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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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Bluebirds ace Skelton is ‘buzzing’ at triple award

POPULAR defender Gavin Skelton said he was both “surprised and buzzing” after scooping three awards at Barrow AFC’s end of season presentation.

A packed-out Crossbar sang the 31-year-old’s name as he picked up the players’ player-of-the-year gong, as well as those voted for by both AFC’s independent and national supporters’ clubs.

Former Scottish Premier League ace Skelton, who joined the Bluebirds last summer, made 48 appearances during the 2011/12 campaign – a number bettered only by winger Jack Mackreth (49), who himself won two awards.

An emotional Skelton, whose younger sister Helen, the Blue Peter presenter, has attended a number of Barrow games this term, said: “I’m buzzing, it means a lot to me.

“It never crossed my mind that I would win an award, let alone three.

“There were outstanding candidates like Andy Cook and Adam Boyes who have scored lots of goals, Jack Mackreth who has been on fire and Danny Hurst who has been brilliant in goal, so it’s a great honour to get three awards.

“I would say I’ve done okay and steady – some good games and a few bad ones.

“To be honest, I’m surprised to win but buzzing at the same time.”

He added: “I have really enjoyed the season.

“The previous year (when Skelton was at Hamilton Academical) I fell out of love with the game, but I have rediscovered that love this season.”

Barrow finished the Blue Square Bet Premier season in 13th – their best placing in non-league’s top flight since promotion four years ago.

They also reached the first round proper of the FA Cup before going out in controversial style to League Two Rotherham United.

The biggest disappointments were a 10-game winless run towards the end of the season that distinguished any play-off hopes, and the FA Trophy second round exit at lower league Wealdstone.

Reflecting on the league campaign, Skelton said: “We probably did better than we maybe expected – it was just a shame we had that dip towards the end of the season.

“We got tonked a couple of times, yes, but how many others teams can say they beat both Fleetwood and Wrexham convincingly?

“Our home record was good but our away form not as great. Saying that, I think there were probably five or six games on the road when we were really unlucky not to get anything.

“I think people forget we also played a whole season with almost the same small squad. Maybe that was one of the reasons for our dip in form – we couldn’t freshen it up.

“Then again, had we not lost to Bath at home (on March 6 – the start of the winless 10-game run that saw Barrow fall away from the play-off picture) who knows, it might have been different.

“That defeat really took the wind out of us for whatever reason.

“We should have won that game, but that’s football. Unfortunately, for some reason, we were not really able to kick on again after that.”

Skelton, like almost all his team-mates, is now out of contract and will this week hold talks with Barrow manager Dave Bayliss about his future.

Asked if he wanted to stay with the Bluebirds, he said: “Yeah, I’ll see what the manager says on Thursday.

“The fans have been great to me and I have enjoyed myself this season.

“We will speak this week, see what the plan is and when we are going to be back, and take it from there.”

Mackreth, meanwhile, won both the Evening Mail player-of-the-year and Programme Starman trophies.

The rapid 20-year-old winger, who joined Barrow last summer following his release from Tranmere Rovers, made 49 appearances and scored five times in 2011/12, despite playing the final four months with a toe injury that developed into a foot problem.

He said: “I wasn’t really expecting to win anything, so I’m made up.

“It’s been a great season and to finish 13th is a positive – but at the same time you do look at where we were a few months ago and wonder what might have been. It’s my first real full year playing week-in, week-out and I know there are areas I need to work on.

“But I had 15/16 assists and five goals, so I’m happy with that.

“The injury is getting better, it just needs two or three weeks’ rest now and then I’m looking forward to getting stuck into pre-season.”

On his own future at Barrow, the wideman, who two weeks ago stated his desire to stay with the Bluebirds, added: “I presume we will just get it sorted this week but there is no rush.”

Barrow AFC end of season award winners:

Evening Mail player-of-the-year: Jack Mackreth

Programme Starman: Jack Mackreth

Players' player-of-the-year: Gavin Skelton

Independent Supporters' Club player-of-the-year: Gavin Skelton

National Supporters' Club player-of-the-year: Gavin Skelton

Barrow AFC player-of-the-year: Danny Hurst

Clubman-of-the-year: Bob Herbert (programme editor)

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