West Ham Player of the Year contenders
FanZone's West Ham blogger Nicholas Wright discusses his contenders for the club's Player of the Year award. As the West Ham United player awards are set to take place on Wednesday, fans of the Claret and Blue have the opportunity to decide this season's top performer. After a fine first season back in the Premier League and safety guaranteed, there will be plenty of strong contenders. The obvious choice would be Mohamed Diame who, since signing on a free transfer from Wigan Athletic in the summer, has had a sensational debut season. Powerful, skillful and dominant - these are characteristics often absent from West Ham performances in recent years. Yet the Senegalese has been the standout creative attacking outlet for the Hammers. Diame has consistently injected a much-needed purpose into West Ham's performances, most notably against the odds to elite opposition. A delightful curling shot against Arsenal, a stunning super sub in a remarkable comeback versus Chelsea and a thunderous low drive against Manchester United. Mo's goals have not only been spectacular but have also helped to secure 4 priceless points which on paper West Ham had no right to procure. Although his tally may be less than his other midfield counterparts Nolan (6) or Noble (4) this season, goals contributed is only a fraction of what Diame brings to the side. He has been solid defensively and has excelled in balancing the responsibilities of a box-to-box midfielder. This season has been a campaign of consolidation in the top flight with Sam Allardyce often opting for a visibly defensive setup; yet Diame has proved both an outstanding ball winner and catalyst for developing attacks. His value to the squad is unquestionable. He has started 14 of his last 15 Premier League games and has notably been West Ham's most substituted player this season, proving Big Sam has tried to protect the clubs most precious asset and keep him available for selection. Arguably the league's bargain signing of the season, he is a real talent and a fan favourite. He is the type of player the West Ham midfield has missed and I can see him being high on the list of nominees for this season's award. However, our defence has been one of the main reasons behind the Irons successful season and this has been in no small part down to Winston Reid - my tip for first place. His aerial challenges have been both consistent and precise and like his partner James Collins he has put himself about. I have been extremely impressed with the duo's commitment to the cause and willingness to put their bodies on the line. The Kiwi has much improved since his disappointing introduction into the top flight and he has used his time in the Championship wisely to learn and adapt to the fast physical style of English football. Much of the defensive responsibilities have hinged on Reid and the bastion, who cleared Papis Cisse's shot off the line on Saturday, has missed only two games this entire season due to injury after starting the first 30 Premier League games consecutively. Visibly more vocal this season, he has been an inspirational organiser at the back and put in a string of top draw performances. Overall our whole defence has been great this season. The Hammers have conceded only six goals from set pieces this season - only Norwich have conceded fewer - and such statistics provide further evidence of a well organised unit at the back, which Reid is at the heart of. Yet the most important attribute in the eyes of the West Ham faithful, particularly in the post-Redknapp era, is loyalty. Reid signed a new two-year contract on Tuesday (April 30th) that will keep him at the club until the summer of 2015 and this display of commitment makes Mr. Consistent, Hammer of the Year in my eyes. Also worthy of a mention is the outside contender veteran goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen. The Finn has made a staggering 159 Premier League saves this season - 24 more than any other goalkeeper and is the only West Ham player to play every minute of all 36 Premier league games this season. The 38-year-old has been impossible to shift having amassed 11 clean sheets this season. The Irons have not kept as many clean sheets in any of their last 8 Premier League seasons since the 2001-02 campaign, when they kept 13. This includes holding Liverpool's Suarez and last year's champions Manchester City to goalless draws. Whilst he may not be getting any younger, Jussi is exceeding all expectations and it is no secret he has been partly responsible for West Ham's mid table stability. So who will get your vote? The awards take place at Grosvenor House, Park Lane on Wednesday 8th May. By Nicholas Wright, West Ham's FanZoner. Don't forget to follow @FanZone on Twitter!
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