Player of the Year


BILLY'S CONTRACT


I hold my hands up and have got to say, for it is written in black and white in an earlier edition of Monkey Business that I was underwhelmed when Pools re-signed Rhys Oates.

First thing that went through my mind when Dave Challinor signed Oates was that Raj must have cut back the manager's budget massively. That said, I do like to see all Hartlepool United players do well and I was delighted for the lad when he not only won the fans' Player-of-the-Season trophy but the players' Player-of-the-Season trophy as well.

What must make his award more satisfying for Rhys Oates is that for the first time in around four seasons there was some hefty competition for the mantle and there were actually several players who were in the running for the trophy. I am talking about the likes of Armstrong, Cass, Shelton, Sterry and Holohan as well as the good Lord Featherstone.

In the past, in these pages, I might have been a tad critical, though justifiably so, of Nicky Featherstone but the boy under Dave Challinor's tutelage has done ever so well this season. Back passes to the keeper are almost a thing of the past and long may they continue to be so. In truth I would have said that he would have been odds-on favourite for Player-of-the-Season.
"for the first time in around four seasons there was some hefty competition for the mantle"

My vote went to Gary Liddle who has stabilised our defence no end. You only realise how good he is when he is not playing in the side, which is testament enough. What Liddle lacks in pace is compensated for by the way he reads the game. I like the way he carries the ball out from the back, taking the pressure off Nicky Featherstone. The number of assists he has created from out wide is well impressive for a centre half.

I, like a lot of fans, am not keen on ex-players - and managers for that matter - returning to their old clubs with a great fanfare then ending up in an elephants' graveyard such as the likes of Stevie Howard, Boydie, Luke Williams, Tommy Miller, Luke James, Chris Turner, Neale Cooper and Craig Hignett to name but a few. Rhys Oates is the exception to the rule. He is definitely a different player to the one who left for Morecambe.

First time round with Pools you could never fault his work rate or effort but he was not a prolific goal scorer (12 in 99 games). However if you take into account that he was playing in a poor side and under several different managers and was asked to track back and help out with defensive duties one can understand why he is now doing so well in a successful team in a three-five-two formation which suits his style.

I always remember him being quick but in Dave Challinor's side he seems to be turbo-charged and his pace is frightening. One only has to look at the goal he scored against Weymouth last Saturday and the one he set up for Luke Armstrong earlier in the season at Notts County where he left his marker trailing in his slipstream.

Well done that man.

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