BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
Palace striker Jordan Ayew took home the three main honours at the Crystal Palace FC 2019-20 Awards, scooping the Player of the Year Award, Players’ Player of the Year Award and Goal of the Season Award for his winner against West Ham United at Selhurst Park on Boxing Day.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, the awards – normally held at BOXPARK in Croydon with all players from both the men’s and women’s teams and 100s of fans in attendance – took place at Selhurst Park and the Beckenham Training Ground with just the winners present.
The show premiered online last night and after receiving his awards, Ayew made an emotional speech, dedicating them to Mababa “Pape” Diouf who he has previously described as his “uncle, father, grandfather, godfather and mentor”.
Diouf was a close friend of Ayew’s father, Abedi Pele Ayew, and helped both Jordan and his brother Andre settle at Olympique Marseille after they were transferred there in the mid-2000s. Diouf also became the first black president in any of Europe’s six top football leagues, when he took the role at the club in 2005.
Ayew received 37% of the total online votes from almost 6,000 supporters for the Player of the Year Award, following in the footsteps of Aaron Wan-Bissaka from last season.
This season, Ayew had scored nine goals in 39 games, earning the club 14 points in the league and himself two player of the month awards and 10 man of the match awards.
“I’m lost for words. It’s a really, really big moment for me,” said Ayew. “I’ve worked so hard to get into the team and I think the first season I came into this team wasn’t the best, but the club had faith in me, the club wanted me to stay and I wanted to stay as well. I had the desire to have a better season and things have gone so well. I’m just grateful.
“I want to thank everyone at the football club; I want to thank the fans especially, they’ve been massive for us this season, for me especially they’ve been massive. I’d like to thank all the people that supported me within the difficult moments that I had in my football career.
“When I have this type of award I just think of my family and obviously of the fans,” said Ayew about the Player of the Year Award. “And one man that’s been so influential in my football career: that’s Pape Diouf. I lost him within the period of COVID and he passed away, I wish he was still here so I could present him this.
“He was so influential in my football career. He was the one who opened the doors for me to start playing football. He was more than a father, so I’d like to thank him very, very much. Because if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be where I am today, so that’s my message I have for him.
“And my parents have been supportive, my dad and my mum, they have been there since day one, for hard times; they’ve been there for me, always been positive with me. My brothers as well have been so supportive.”
His manager Roy Hodgson had nothing but praise for Ayew, who became the all-time leading Ghanaian scorer in the Premier League with 25 goals after scoring against Bournemouth in June, surpassing Tony Yeboah.
“[Jordan] is an unbelievable enthusiast and hard worker, somebody really who never falls below a certain level of performance, someone who never misses a training session and is always lively and alert in each training session, irrespective if it’s the day after coming back after a long journey or after having a day or two off,” said the Palace boss.
“He’s made great strides going forward. When he came to us, he showed a lot of qualities, but I think the qualities he possesses he really has worked on and improved.”
Other awards on the night saw Malachi Boateng take the U23 award, after winning the U18 award last season, and John-Kymani Gordon take home the U18 award. Gordon was an unused substitute for the last two games of the season, against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur.
Annabel Johnson won the Crystal Palace (Women) player of the season award with teammate Ashlee Hincks, alongside Wilfried Zaha, taking home the PFA Community Champion Award for their respective teams.
Chairman Steve Parish also presented an award with the recently-retired Mile Jedinak picking up the Chairman’s Award for Outstanding Contribution. Jedinak captained the Eagles to promotion in 2013 and led the team to the FA Cup Final in 2016.
Crystal Palace FC Awards 2019-20 – Winners
Crystal Palace F.C. Player of the Season for 2019/20: Jordan Ayew
Players’ Player of the Season: Jordan Ayew
Goal of the Season: Jordan Ayew v West Ham United (H) – 26 December 2019
Utilita Palace Women’s Player of the Season: Annabel Johnson
Under-23 Player of the Season: Malachi Boateng
Under-18 Player of the Season: John-Kymani Gordon
PFA Community Champion Award: Wilfried Zaha and Ashlee Hincks
Chairman’s Award for Outstanding Contribution: Mile Jedinak
Images from: cpfc.co.uk
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