Date: 1st May 2008 at 8:02pm
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Barnet’s Player of the Year will be announced after a dinner held by the BFCSA on Sunday evening.

In the past, this award has been won by such Barnet greats as Les Eason, Jack McClelland, Gary Phillips, Eddie Stein and Dougie Freedman.

Over the last 4 years, however, it has been a pretty clear race, with Grazioli’s 25+ goal tallies earning him in the award in 2004 and 2005 respectively while Nicky Bailey and Simon King were clear winners in the first two seasons back in the league.

This season, however, there are 4 genuine contenders – a sign of how the Bees have been less reliant on individual talent this year. Here are the contenders in profile:

NEAL BISHOP

Probably the favourite and already announced as Norwegian Fans Player of the Year. The tough tackling midfielder was signed on a free from York City last summer and having been their star man as they came agonisingly close to promotion back to the Football League, was one of those signings you just instantly knew was going to be good.

And so it has proved. Despite being sent off in his 2nd match against Norwich he established himself quickly as a fans favourite and you can probably guess the chant that was given to him as a result. He brought a physical presence to the Barnet midfield which had not been seen for many years, arguably not since John Doolan left the club, and this combined with simple and effective passing was a winning combination as the Bees briefly flirted with the play-offs.

Had this award been voted for at Christmas, he would have won comfortably, however his form has tailed off slightly since then and this combined with a goal tally of 2 which was far below what fans were used to seeing from the departed Nicky Bailey and Dean Sinclair might cost him the prize.

KENNY GILLET

A friend and former team mate of Arsenal’s Gael Clichy, Kenny arrived in England from Caen last summer at the recommendation of his friend. He first trialled for the Bees at St Albans. I have to say I hardly noticed him, given that the opposition hardly ever were able to launch an attack against him, but his class on the ball was evident and even interested Watford briefly after he played against the Hornets in a behind closed doors game.

Eventually he did sign for Barnet and immediately showed a calm authority on the ball and technical ability far above that of an average League 2 full back. Neither did he neglect his defensive duties, snuffing out a succession of high class wingers, as well as bombing forward to join the attack. The highlight of this part of his game was the fine turn and cross which led to Liam Hatch’s headed winner against Gillingham in the FA Cup.

Gael has only had 1 bad game that I can remember (Lincoln away if anyone’s interested) but his season has been truncated by injuries and this may be what costs him the award, although it has to be said he probably has the lead among fans who have announced their choice on the messageboard. If I was a betting man, I might be tempted to back him.

JASON PUNCHEON

If this award was about talent, Jason would win it hands down. On his day he can just do the most unbelievable things with a football. Perhaps the most audacious of these this season was a shot against Swindon in the FA Cup Replay from almost the halfway line which was inches away from being the FA Cup Goal of the Season.

He is my favourite Barnet player for the entertainment his running at full backs and long range shooting brings and he showed all his tricks on a regular basis early in the season, scoring 4 times in the 4 matches after the opening day. This run continued into October when he scored a late winner against Wycombe and set up 3 goals at Stockport to bring back memories of his trademark performance against Northampton last season. At this stage of the season he was being scouted by Liverpool and Leeds were reportedly offering £350,000 for him, an offer the club turned down.

However, Jason being Jason his form dipped markedly over the winter months, although there were still highlights, such as a high class hat-trick against Dagenham on Boxing Day and an incredible performance against Swindon in the Cup Replay. He was dropped after a daft sending off against Peterborough for kicking the ball at a linesman but came back strongly late in the season, scoring a fine goal (with his weaker right foot) in what may well be his last Barnet home game.

Many fans struggle to warm to Jason because of his inconsistency and thus will not vote for him but 10 league goals from the wing (many of them contenders for Goal of the Season) and the top number of assists cannot be discounted.

JOE DEVERA

Joe began the season looking to cement his hard-won status as Number 1 right back after last season’s battle royal with Ian Hendon, who had semi-retired to become Assistant Manager at Barnet. He ended it as a star either there or at centre back and with bigger clubs circling around him.

Despite an inauspicious start with a sending off in the first home game against Hereford, Joe quickly came storming back as an integral part of the tight back 4 which saw the Bees reach 4th in the table in late October. However he was arguably even more impressive through the difficult winter as he moved to centre back and hinted that this may be his better position with some excellent displays – I certainly feel that given his size, pace and tackling ability he will probably play there in the long-term.

Joe was so consistent that he started every single game from the home match against Bradford on September 1st until Rochdale away on April 15th. It is also hard to remember a bad game in this period, the only disappointment being his failure to open his Bees scoring account, although a fine run and pass did set up a goal against Bury in his last match of the season.

Joe has been a model professional this year, especially given his still very tender 21 years of age. Whether he has quite been eye-catching enough to win the top accolade is open to question, although with the Most Improved and Young Player awards also up for grabs, it is hard to imagine he will come up empty-handed.


So there we have it. The main 4 contenders for the big award. As for the smaller awards, Joe Devera and Nicky Nicolau lead the chase for Most Improved with mentions also for Rob Beckwith, Max Porter and Liam Hatch. Young Player will probably be between Devera, the precocious Josh Wright and Jason Puncheon, with a mention for Albert Adomah. Goal of the season could conceivably go to one of a dozen or so strikes – with several from Jason Puncheon, a netbuster and overhead kick from Anthony Thomas, a mazy run from Albert Adomah, a Liam Hatch screamer and Adam Birchall’s delicate chip against Swindon.

Also a comment about the BFCYSA award, which is given for the first time this year as a reflection of the votes of young supporters.

Finally, I leave you with my votes for the awards and my predictions for who will win:

Player of the Year

Voted: Kenny Gillet
Prediction: Kenny Gillet

Most Improved Player

Voted: Joe Devera
Prediction: Joe Devera

Young Player

Voted: Jason Puncheon
Prediction: Josh Wright

Goal of the Season

Voted: Puncheon (Notts County at home)
Expected: Birchall (Swindon away)