The 2021/22 Player of the Year awards night took place this week in the SBK Spires Restaurant.
A great night was had by all with around 180 people attending.
Sky Sports’ Nick Johnson and 1866 Sport commentator Phil Tooley hosted the event, which saw seven awards handed out.
The event got underway with chairman Mike Goodwin and manager Paul Cook thanking supporters for their continued support over the season.
- Chesterfield FC Academy Player of the Year – Laken Torres
The first award of the night was won by Laken Torres, who took home the Academy Player of the Year award after an exemplary season.
The young forward has scored 51 goals in 43 games this year and has impressed his peers not only in the academy, but also the first team.
Torres was part of the side that won the U19 National League Academy title and has trained with Paul Cook’s squad a few times throughout the campaign.
Speaking to the audience he said: “[The academy coaches] have helped me a lot. They’ve taught me new things and given me the opportunities.”
- Chesterfield FC Social Contribution Award – Luke Croll
The Social Contribution Award was sponsored by the Bridge Inn Blues Away Travel Club with Paul and Kimberley Goodwin on hand to present the award.
Paul spoke about the winner in a pre-recorded video, saying: “We donated to the Easter Egg appeal, and it was coming into contact with the club through that that I became aware of a special contribution that one particular player has made in the local community.
“So, we felt as a travel club, on behalf of our supporters, it would be appropriate for that person to be acknowledged. It is a pleasure and privilege of mine and Kimberley’s to represent the Bridge Inn travel tonight and for this award to be presented.”
It was announced that Luke Croll had won the award after playing a big part in various community projects since he joined the Spireites in November.
The 27-year-old helped massively during Chester’s Easter Egg Appeal as well as being an advocate for mental health support in the community.
Croll commented: “I think it’s easy for us as players to have an impact in the community. The Trust has done a lot of work regarding the mental health team.
“A lot of the boys do their part and the club have been a massive help. I encourage you guys to help further.”
When asked about his injury progress, Croll revealed that he might be back to aid Chesterfield’s play-off campaign, saying: “See you Tuesday!”
- Chesterfield FC Community Trust Player of the Year – Curtis Weston
With the last award before the halfway mark, the Community Trust celebrated their Player of the Year.
The award was given to someone who has helped with numerous projects that the Trust have delivered and been a big help with the good work that the Community Trust do.
Keith Jackson, the Community Trust’s general manager, is proud of what the Trust has achieved this year, saying: “What we do in the community to support people, in particular those vulnerable people that might not get the opportunity to work in football and sport, that’s really what we are about.
“You saw on Sunday, the community tickets for people that had never been to a football match before and it’s about not just the work in the community but linking that into bringing them to the games and creating Chesterfield supporters for the future.”
The award was given to Curtis Weston who, as club captain, usually finds himself involved in many of the Trust’s activities and initiatives.
Weston labelled the achievement as a group success as he said: “The boys help out a lot anytime Keith reaches out to me asking to get some stuff done.
“It’s very rewarding when you can do it. The other day, we had someone that reached out and asked for a video for somebody who is unfortunately getting treatment for cancer. They sent me the reaction of the guy and it was incredible. For just 30 seconds of our time to do that video was really impactful. It always makes it worthwhile.”
- Chesterfield FC Goal of the Season – Saidou Khan vs Woking (A)
The Goal of the Season award is one of the most sought-after prizes of the night and this year had eight deserving nominees battling it out.
The award was sponsored by Karen Child who was also on hand to present the trophy to the winner.
After all eight goals were showed to the audience, it was revealed that the Goal of the Season went to Saidou Khan for his unbelievable 60-yard strike against Woking back in September.
The midfielder made his way to the stage with Liam Mandeville in tow, who claimed that Khan didn’t mean to score!
After Mandeville sat back down at his table, Khan explained why the award meant so much to him: “I meant it. I don’t score a lot of goals but when I do, they’re good goals.”
- Chesterfield FC Players’ Player of the Year – Kabongo Tshimanga
The Players’ Player of the Year is the one award of the night where the recipient has won due to votes from his peers.
Leengate Valves, who have just become the sponsors for the front of the 2022/23 shirts, sponsored the prestigious award.
There have been some brilliant performers in a Chesterfield shirt this season, however, there was only one winner and that was Kabongo Tshimanga.
“I am loving it. Prior to this, [injury] I was having the best time in my career. That’s obviously credit to the boys. They’ve been a big support to what I’ve achieved this season.
“The fans have stuck by us in large numbers. That has been a massive boost. We’ve got such a great group. I didn’t think I was actually going to get it because the likes of ‘Whitts’, ‘Kingy’ and the other boys have had a great season. I’m grateful to have this award.”
- Chesterfield FC Outstanding Contribution Award – John Duncan
The penultimate award of the night didn’t celebrate something over the course of the 2021/22 season, but instead celebrated an individual’s career with Chesterfield Football Club.
The award was presented in memory of Darren Bown, with his wife and two daughters in attendance to hand it over.
On the screen, Spireites legend and 1866 Sport summariser Jamie Hewitt spoke about why the recipient was deserving of the accolade.
He said: “The manager at the time gave me the chance in football. I got a YTS and throughout my career he put me in the first team and the rest is history.
“This guy was a fantastic mentor for me and with his assistant, they guide me through my career – even when I left for a couple of years.
“He’s always on the end of a phone giving great advice. He settled in the area, and I’ve kept in touch. We often have a drink, especially around Christmas time, and I’m honoured to call him a friend now.”
John Duncan was revealed as the winner of the Outstanding Contribution award with a video showing some of his best moments.
He won two promotions during his time at the club as well as reaching the FA Cup semi-final in 1997 – cementing his place as one of the best managers in Chesterfield’s history.
Unfortunately, John couldn’t attend the event due to ill health and CEO John Croot accepted the award on his behalf.
He said: “John was well respected throughout football. As I visit other clubs, John is one they always ask about.
“When times have been tough at this club, John has always been someone I have been able to ring and have a word with. He really wanted to be here tonight. Unfortunately, he is not well. As always, he wanted to be here, but I know as soon as he is able, he’ll want to be back.”
- Chesterfield FC Player of the Year – Kabongo Tshimanga
The last award of the night was the Player of the Year award, which was voted for by the supporters in an online poll.
Scott Loach, Jamie Grimes, Alex Whittle, Jeff King, Curtis Weston and Kabongo Tshimanga were the players shortlisted for the award.
After a video showing the highlights of the shortlisted players, the winner was revealed to be Tshimanga – winning his second award of the night.
The striker, who joined from Boreham Wood last summer, scored 25 goals in 31 appearances and almost immediately became a fans’ favourite.
After being presented with the award, Tshimanga said: “From the start, [the fans] have supported us and been there in their large numbers.
“It has been tough. I’ve never had such an injury, but it is one that you have to move on from. It’s football, it happens.
“As a forward, the target is to always just to get goals and get as many as possible. Thank you for your support. Thank you for always being there not just for me and the players. Hopefully, we’ll give you something to cheer in the play-offs.”
A great night was had by all as we celebrated the hard work that has gone into the 2021/22 season.
Congratulations to everyone who secured an award on the night as it was richly deserved.