Opinion: A standout candidate for main Shrewsbury Town award

The voting is open for Shrewsbury Town's end of season awards – and there is only one standout candidate for the main gong.

Josh Vela has enjoyed an impressive first full season for Town (AMA)
Josh Vela has enjoyed an impressive first full season for Town (AMA)

Town's virtual end-of-season do will again, for the second year running, be streamed to supporters due to the ongoing restrictions. The awards will be aired next Friday, May 14, free to watch on the club's Youtube and Facebook channels at 6.30pm.

And, in my eyes, the Shrewsbury player of the season award has to go to midfielder Josh Vela.

Vela, in his first full season at the club, has embodied the team's marked improvement since Steve Cotterill's appointment in November.

The midfielder, 27, has stepped up his game and become the heartbeat of not just the Salop midfield, but the whole team.

He is often the standard-bearer in regards to energy and enthusiasm, his energy is relentless, and he is a sure-fire to become an even bigger hit with fans when they are permitted back inside Montgomery Waters Meadow next season.

No Town player has started (42) or appeared in (43) more League One games this season ahead of the final game on Sunday. Indeed his only absence was after a low point for both Vela and the whole side, the 5-1 drubbing at Peterborough in late October, during which the midfielder was shown a red card that proved costly to Sam Ricketts' side.

It was the second dismissal in less than a year at the club for the former Bolton man, and supporters voiced their discontent online. But the midfielder apologised and the way he was responded has been first class.

Ricketts promised one of the best midfielders in League One upon Vela's arrival from Hibernian in January 2020. But he would struggle in the early weeks of the campaign – although not alone and by no means the worst – as Town found wins hard to come by.

As we reached the finale of the calendar year, however, with Cotterill in place, Vela began to deliver on that tag and was running games from the heart of midfield.

His partnership with close pal and captain Ollie Norburn blossomed – Cotterill nicknamed the duo 'the scallywags' – and, more recently, Vela has successfully occupied an advanced midfield role, leading the press with the energy of the Duracell Bunny – according to Aaron Wilbraham.

For a midfielder who once struck 10 goals in a promotion season for Bolton, Vela will look to add more goals to his game in blue and amber and improve on his effort of just three for this term.

But, that aside, he has been the shining light of the efforts in recent months.

The midfielder is likely to see off competition from Nathanael Ogbeta, Ethan Ebanks-Landell, Harry Chapman, Shaun Whalley and Matija Sarkic for the main award this term.

Vela is also rated highly by his Meadow colleagues and could be firmly in the running for the prestigious players' player award.

Ogbeta, the youngster brought from Manchester City aged just 19 in January, is a sure-fire winner of the young player of the season gong.

The left wing-back is streets ahead in that category, having scarcely missed a minute since coming in as a gem of a January signing by Cotterill and head of recruitment Keith Burt, making an unbelievable impression in his first experience of senior football.

As with player of the season, fans are voting on their best goal of the campaign, with 20 to be decided from on the club's website.

The standout for me is Brad Walker's missile at Cambridge in the FA Cup in early November. There are few, if any, in the squad who can strike a ball like the midfielder and that 30-yard thronker may be his finest of a glorious few in blue and amber. A number of important Chapman beauties since January were a close second!

Whalley, meanwhile, is leading the way in the top goalscorer reckoning, edging January loan hero Chapman eight goals to seven ahead of the final game of the season at Crewe.

It remains to be seen whether the Gresty Road clash will be fans' favourite Whalley's final game for the club, with his – and many others' – contract up at the end of June. Whalley, 33, has matched his best league return of eight goals and has not previously won the top scorer prize at Town.

Other awards to be dished out on the night include the supporters' parliament family award, the Chris Smith special recognition award and the Shrewsbury Town In The Community award.

The virtual event is hosted by Town's supporters' parliament and presenting will be club PA announcer Ryan Jervis and Radio Shropshire commentator Stuart Dunn.

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