Photographs: Jonathan White
Friday night saw Nantwich Town’s Men’s and Women’s teams and guests come together at the club to hand out the end-of-season awards for their efforts in the 2021/22 campaign.
There was plenty to celebrate, with the Men’s side overcoming a tough early winter to secure a solid mid-table finish and the Women’s side completing their first season in the Premier Division after gaining promotion in their first ever season in 2021. And chairman Jon Gold made sure to mention all 46 Dabbers teams across age ranges, disabilities and community football, as well as the army of volunteers who keep this great club ticking over.
Before the awards, there was a section for remembering Dabbers who’ve passed away in the last year. Sadly, it’s been a particularly tough year in that respect, with several much-loved members of the Dabbers family leaving us. ‘Grandad’ John Davies, Ian Roden, James ‘Pat’ Smith and Kevin Hammersley were all mentioned and continue to be missed by family, friends and all Dabbers.
A few special awards were handed out first, with Jamie Morgan receiving one for passing 100 Dabbers appearances, and Joel Stair for surpassing 200 appearances.
The Supporters of the Season award was given to Paige and Tyler Edwards, and was presented to them by one of their favourite players in Joel Stair. Paige and Tyler have travelled over 1500 miles through the season to watch the Dabbers so it’s a well earned award.
Outstanding Contribution of the Season went to long-serving Head Groundman Richard Bourne. The Optimum Pay Stadium has had to put up with some severe batterings from multiple storms over the past year, and Richard had led things brilliantly to make sure the ground and playing surface stayed safe and playable to complete the first full season for three years.
Onto the first of the Men’s Awards, and it was Joel Stair who claimed NTISA Edencroft Player of the Month for April, his three goals from right-back in that month surely a factor in that decision.
As for NTISA Golden Moment of the Season, that went to Akiel Raffie for the clinching goal in the brilliant home win over FC United of Manchester. That win made it three on the bounce without conceding at a crucial time of the season, as well as securing our first ever league double over FC United.
Then for the first of the votes decided by the wider Dabbers supporters, Men’s Goal of the Season. After a tight online poll, it was Dan Cockerline who won for his wonderful lob against Witton Albion that secured a priceless win for the Dabbers against a side who were, at that time, right on our tails in the relegation scrap.
NTISA Edencroft Player of the Season went also to Cockerline, who had accumulated the most votes over the course of the NTISA’s monthly polls to win that one.
Then Sean Cooke received an award for being the club’s Top Goalscorer of the season, with 12 in all competitions seeing him pip Cockerline by 1. It’s been another fine season for Sean, in which he surpassed 300 appearances and 100 Dabbers goals to move into the top five scorers in the club’s history. And with the most assists this year as well (13), in modern football parlance that’s a very impressive 25 ‘goal contributions’ in 47 appearances this season for our number 10.
A small surprise came courtesy of our sponsors Nantwich Refrigeration who gave out bottles of bubbly for all the ‘Dabber of the Day’ winners from across our matches this season.
Next it was on to the Ladies awards but before that their manager Chirs Broad spoke of his pride in his side’s first season in a higher league, and said he felt they were ‘well placed to build next season’.
Women’s Goal of the Season was won by Emily Fallon for a goal at home against Sale.
The Top Goalscorer went to Kirsty Fisher-Sherratt who finished on 7 in all competitions. Broad said of Kirsty that ‘since day 1 she’s been so passionate and a big factor in the team and she’s still got more room to improve.’
Players’ Player of the Season went to Molly Tasker, who after putting in great performances all season sadly sustained a fractured and sprained ankle in April, so all Dabbers wish her the best in her recovery from injury and congratulate her on this award. Chris Broad said ‘the sky’s the limit’ for Tasker who’s already winning awards like this from her peers at 17 years old.
Ladies Player of the Season, as decided by the management team, was given to Kara Townsend. Broad spoke of how she ‘maybe doesn’t get the recognition as she’s not an outfield player’ but a deserved win for the keeper on this occasion.
We then went to the second group of Men’s awards, before which we heard from Dave Cooke, who along with his coaching team, was revealed by Jon Gold that they would all be staying on next season.
Dave spoke openly about it being the ‘most challenging season I’ve been involved in’ but praised the players who helped pull us away from danger, saying ‘if we had 11 Joel Stairs or Troy Bourne’s we would win the league.’
He finished by saying he ‘hopes we can carry on where we left off at the end of this season’, and continue form that in the second half of the season had us in the play-offs.
In the final awards, we started off with Managers’ Player of the Season. Dave Cooke, along with his coaching team, gave this to Joel Stair.
Players’ Player of the Season was awarded to Josh Langley after a fantastic season at the back where he has led by example and been a part of a defence that had the club’s longest run without conceding a goal for nearly 60 years.
Then to the final two awards of the evening, also voted for online (and in the club) by supporters and both with over 300 combined votes cast.
Young Player of the Season was won by Troy Bourne. He had the most appearances of any Dabbers player this season, appearing in 48 of our 50 games, and his incredible consistency at the back has had Dave Cooke calling him the ‘best defender in the league’.
The final award, Nantwich Town Men’s Player of the Season 2021/22, was won by Joel Stair, his 4th award of the evening. A superb season in which he has worn the captain’s armband for large parts in the absence of Caspar Hughes, Joel finished as the club’s third top scorer on 7 goals, behind only Cooke and Cockerline, as well as being a part of that defensive unit that helped us only lose 1 of our final 11 games and take us out of danger.