2022/23 Player of the Season

As you’re all painfully aware, each and every game we run a Man of the Match poll and we tally them all up to determine the Player of the Month each month and the ultimate award, that of Player of the Season as voted for throughout the season.

I’ll readily admit that as the season progressed, I found it harder and harder to continue the monthly article for Player of the Month as too many months went by with far too little to cheer or get overly excited about… and I hope y’all will forgive me.

So, in this article, I’ll bring you the overall summary and the final placings – remember, the final places were determined by the Man of the Match poll votes.

We began the season in August with just three points acquired from draws with Nottingham Forest at home and Brentford and Leeds away, and a win away at Fleetwood in the Carabao Cup. And by some considerable margin, your votes saw Alex Iwobi as the August Player of the Month.

Into September and the fixture schedule was disrupted with the demise of the Queen, so only two games were played – a scoreless draw against the RS at Goodison before our first home win as a Neal Maupay strike was enough to see off West Ham. Alex Iwobi again featured high on the polling but, it was Jordan Pickford who polled the most to become the September Player of the Month.

October was a busy month with six games played resulting in losses to Manchester United, Spurs and Newcastle; a well-earned goalless draw away at Fulham and victories over Southampton away and a rare excellent performance in the 3-0 beating of Crystal Palace at Goodison. A heavy month of voting saw James Tarkowski feature but again, it was Alex Iwobi who edged ahead to become the October Player of the Month.

A shortened November was very much a month to forget as just three games saw Leicester City stroll past the Blues at Goodison and then the ignominy of two defeats in the space of four days away to Bournemouth that included the end of the Carabao Cup involvement. Alex Iwobi polled well but, it was Tom Cannon who stole the plaudits for his game effort in the 3-0 loss at Bournemouth to win the November Player of the Month before going out on loan to Preston.

The World Cup dominated the rest of November and most of December meaning only two games were played – Wolves claiming a late winner at Goodison before a Demarai Gray special earned an excellent point from a 1-1 tie at the Etihad – a game most remembered for Erling Haaland running away from a possible talking to from James Tarkowski after a crude challenge on Vitalii Mykolenko incensed the Everton players. Polling was understandably less than expected and that super strike against City saw Demarai Gray cruise to the December Player of the Month.

If November and December had been bad, it got worse in January as Brighton battered us at Goodison, Man United knocked us out of the FA Cup and then further losses to Southampton and a limp display at West Ham finally brought the Frank Lampard era as Everton manager to a close. Demarai Gray polled well again but, it was Amadou Onana who picked up the most votes and the January Player of the Month citation.

Sean Dyche arrived and February began with a bang as the then league leaders Arsenal were beaten with a rare marker from James Tarkowski and a spectacular strike from Seamus Coleman earned a narrow victory over Leeds United, sandwiched between 2-0 losses to the RS and Aston Villa. Polling numbers returned to a more customary level and a tight race saw skipper Seamus and Dwight McNeil having to settle for third and second place respectively as the giant Belgian Amadou Onana won the February Player of the Month award with his second on the bounce.

March began badly with a thumping at the Emirates but, the Sean Dyche mini revival got back on track with draws away at Forest and Chelsea – with a dream finish from Ellis Simms – either side of another one goal victory, this time over Brentford. Abdoulaye Doucoure, restored to the side having been ostracised by Lampard, polled heavily but, it was Dwight McNeil, clearly enjoying playing for his former manager again who raced away to comfortably clinch the March Player of the Month accolade.

April wasn’t anything like we all hoped it would be as the team couldn’t build enough on a sensational late equaliser against Spurs from Michael Keane, succumbing to losses against Man United at Old Trafford and shocking home losses to both Fulham and Newcastle. A valuable point was gained however from a goalless draw at Crystal Palace that saw a welcome return to the first team for Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Keane and McNeil were within five votes of each other but, winning his second monthly award, it was England’s Number One Jordan Pickford who outpolled both of them to become the April Player of the Month.

And so we entered May, the final month of another season in the top flight with Evertonians everywhere biting their fingernails about whether our ever-presence in the Premier League could be extended at least one more season. We began at the King Power with a hard fought draw against Leicester with Jordan Pickford saving a penalty from Maddison a vital moment. The Blues went on the road again to high-flying Brighton and WOW – what a night that was!! Right from the kick off, a sweet turn from DCL made Lewis Dunk look stupid and when Abdoulaye Doucoure netted from his cross with only 37 seconds gone, almost nobody could believe it. Three nil up at the interval, the Blues completed a stunning 5-1 win with Dwight McNeil bagging a second half brace to seal a result that absolutely nobody predicted.

Manchester City brought us back down to earth in a 3-0 loss and that left us two games to find at least four points. Losing at Wolves looked like being a death knell but Wolves, and Ruben Neves time-wasting in particular, didn’t work out for them as the Everton back three combined in the ninth minute of nine added-on minutes, James Tarkowski heading down for Michael Keane to deftly play the ball into the danger area where Yerry Mina sent the travelling thousands into chaotic celebration of a vital, vital point. And that left just Bournemouth to be overcome… a victory over the Cherries would ensure Premier League survival and in an atmosphere many amongst the media and neutrals said they’d never witnessed anything like before, the Blues didn’t let the news that Leicester were beating West Ham disrupt them and the 57th minute blast from Abdoulaye Doucoure sent Goodison into utter pandemonium. It wasn’t done though and it needed an excellent late save from Jordan Pickford to deny the visitors an equaliser, and the Blues had done it. To the Man of the Match voting for May and despite creditable polling by Yerry Mina and James Garner, it was a landslide win for Dwight McNeil to be crowned the May Player of the Month.

Okay, that’s the season summary out of the way so, it’s on to the final reckoning of all the votes polled throughout the season and the final top five places for the accumulated votes by you, the Grand Old Team forum members…

In fifth place was the free transfer who played every minute of every game he was involved in – a fabulous effort and a real team player – James Tarkowski.

In fourth place was our rock at the back, the undisputed England Number One – Jordan Pickford.

Narrowly edging ahead of JP into third place was a player who could become a major part of the Blues future, the Belgian midfield giant – Amadou Onana.

And so the top two places and this became the tale of two halves of the season, both players playing major parts throughout a difficult season. After a rocky start to his Everton career, he really began to shine with the arrival of Sean Dyche and his seemingly boundless energy won over many of the doubters – his extraordinary second half to the season clinching second place for Dwight McNeil.

That leaves just our winner to confirm and where Dwight was a dominant figure in the second half of the season, it was particularly his first half of the season that saw him open up a voting lead that was too much to claw back and so, the Grand Old Team Player of the Season for 2022/23 goes to Alex Iwobi.

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