My top three players of the year... So far!

by Liam Hatton

GIVEN the task to talk about my top three picks for player of the year, you might think it is a tad premature. But here goes.

There are six huge games left to play - maybe more - but I honestly don't think a lot will change from now to the end of the season in terms of my choices.

So let us start from third and work our down the list...

Third Place - Dion Charles.

I was going back and forth between either Charles or Ricardo Santos here, which was slightly difficult due to the amount of games both have missed. Charles has played in 29 games so far this season, but has been absent through injury since the 2-1 win over Wycombe on 13th February.

However, he is still joint eighth in the scoring charts on 13 goals. Alfie May leads the way with 21 strikes, but the next top scorers are Devante Cole and Jamie Reid (17). Considering he has missed nine games (by the time of publication Stevenage would likely make it 10), it goes a long way in telling the impact he has had on Bolton’s season.

He did struggle slightly before his injury and was not hitting the form he enjoyed earlier in the campaign, but the absence of Charles - whether it be his goals, pressing off the ball or his general work-rate - has impacted Bolton and the drop off in form is no coincidence.

Second Place - George Thomason.

If you were to talk about someone who has shown constant improvement each year under Ian Evatt then Thomason is right at the top of that list. An influx of options in midfield have not bothered him one bit as he has held his place and then some.

New contract for Aaron Morley? Kyle Dempsey on the bench? It has not affected Thomason one bit as he has more than earned the right to nail down his role in the team.

I think most of us questioned turning down a rumoured bid close to £1 million from Bristol City, but it has turned out to be the correct call. Thomason represents one of our most sellable assets, and his left foot alone may be worth more than that reported figure.

First Place - Josh Sheehan.

I have been banging the drum all year and it is not really a debate. Sheehan has drawn praise from not only our own fanbase but also other teams. Someone who is easily capable of making the step up to the Championship, his talent is evident.

He is one of those footballers who makes the game look effortless. He glides across the pitch and the role he plays in that deep lying holding position in midfield is something that no one else in the squad can replicate.

He can drop a shoulder and turn a man with ease, he can pass the ball both short and long. He can shoot, take a set piece and is the engine in that midfield.

I could go on and on but I have a world count to adhere to. It says a lot about Sheehan that he could easily have left in the summer to pursue guaranteed minutes, but he re-upped his contract and is now one of Bolton’s most important players.

My top three players of the year... So far!

by Tony Thompson.

I didn't have to think twice about my player of the year, in fact, the words 'George Thomason' came spilling out of my mouth before I'd finished reading the article brief.

Sure, he may have some rough edges. Yes, he clatters into challenges like a Sunday league footballer with a hangover every once in a while. And, yes, there is something funny about his running style that reminds me of the ex-Portsmouth and Millwall striker Steve Claridge.

But if you want someone who genuinely cares about what he is doing, fights 100 per cent whether the team is playing well or not, and who has made massive progress in the last 12 months, then he is the man.

Besides which, he talks like a captain despite not wearing the armband, and I can see him leading the team out some day at a higher level.

My choice for second was tougher. I went for Josh Sheehan because I think he runs any game where he gets the space to do so.

Sometimes I think he can be rushed out of games if closed down. I think the kids call it pressing these days. And he is still a pretty slight chap.

I love watching him play, though, and he has been in genuinely good form this season for Bolton, so he gets my runners-up spot.

In third I have gone for Eoin Toal. I could have picked Dion Charles because of his goals, or Nathan Baxter because of his consistency, but there's something about the centre back that makes me think he's a great fit for Bolton. I could have seen him playing in teams gone by, in fact.

He can score goals, he likes to push forward and isn't scared of playing a pass, and he definitely dishes it out when necessary. I think he's great and he pushed Sheehan very closely for runner-up.