BROMSGROVE Sporting captain Craig Jones praised the ‘incredible’ fans after walking away with the Supporters’ Player of the Year award, writes Max Banner.
Voting for the accolade started before Sporting’s final home game of the season against Heath Hayes and there were a few names banded about as potential winners but only one player was on everybody’s lips.
The 26-year-old no-nonsense centre-back and leader Jones, who collected his honour at the annual awards at the beginning of this month.
“I would not refer to myself as fan favourite,” Jones joked. “The fans are unreal. That’s why you want to stay at the club.
“Do you want to stay here and play in front of 500 fans every other week or do you want to play for the Dog and Duck in front of 60?
“The fans give us a massive lift, especially in tight games. Going up towards the Shed – where most fans congregate – it feels like they’re sucking the ball in. It’s brilliant.”
Sporting narrowly missed out on promotion to the Midland League Premier Division after they finished the season nine points behind champions Coventry United.
However, one of the most noted performances of the season came against the champions where Sporting ran out comfortable 4-2 winners in front of a record crowd of 924 supporters at the Victoria Ground.
At this point in the season it looked as though the title would be heading to Paul Smith’s side but results towards the back end of the season did not go their way.
The final nail in the coffin for Sporting came at Racing Club Warwick where, after leading 1-0 for all of 90 minutes, the Rouslers succumbed to a late equaliser, all but securing the championship for Coventry United.
“Playing against Coventry was one of my high points,” Jones added. “I say that just because of the actual occasion but any game we win in front of the fans is a high point.
“However, I felt really low after the draw with Warwick. It was disappointing, again, for the third season in a row we finished second and the boys and everybody involved have worked hard this season.”
Jones, who has made more than a century of appearances for the Rouslers, clearly has a huge love for Sporting and the game, something which is evident throughout his whole life.
“I started playing football when I was about three years old. Basically as soon as I could walk and it was all through my father who was a centre back himself,” Jones said.
“I did Saturday morning sessions over the park with a coaching company and it all went from there.
“I’m a PE teacher during the working week so I have to get the boss to let me out early when we play away games.”
Looking to the future, Jones is hopeful he will remain at the club for many years to come and hopes next season could be the season Sporting finally secure promotion.
“I’d love to stay here,” he added. “I got my 100 appearances this year and I would love to go on and double or triple that.
“As a club, we want to play as high as we can. I think the fans and the boys deserve better than the league we are in and we’ve just got to prove it.”
Only time will tell whether Sporting have it in them to win the title next season but what is certain is they have a loyal servant in Jones who has his sights set on big things.
As long as this continues, his popularity and respect among the fans will remain sky high.