The Southend United first-team and under-18 squads joined Shrimpers Trust members at Roots Hall on Thursday evening for the Trust’s 2021/22 Player of the Year Awards.
Former Blues forward David Crown hosted the event, with help from Trust Vice-Chair Paul Yeomanson, for the first Player of the Year Awards ceremony to be held for three years following the Covid-19 pandemic.
The big winner was Steve Arnold, who scooped two of the three first-team prizes on offer. The goalkeeper, who has impressed throughout his first season with the club, was voted the Shrimpers Trust Player of the Year, as voted by Trust members, and the Junior Blues Player of the Year, voted by our under-16 members.
Arnold fought off competition from first runner-up Sam Dalby - also in his first term at Roots Hall - and second runner-up Jack Bridge, back in south-east Essex having progressed through the club’s Academy, to the main prize, for whom Matt Dennis, Kacper Lopata and Nathan Ralph were also contenders.
The trio were presented with their awards by head coach Kevin Maher, who expressed his thanks to the Shrimpers Trust, and Southend United supporters in general, for their backing since his return to the club alongside Darren Currie and Mark Bentley in the autumn of 2021. The Junior Blues prize was presented by Harley Norton.
The other first-team award, for the Martin Cranmer Goal of the Season, was won by Dennis for his contribution against Dorking Wanderers in The FA Cup, ahead of another fine finish by the Norwich City loanee, at Weymouth, as well as a brace of Noor Husin strikes (at Dover Athletic and Eastleigh), Tom Clifford’s stunner at Maidenhead United and Sam Dalby’s goal at home to Wrexham.
The award is named in memory of Martin Cranmer, a lifelong Shrimpers fan and founder member of the Southend United Independent Supporters Club, who passed away at the start of the 2010/11 season at the age of 40. It was presented by Martin’s widow, Zoe.
The Youth Team Player of the Year, receiving the Tom Grace Memorial Shield, was central defender Luke Reeve. Reeve finished ahead of fellow second-year scholar Brian Garzon and first-year playmaker Henry Sandat to claim the award, which he collected from Tom’s father, Len, and youth team coach Danny Heath.
Tom was an avid Southend United Supporter and a junior member of the Trust who sadly passed away at the age of 15 in July 2007, and the award was named in his memory thereafter. Heath also thanked the Shrimpers Trust for their support during the campaign, which saw the organisation’s name on the under-18 squad’s shirts for a 15th consecutive season.
The Trust has run coaches to all 24 away first-team fixtures this season covering a total of 6,518 miles, and three supporters have travelled with the organisation to all these matches. These top travellers were presented with a framed montage of the grounds they have visited, as photographed by Dave Shields.
The winners were Stephen Burt, Judith McMahon and Gary Williams, with Judith and Gary collecting their prints from head coach Kevin Maher alongside the top junior traveller, Sam Mailes, who has clocked up 4,644 miles after travelling to 19 away games. The Trust would like to thank all those supporters that have travelled with us this season and we look forward to welcoming you back.
The players remained behind for a short period at the end of the evening to catch up with supporters and sign autographs, and we’d like to thank both Kevin Maher and Danny Heath for bringing their squads to the event as well as all those involved in putting the evening together.