All done and dusted by five tonight, and you can all enjoy a few months of summer, while the groundstaff of Graham, Dave and George graft on the pitch. No doubt it will look a picture come August. They love it really, and where would we be without them? They can be a bit grumpy at times, but they are priceless. Anyway, been a cracking season, with a lot of ups and a few downs, so for this final View of 2018/19 I thought I would give you the benefit of my review of the highlights and lowlights of the year.
Best games for me? Well, the trips in the FA Cup and Vase to Clitheroe and Garstang will not be forgotten in a while, great fun and plenty of goals, not to mention a decent pub or two, and that last five minutes down at Clitheroe was something else. And the win in the mist at Shildon, which has been a long time coming, or so it seems it to me. It was fantastic to finally break our Shildon hoodoo with good wins in both the Vase and League, and both away as well. We continued our habit of often being better away from home than at Meadow Park, or it seemed that way to me. Just one of those things I think, but it is striking how often it has been the case over the past few years, and this season was no exception. Good wins as well against Consett, Bishops and Hebburn, with that first twenty minutes against Hebburn at Meadow Park maybe the best we played all year. All three clubs have had great seasons, which makes the wins special, and of course there was the memorable win over Sunderland AFC in the County Cup, which always looks good on the CV.
A few downsides as there always are; who would have given Clitheroe a prayer in the replay after the epic down there? Not me, that’s for sure. And while we may have got the Shildon monkey off our backs, the Stockton version lives on, how annoying is that? And why do we always seem to be shorthanded against them? And how do they get away with that pitch? A win or two over them next season will be high on my wish list. As mentioned before in this column our weak spot against the bottom clubs is annoying, hopefully we can add a little ruthlessness to our armoury next season.
What about individuals? We have been unlucky with injuries all of this season, with Steve Callen and Dyl Elliott particularly hard hit, but hopefully both will be back and firing on all cylinders next term, while a lot of other lads have had spells out with bits and pieces of injuries which have sometimes cost us dear in games, and made it hard for them to get back in the side and into a run of form. Part of the game I guess, so you just have to bear with it. On the upside lots of players have had cracking seasons, be unfair to name more than a few but nobody has played twenty or more games in this team this season without doing very well. A special pleasure for me has been the sight of young players joining the club and doing well, Dom, Sam, and the two lads on loan from Sunderland, Tomas and Patter have all been great. At the other end of the scale, the evergreen Colin Larkin, who just seems to go on and on with no loss of form, pace or commitment. I will though pick out two lads for special mention.
Our regular centre back pairing of Ross Preston and Greg Swansbury have been outstanding all season, in my view there is no better central defence in the league. Both lead by example and exhortation, and both chip in with vital goals from time to time, while they have shut the door on some potent strikers throughout the year. Overall I think we look in good shape for next season, a good summer and good pre-season and we will all be raring to go come August, even me.
So finally my player of the season? Hard to split Ross and Greg but if I have to choose, my player of the season is our captain Greg Swansbury, a proper defender, and a proper leader of the team, well done!