Leyton Orient’s Josh Coulson picked up one of the biggest prizes of the day at the National Game Awards in association with Buildbase as he was named the Mark Harrod Player of the Year.
The 30-year-old defender made a telling contribution at both ends of the pitch in a season which saw the O’s promoted back to the English Football League as National League champions.
Coulson has contributed to a stunning revival after arriving at Brisbane Road just months after their 112-year stay in the EFL came to and end back in 2017.
Now after two years playing Non-League football, Justin Edinburgh’s side are heading back to where Coulson believes they belong.
“It is an absolute honour to be named the Mark Harrod Player of the Year – I didn’t expect to win this,” said the centre-back.
“It has been a long, hard season and we managed to finish top of the league which is a fantastic achievement, especially with the great group of lads that we have at this club.
“There were some tough times and Salford and Solihull pushed us all the way but we managed to come out on top.
“Most of my teammates could have won this award, to be honest, and there are a lot of good players in this league – the level just gets better and better each year.”
Orient sealed their status as National League champions on the final day with a goalless draw against Braintree at Brisbane Road and the former Cambridge United man will remember the season best for giving the home fans something he feels they deserve.
“I had an injury midway through the season and I came back and scored a few goals – any time a centre-half gets a few goals it is quite exciting but playing at home in front of sell-out crowds every week was my main highlight,” he said.
“The Braintree game where we won the league was amazing and the relief after that was immense.”
But as flattered as Coulson was to receive the award, which has previously been handed out to Leicester City and former England striker Jamie Vardy, the celebrations won’t start just yet. Leyton Orient, who were also named as the Red Insure Team of the Year, have the chance to secure more silverware when they face AFC Fylde in the FA Trophy final at Wembley this afternoon.
“A lot of hard work goes on behind the scenes too so it is great for managers and players to get recognised,” said Coulson.
“Occasions like these are nice because you can come and let your hair down a little bit.
“I can’t let mine down too much because we have a Wembley appearance to look forward to on Sunday and my manager is here watching, so he will be keeping an eye out for me!
“We won the league and we definitely want to win the double so it will be a massive occasion for our fans, especially after what they have been through.
“The club has been through some very hard times, but to be part of the team that gets them back into the Football League, where they should be, is amazing.”