Westlake joy at award
IAN Westlake was last night crowned Ipswich Town Supporters' Player of the Year, writes Derek Davis.The 20-year-old from Clacton was also chosen by Town staff for the John Kerridge Award as the club's Most Improved Player.
IAN Westlake was last night crowned Ipswich Town Supporters' Player of the Year, writes Derek Davis.
The 20-year-old from Clacton was also chosen by Town staff for the John Kerridge Award as the club's Most Improved Player.
The Duracell midfielder secured more than a fifth of the fans' vote with leading scorer Darren Bent runner-up and keeper Kelvin Davis third in the supporters' club's awards presented last night.
Westlake said: "This was a great surprise and a terrific thrill. Really I was just hoping to get in the side and push for a regular place around Christmas time but it's gone better than I expected.
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"Perhaps being a local boy helped me win the award because there were so many players it could have gone to, but I think the Clacton branch has come up trumps for me."
Westlake's achievement was immediately hailed by supporters' club chairman Ian Pennock and Blues boss Joe Royle.
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Pennock said: "It is once again testament to the Academy that first ad second in the supporters' awards have been won by young players coming through.
"Westy has caught the eye this season with some of his performances and one or two goals have been pretty special. Friday's goal was up there with the best and the votes had already been cast by then.
"I sit in the Britannia and get a good view of him running up and down the wing and he is exceptional."
Royle handed Westlake his full debut this season when he started him at home against West Ham.
The former England schools water polo player has since gone on to make 30 starts and his equaliser against Sheffield United on Friday night was his seventh goal of the season.
Royle said: "It is a fantastic achievement for a player in his first full season. Ian went in and just got better and better.
"He is a confident, fit young man who relished it. Sometimes young players feel their way in gradually but Ian just took to it and apart from a couple of times when we gave him a rest he has made it hard to leave him out.
"He has done very well and has added goals to his game which he didn't really have in the reserves.
"Ian also has great energy as he showed at Sheffield United – while others tire he just gets stronger."
More than 300 fans were at the Legends Bar, Portman Road last night to see the presentations, compered by Anglia TV's Donovan Blake, and enjoy a social evening afterwards.
In what was one of the tightest votes for years, almost 8,500 fans entered their choice with Westlake winning 21% of the vote. Bent received 17% and Kelvin Davis 12%.
Pennock added: "It was a difficult choice for supporters this year and quite close.
"There was no one player completely outstanding this season. There were a lot of good individual performances but there were also a lot of individual mistakes in games."
Outstanding 17-year-old Dean Bowditch won the Dale Roberts Academy Player of the Year. Although the Braintree boy has starred in the first team, netting a hat-trick on his full home debut against Watford, he has also played for the reserves and the Academy side in the FA Youth Cup this season.
A special award was also presented to the club secretary David Rose who retires at the end of the season.
Pennock said: "David has been a true friend to the supporters for many years, He has attended numerous AGMs and branch meetings over the years, way before my time as chairman.
"It's not just the supporters' club he has helped but all fans. Whenever we have played in Europe, David has not just gone over to prepare for when the club visits but has laid the groundwork for supporters to have a good trip as well."
Awards were also given to players who had made full debuts this season with Lewis Price, Dean Bowditch, Georges Santos, Drissa Diallo, Shefki Kuqi, Chris Bart-Williams and Matt Elliott all qualifying along with Westlake.
Although reserve-team skipper Scott Mitchell made two first-team appearances, he will have to wait for his award as he has not yet made his full debut.
Westlake will again be presented with his Player Of The Year Award before Sunday's crucial match against Cardiff City at Portman Road.