Written by Ricky Carroll
1) ALEX CRUICKSHANK - BAITEZE SQUAD
Alex Cruickshank, AKA the janitor, has enjoyed an impressive season. The season-ending injury to Quincy has forced Billy to try various defenders alongside Alex. Despite the changes in defence - his performances have not waivered. Every team needs leaders - and Alex is one of those leaders. He has nerves of steel, as proven by him stepping up and scoring the deciding penalty in the National cup semi-final vs Middlesbrough Dormans FC. Another outstanding quality Alex possesses is his ability to take instructions from Billy, whether positive or negative. During this season, Billy demanded more from his team and looked to Alex to lead that charge, and Alex never shied away from stepping up. He never shies away from the physical side of defending, but he can also play out into the Baiteze midfield ballers Ade Cole and Stephen Carvell. His ability to time his tackles is another vital quality Alex possesses. He's an exceptional defender and a great leader.
2) STEVEN MARSHALL - HATCH LANE FC
Hatch Lane has enjoyed a fairy-tale season, winning the treble! They have an abundance of attacking talent, but they have been marshalled brilliantly at the back by Steven Marshall. Steven is a physically imposing defender. One of his best attributes is his ability to read the game. He has made brilliantly timed tackles to deny the opposition on many occasions for Hatch this season. He is comfortable stepping out of defence with the ball - and playing to the Hatch Lane, midfield maestro trio of Tarome, Ash and Kirk. In the London cup final, Stevens's partnership with Psaul - was a vital component of Hatch being victorious. They both defended brilliantly against the constant threat of the Trabz attack. Despite his natural position being central midfield, Steven has been imperious in defence this season - and been a vital part of the Hatch defensive unit, which many teams have found difficult to breach.
3) IAN MAITLAND - HIGHGATE ALBION
Mr Highgate Albion has had another brilliant season. Ian is the captain of Highgate - he's been a vital part of the club for several years. His performances never seem to dip. He has a brilliant ability to read the game and organise those around him. Ian is a nightmare to play against - He's imposing and will let you know early on that you're in for a tough 90 minutes. Highgate is consistently challenging for titles and competing in the biggest cup competitions, and to compete on so many fronts - is only possible when you have a leader like Ian Maitland! We often hear the phrase one-club man, but Ian is the epitome of a one-club man. He has led Highgates charge for trophies for many years. The importance of Ian to Highgate - was seen when he went upfront in the final part of the National cup semi-final vs Mayfair, and he popped up and scored two late goals to send Highgate through to the National cup final. Mr Highgate Albion is arguably more vital to the club than ever before. Season after season, Ian Maitland shows us all - age ain't nothing but a number!
4) JOE DENNY- SE DONS
Joe Denny! What a signing he's been for SE Dons. Joe is a throwback to those defenders in the 80s-90s who would throw their bodies in the firing line to keep a clean sheet. He loves a 50/50, and I don't think he's lost one since he signed for The Dons. He just settled in straight away and understood the demands and expectations - placed on anyone playing for the Dons. JD loves a header! he proves it week in and week out, winning the aerial battle against many strikers. During their title-winning season of 2020-21, he formed a watertight back four with SK, RJ and Matty Parsons - and JD was an integral part of that defence which contributed hugely to Se Dons winning the OBDSFL. Despite the loss of RJ this season - JD and Rolex have formed a strong partnership for the Dons. At the time of writing - they stand on the cusp of winning the league again, but they will be determined to set new standards next season, and JD will undoubtedly be a vital part of that.
5) TOLU- UNDER THE RADAR FC
Tolu is a manager's dream. He's the UTR captain - and he leads by example every week. His pre-game speeches are inspirational and always get his teammates fired up. He loves a 50/50, and his tenacity and will to win come through on the pitch. You can see - Tolu is vital in getting Marfs vision across to the players during the game. He is intelligent when defending and is brilliant at picking that right moment to tackle. He's vocal and leads by example. His teammates look to him for guidance - and Tolu never hides away. In addition to his superb leadership and defensive qualities - Tolu has also popped up and scored five goals this season. UTR are a team who often find themselves going far in every competition - and a big reason for that is Tolu!