IT WAS the week in which Non-League’s big two clashed in the Skrill Premier, and not surprisingly, Luton Town and Cambridge United dominate the leaderboard of players in contention for our National Game Awards.
That is according to England C boss Paul Fairclough, ambassador for our 11th annual awards lunch scheduled for Fulham’s Craven Cottage on May 13, in association with Budweiser Club Futures.
We caught up with the Barnet director of football at the Hive, where he spoke glowingly of Hatters’ centre-half Steve McNulty, top scorer Andre Gray and Cambridge midfield duo Tom Champion and Luke Berry when discussing contenders for the Our Game Football player of the year category.
Fairclough said: “There are a number of players standing out for different reasons. If we look at McNulty, not a youngster, but he’s been probably the most influential player in the league. He’s such a steadying influence at th back, and you can’t dismiss Andre Gray.
“When John Still arrived, Andre was perhaps a bit confused. But now he’s a firm favourite and he’s repaid that with the number of goals he’s scored.
“At Cambridge, Tom Champion – like James Armson at Nuneaton and Kenny Davis at Braintree – goes about his work without grabbing headlines, but steadily grafting away.
“Alongside him Luke Berry has got a big future. Whether he gets promoted with Cambridge or not, I’m sure it won’t be too long before we see Luke in the Football League.”
Other names mentioned by Fairclough in a series of video interviews include FC Halifax’s 25-goal striker Lee Gregory and Salisbury City winger Elliott Frear, whose fine seasons have not gone unnoticed by the two-time Conference winning coach.
Budweiser Club Futures has invested £1m into Non-League football over two seasons, providing 16 clubs with £50,000 grants. Two of these clubs received additional £100,000 Super Grants www.drinkaware.co.uk