ILKESTON FC striker Gary Ricketts has been named Evo-Stik Division One South Player of the Year for 2011/2012.
The 36-year-old player-coach picked up the accolade at the league’s annual awards night at the Holiday Inn, Barnsley on Sunday, capping an excellent season so far which sees him currently among the highest scorers in the division with promotion still a distinct possiblity for the Robins.
And Ricketts was quick to praise his Ilkeston FC teammates as well as his fellow coaching staff,
He said: “I’ve had my ups and downs in football but it’s been a sport I’ve loved all my life.
“Now I’m at the stage where I can also help the youngsters around me, but to still be doing enough to get awards like this is great and I’m over the moon with it.
“But it’s down to a great team of lads, a great manager and staff and a fantastic bunch of fans that make me feel at home here and enable me to give what I have for the cause.
“I hope now we can go on and get promoted and have cause for a real party at the end of the season.”
Robins boss Kevin Wilson believes the award, which is voted for by managers throughout the division, is richly deserved.
Wilson made Ricketts his first signing both for Ilkeston Town and then Ilkeston FC when the club was re-formed, and his decisions have been vindicated by solid performances throughout Ricketts’ Robins career.
“Gary leads by example in a side which is so full of young players,” said Wilson.
“I was always told when I started out as manager that your first signing can be your most important and Gary was mine here.
“Even though he’s learning the ropes in terms of coaching, his first job here is playing and he’s big, strong, powerful and gives everything while also keeping things simple.
“It’s a real compliment that he has been voted the best player by the other managers because he gives so many of them headaches as he just doesn’t leave people alone.
“But he’s also a strong character, as proved by how he bounced back following the incident against Mansfield in pre-season.
“That characteristic is something we’re trying to breed into the young players.”