The end of season awards dinner was held recently for Blues Ladies, and after the most successful season in their history, it was a night to remember and celebrate the magnificent work everyone involved with the club has done over the past 12 months. There was much to look back on with pride and pleasure, and we have picked the top three moments in the past season:
3. FAWSL Continental Cup Final
A strange inclusion considering the pain it caused at the time, but the performance of the girls in this seasons curtain call must give great confidence looking into the future. When you compare this match with the previous Continental Cup final, a 4-1 defeat again at the hands of Arsenal, a similar team showed much more confidence, much more belief that they could beat the leading team in the English game, and overall showed that next season, with a bit more luck and the same determination, there could be much more success on the horizon.
2. UEFA Women's Champions League debut
A moment many people doubted would ever come. A club which, without the help of players' parents, would have gone out of existence only a decade ago, mixing it with the cream of European women's football. The debut of Blues, a home tie against Italian side Verona, was in incredible moment for players, fans and all those connected to the club, and although this season's journey came to a premature end in the second leg of that tie, the home leg showed that we can perform against some of the best teams in Europe, and the 2-0 victory was a benchmark in where the club has come from, and the endless places it can go.
1. FA Women's Cup Final
But of course, the magic moment of 2012 has to be that gloriously hot Bristol Saturday on the 26th May, a day that will certainly live long in the hearts and memories of everybody associated with Blues Ladies. The ups and the downs, the agony and the ecstasy, all culminating in Gemma Bonner blazing the final penalty into the Atyeo stand to send Blues into raptures on and off the pitch. The lasting images of the players sprinting towards Becky Spencer, and the champagne soaked Laura Bassett lifting the cup for her side, our side, for the very first time. For fans young and old, this was the ultimate success, a major trophy for Blues, and the stepping stone for hopefully many more days like this. In the words of the great Guy Garvey, one day like this a year will see me right.
Young Player of the Year Award
This award could have gone to a number of people, not least the group of youngsters who have made a breakthrough into the first team squad from the youth groups and also other clubs. Emily Simpkins came in from Coventry and showed no sign of being phased, making a number of first team appearances, aswell as scoring her first goal in the 1-1 draw against Arsenal. Anna Wilcox, Harley Simpson and Hannah George have all been part of matchday squads, and no doubt when their time comes, the experience of being part of these groups will give them much confidence. The winner of the award has developed into an intergral member of the first team, this being epitomised by her only missing one game all season, and Chelsea Weston was a very worthy winner of the award. Defensively, she has made the right back position her own, and has a great understanding between her defensive partners, and this season she has displayed her attacking threat to deadly effect, with her right wing crosses creating numerous goal scoring opportunites, mostly leading to Jodie Taylor finishing them off. WIth England right back Alex Scott being 6 years her senior, the Worcester girl who has represented England at u17, u19 and u20 level must surely be pushing Scott for that national berth.
Player's Player and Manager's Player of the Year
After such a successful season on the pitch, you could be forgiven for thinking it would have been a tough choice for Player of the Year award. A string of international stars combined with the industrious and talented group not recognised by their international managers could leave people thinking hard about who to award this to. Notable nominations must go to midfield duo Jo Potter and Jade Moore, who have displayed a superb level of consistantly good performances throughout the season, and also to Jodie Taylor, not only the club's top goalscorer but the top goalscoring English player this season, who has blossomed into one of the most feared strikers in the game, and who we dearly hope will return next season. But then you look carefully and notice that, in reality, there is only one winner of this award, and both the players and David Parker voted captain fantastic Laura Bassett to win the award. The true epitomy of the words "inspirational leader", Bassett has been at the forefront of every success for Blues over the last year, and you never see her have a bad game. One of the best reader's of the game we have seen, in men's and women's football, the Blues skipper wears her heart on her sleeve, and always gives everything she has on the pitch. But it is not just her efforts on the pitch that makes the fans warm to her, off it she is the digital ambassador for Blues Ladies, and she always has time to talk to the fans, and makes efforts to show her support to the youth groups by visiting the games. The travesty of justice is that Bassett has not represented her country enough, as she is arguably England's best centre back, and no doubt she would display the same courage and will to win in the white of England as she does for her Blues side. Never has a winner of Player of the Year been more just and deserved. Well done Laura.