freedman's side this season as they have exceeded all expectations in having occupied a place inside the top of the table for much of the season, and reached the Carling Cup Semi Final in a run which included a famous victory against Manchester United. Zaha himself has already made 40 appearances for the Eagles this season, in which he has always looked lively and ready to make something happen for his side, and has displayed all the qualities of a top player of the future. It is no wonder that several Premier League sides were linked with the 19-year-old during the January transfer window, but Zaha's keenness to remain at Selhurst Park will have no doubt impressed a lot of people. After all, you could hardly blame a 19-year-old for jumping to the big time at the first available opportunity, could you?

I'd also like to highlight the Family Club of the Year award, which has been awarded to Portsmouth, which will no doubt be a huge boost to everybody involved with the Fratton Park club. It's no secret that the club is going through some difficult times, but the club have always done their utmost to remain as open and transparent with their fans as possible, given the circumstances, and no doubt the award will go some way to showing that although things are still very, very challenging for Michael Appleton's side, who are still in administration, that things are going in the right direction, and that there is light at the end of the tunnel, even if that light looks very much like it will be one handed to them with the club playing League One football.

Finally, a quick but equally worthwhile mention to the other winners. Coventry's Gael Bigirimana won the Championship Apprentice of the Year award, with Charlton's Jordan Cousins taking the League One award and Crewe's Nick Powell scooping the League Two gong. Millwall's Tamika Mkandawire received the Player in the Community award, Rotherham United won the Community Club award, the award for the best matchday progamme was taken by Burnley's ‘Claret & You', while the Goal of the Year gong was taken by Peter Whittingham.
Bruce Halling
Bruce is a 24-year-old self-confessed Football League addict and author of the 'Road To The Promised Land' column. He is a passionate Southend United fan who has witnessed the Shrimpers' rise to the Championship as well as their more recent fall back to their current position in League Two. Though he doesn’t get to many games as a spectator, he has worked at Southend, Colchester United and now Queens Park Rangers as a steward, so is never too far away from the action on a matchday. Away from football, he is a Politics graduate and currently jobhunting. Follow Bruce on Twitter @brucehalling

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