United held their end of season awards event at the Halston Hotel on Warwick Road on Sunday night and it was a near clean sweep for keeper Mark Howard, who picked up a raft of Player of the Season awards.
The evening was hosted by Ian Milburn from IM Events and club compere Adrian Bell, with staff, players, sponsors and fans gathered together to bring the curtain down on what has been a challenging campaign.
Ian introduced the evening, and he was followed by chief executive Nigel Clibbens, who said: “On behalf of the club, welcome, we’re delighted that you're here for the first of these functions we’ve been able to host in quite a few years.
“I want to say a few thank you’s - firstly, to all our supporters. It’s been a really difficult year, but you’ve stuck with us and the numbers backing us has been immense.
“Anybody who witnessed 1,700 at Bradford knows our potential.”
“Thank you to all of our sponsors and businesses who have backed our club,” he added. “It's been tough, but you've stood by us.
“A special thanks to Thomas Graham and Roger Smith. They have been our shirt sponsor this season and have been with us for so many years. Bimson’s were a new sponsor on the back of the shirt and we thank them too.
“We’ll be announcing new sponsors in the next few days and we’re looking forward to that.
“Thank you to our staff, who work so hard, they all love the club and they’ve persevered through tough times. My personal thanks go to them.”
“This season has been really difficult,” he continued. “When we got to mid-February it was a dark time and we were really worried about going into National League.
“That’s a different place to when we were last in it and it would have been so hard. We have to learn from it, because we can't go through it again.
"The prospects of us being in there are not worth thinking about, believe me. There’s been a lot of hard reflection going on.
“We made some tough decisions, not just one - a number - and it wasn't easy, but they were the right decisions to get the club back on track.
“I can tell you, the changes we made, in certain quarters, were not welcome. They were difficult for us to make. There was a feeling that those decisions weren’t right.
"Now, just as this is St Jimmy's Day, 23 February (as well as my wide’s birthday) will always be known as Paul Simpson's day.
“The directors and owners stood up and made the hard choices, they did the right thing, they get stick a lot for not doing that on occasions - on this issue they did. They showed courage to get it done.
“I dread to think what would have happened if they hadn't. The turnaround has been remarkable and the players deserve thanks because they've been fantastic in playing their part.
“They stood up when Paul came in, they could have folded, they didn't, they stuck with it and did it for the club.
“Mind you, I’m expecting another letter from FA for trouble sparked by new flyweight champ Gav Skelton at Bradford on Saturday!”
“We head into what will now be a busy few days,” he concluded. “There’ll be changes to staff, players, but everybody has made their mark for what has been a remarkable season.
“Looking to the future, I've been here a while and I believe the upcoming seasons give this club the best opportunity I've seen to do something.
“It's there for us and it's because the atmosphere has changed, we have more pride, faith, optimism and belief, and it's fantastic. All of these things have come from nowhere, from a very dark place.
“Everybody in the city needs to recognise that because it could be special. The directors and Paul recognised that, and we are now together on this journey.
"It's only a few small steps, but it't the start. There's a chance and we have to take it.
“We can't let a Bury or an Oldham happen here. We can't stand back and watch that happen. For those watching and waiting on the side, don't do that any more. Get with us, back this club, and let's get on with it.
“Anyone who’s seen what’s happened at those clubs will know how important community football clubs are in provincial towns and cities.
“People take them for granted until things start to go wrong and look like they’re going to disappear, and then everybody says, ‘This is not right’.
“We cannot let that happen here. We all have to step up, come out, stop standing on the side, and do something for this club.
“We can’t do it on our own. We don’t have a money man to help us compete with people paying super high wages. We don’t have anyone to stand behind us if we run out of cash.
“We have to run a very prudent club and do everything right. The more people backing us, the more chance we have of success.
"For our fans, it's been a really difficult year, they’ve stuck by us through not much good times and quite a few bits of bad times.
“The numbers that have come and backed us have been immense. Anybody who witnessed 1,700 at Bradford, for what could be seen as an end of season game, knows what we have the potential to become.
“They work tirelessly, day in, day out. They love the club. They have had it tough, and some dark times this season when they were worried about their jobs and what would happen if they left this league. But they gave everything.
"Thank you to you all."
Manager Paul Simpson said: “I’m really looking forward to this challenge. When I got the call on 22 February from John Nixon, to ask if I’d help, I said yes, and thanks to Jacqui for allowing me to do it.
“After speaking with her I went to watch some clips, and I thought, these players actually aren't bad. I spoke to a few folk who said don't go, but it was too late, I'd accepted it.
“When I first came in, and I’ve said this before, I was pleasantly surprised. In the first training session I could see something was there, and that’s why my main thank you is to the players.
“For me they have been fantastic. I don't care what happened before me, they have been excellent. I told them to be the best pros they could be and we ended up with 25 points from a possible 15.
“Equate that to a full season and that's almost play-off form. They've done really well. They deserve credit.”
“I came into a backroom staff that were new to me, and I added Paul Gerrard and Geoff Haugh because I wanted good people around me.
“Our staff have so much loyalty and passion, they've been superb. I can only thank them.”
“Tonight, this feel strange,” he commented. “We’re in this room celebrating finishing 20th in League Two. We want to be celebrating for better reasons than that.
“That’s why I feel this is an attractive challenge because I realise this is a club that can achieve so much more.
“It's a club waiting to be guided by everyone, me, Nigel, board and staff. I feel it's a privilege to be here, and I want to be here for as long as a I can. I love the city, I love the place, and I’m hoping I’m here for longer than three years, because that will mean we’re on the up.
“The biggest thing for me is that it's a club where we've ignited the fans and the challenge is to keep that fire burning.
“Look at Saturday, we had 1,700 there in a dead rubber, wow, you have to ask what could we achieve and where can we go.”
“Finally, I want to say thank you to directors for giving me the chance to do this,” he commented. “And thank you to everyone for their support. I ask that you back us, stay with us, get on the journey with us.
“Well done those players who get awards, good luck to the players who will be leaving us, and make sure you all have a bloody good summer!
“We'll see you all again soon.”
Thank to you Barbara Abbott and Ben Holmes for carrying out snapper duties on the night.
Youth Team Player of the Season
"I've been here since I was nine and all I've ever wanted to do was make my debut. It's been a real honour."
The under-18 squad were then handed their runner up medals having finished second in the Youth Alliance North-West Division following what had been an excellent campaign.
CUOSC Player of the Season
"This is a massive honour, I've never had any personal accolades in my career before. This group of players has been fantastic to play with and I've really enjoyed myself."
CUSC London Branch Player of the Season
CUSC London Branch Champagne Moment
Morgan Feeney’s goal against Oldham in March.
No more words needed.
Other than … FEEEEENNEEEEYYYYYY!
Special Recognition Awards
Barrie Mossop and Ian Gray received awards as recognition for their long service to the match day ball boys / girls and stewarding respectively.
A huge thank you goes to both and we wish them all the very best as they move on.
Manager of the Year
There were plenty of smiles in the room as event host Ian Milburn presented the current gaffer with an award for his efforts over the past 15 games.
His wife Jacqui accepted the award on his behalf.
Ladies’ Player of the Season
Ciara has been a great asset to the team, having stepped up on and off the field to help in any way possible.
Committed on the pitch, she always gives 100%.
Vesta Wealth Player of the Season
Mark Howard and Rod McDonald
Both players received four man of the match awards from our home games through the course of the season.
Goal of the Season
Click HERE to view the ten selections – votes were registered during the night.
The winner was Lewis Alessandra for his goal against Stevenage here at Brunton Park on 30 April.
Season Ticket Holders’ Player of the Season
Our season ticket holders voted by email for their favourite player.
Players’ Player of the Season
Voted for by the players themselves, the runaway winner was … shock … keeper Mark Howard.
Thank you to everybody who supported and attended this event.