The ITEN End of Season Awards 2019/20
Rovers fans have been voting over the past couple of weeks in the first annual ITEN End of Season Awards, and now we can reveal the full results!
Although this campaign ended prematurely due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was still a memorable one for Doncaster Rovers as Darren Moore shaped the team to his image and began what will hopefully be a long and fruitful period for the club. Your nominations and votes gave us the stand-out players, goals and matches from the past year so now we tip our hat to them before turning attentions to the future.
Read on to see who came out on top in our four categories, and when you’ve done that don’t forget to check out our Editors’ Choices from last week, where the ITEN team picked their personal highlights from the 2019/20 season.
Player of the Season: Tom Anderson
The man now known as “The Wall” is the unquestioned star of the season at Doncaster Rovers, and romped home as an almost unanimous choice for the team’s Player of the Season. The towering defender earned over three-quarters of the vote to beat out captain Ben Whiteman and top scorer Kieran Sadlier, underlining the influence he has had over a rock solid back-line playing under former defensive man mountain Darren Moore.
Tom Anderson made 37 appearances across the campaign, starting in every single game that he was available for (discounting the EFL Trophy) as he rose to prominence filling the void left by former captain Andy Butler in the heart of Rovers’ back four. He scored two goals, using his physicality to score from set pieces in games against Shrewsbury and Wimbledon, as well as proving vital to a solid haul of 11 clean sheets for the team throughout 2019/20.
Anderson’s constant presence in a side that was frequently changing personnel is testament to the importance he ultimately had in the way Moore wanted his team to play, belying his 6’4” frame by demonstrating solid technical ability and stepping up to become the unofficial captain of a defensive unit that was in flux at the outset of the campaign with several new faces. His partnership with Joe Wright grew as their minutes together increased and this award speaks to the level of popularity he has earned as fans have watched him progress over the past couple of seasons.
He is now a respected part of the fabric of the club and can no longer fly under the radar in South Yorkshire, but his national reputation remains one of a player somewhat underrated compared to contemporaries he has outperformed which bodes well for the club’s ability to keep hold of him. We can only hope he remains to lead the Rovers defence for years to come after such a consistent, accomplished season.
Goal of the Season: Kieran Sadlier
vs. Peterborough, 26th December
Irish winger Kieran Sadlier scored more goals than anyone else in a Rovers shirt in 2019/20 season, so it stands to reason he had a very good chance of winning this award from the outset. That he has a propensity for the sublime doesn’t hurt either, and it was one of his finest strikes that won this award in a close-fought contest against efforts from loanees Niall Ennis and Ben Sheaf – all of which were superb long-range efforts.
Sadlier’s tally of 12 goals in 40 appearances is an impressive tally for a winger in his first full season playing in League One, and marked him out as one of the highest scoring midfielders in the division, with more than the fair share of these goals ones worth replaying over and over again. The effort that won him this award came in one of the best wins Darren Moore masterminded this season, a 3-0 win away at Peterborough on Boxing Day that kick-started Rovers’ mid-season resurgence.
Rovers worked the ball in triangles along the left flank with Sadlier drifting inside to play a deft first-time pass to Ben Sheaf, then peeled away to the centre of the field away from any markers to receive the ball back from the Arsenal loanee. Now blessed with acres of space he let the ball run across his body and then unleashed a fierce right-footed shot from fully 30 yards out that whipped perfectly past the diving goalkeeper and into the bottom corner.
It is no secret that Kieran Sadlier loves a goal against Peterborough, a club whom he used to be contracted to but who never gave him much of a chance to show off his considerable talents, and he has delighted in scoring spectacular goals in every game he played for Rovers against them.
Game of the Season: Peterborough 0-3 Rovers, 26th December
That game at London Road also wins the award for the fans’ favourite game of 2019/20, and with good reason. Darren Moore made sure his Rovers team made a statement against a Posh side flying high in the automatic promotion places at the time, completing a thoroughly deserved league double over former Rovers manager Darren Ferguson here. The Reds executed a perfect game plan to disrupt the free-flowing Peterborough and restricted their potent strike force, earning a second successive clean sheet against Toney, Maddison and co.
Kieran Sadlier was in inspired form, opening the scoring with the thumping long-range effort described in detail above and proving a problem all afternoon for a Posh defence including sacked former player Niall Mason. Sadlier added a second after the break with a lovely near-post volley from Jon Taylor’s corner, making it four goals in three games against his former club, before Ben Whiteman scored arguably his finest goal of the season too with a measured left-foot strike from outside the area late on to seal an emphatic 3-0 win.
Few could have predicted this scoreline before the game, with Peterborough in form and looking like genuine title contenders, and Rovers on a run of five games without a win and struggling to find their best set-up. Darren Moore made some bold calls for this game, bringing in fringe player Madger Gomes and opting for Cameron John as a left back instead of Reece James. Both moves paid off with Gomes showing more than he had in previous games and John proving effective as a bustling presence on the flank, contributing significantly to Whiteman’s game-sealing goal.
The few hundred Rovers fans who made the journey on a cold day over Christmas will cherish this performance for years to come and it is a worthy winner of the Game of the Season award, beating out the dramatic home win over rivals Rotherham and the 7-1 annihilation at hapless Southend in October.
Young Player of the Season: Ben Sheaf
22-year-old midfielder Sheaf arrived last summer on a season-long loan deal from Arsenal in a move instigated by previous manager Grant McCann. It speaks to the level of promise people see in him that he was the only one of several signings lined up when Darren Moore arrived that the new boss wanted to carry through, and he stated at the time that he knew of Sheaf’s abilities from his time working as a youth team coach at West Brom.
The upsides to the youngsters play were immediately apparent: he had a good understanding of the game, technical ability in droves and was no lightweight for an academy player. His lack of senior experience was the only drawback – especially in those initial months where he would be caught in possession a little too often – but despite those teething problems Sheaf grew into becoming a pivotal part of Moore’s team and a near ever-present alongside Ben Whiteman in central midfield.
He made 38 appearances overall, starting 33 league games, and only failed to appear in one game in which he was available – the home defeat to Sunderland in which his combative play was sorely missed as Rovers rolled over for their physically stronger opponents – belying his young age by becoming a stalwart of the side. He notched two goals, including a Goal of the Season contender at Gillingham in February, and provided several important assists.
His propensity to combine defensive duties with attacking flair mark him out as a player who could have a very bright future in the modern game, and the fact that he and Whiteman had such a good chemistry as to be able to trade roles over the course of a game at will kept Rovers ticking along as a viable threat to all manner of opponents. That Ben Sheaf beat out popular forward Niall Ennis to win Young Player of the Season suggests that fans eventually got over their initial apprehension over the flaws of inexperience in his game and will remember his time at the club with fondness.
Sheaf deserves the credit for a stellar campaign in the hoops and we will be watching his career with interest in the future.