Rory Patterson, the man who has constantly hit the headlines this season, had his name in lights last night.
After coming into the Irish League as an unknown last August, Patterson has made everyone sit up and take notice to the extent that he walked off with the Carling Player of the Year award at the gala presentation dinner in Belfast’s Europa Hotel — an award that was never really in doubt.
Whether it’s been for his amazing goalscoring achievements, signing a pre-contract with Glentoran, making his international debut or the controversy that kicked up when the 25-year-old headed to Plymouth Argyle for a week’s training, Patterson has been splashed across the sports pages of newspapers almost all season.
His form has been nothing less than sensational and although Linfield’s Jamie Mulgrew and George McMullan of Cliftonville were also in the running, it’s a much merited prize for the prolific Patterson.
In truth he won it by a landslide.
His trademark diamond sign celebration was witnessed 41 times he hit the net for Coleraine and even Didier Drogba couldn’t out-do the Strabane man.
The Chelsea striker’s hat-trick in the 8-0 win over Wigan that clinched the Premier League title on Sunday took him to 29 league goals for the season — Patterson netted 30.
Indeed only one striker in Europe has scored more league goals than Patterson this season, Ajax’s Uruguayan hitman Luis Suarez who finished with 35. And Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, on 30 at present, needs to score in the final game of the season to better Patterson.
In the past he would have been in line for the European golden boot, but there is now a points scoring system in those standings — unlike when Linfield’s Martin McGaughey took the silver boot in 1984.
A goal in the Irish League is only worth a single point, while a goal in England, Spain, Italy or Germany is worth two. Suarez won’t win the golden boot either, as Dutch league goals are worth only one-and-a-half points.
Still, Patterson has more points than Manchester City’s £25million striker Emmanuel Adebayor and Bayern Munich’s £21.5million Arjen Robben, who will chase Champions League glory on Saturday week.
He didn’t look out of place on his international debut against Albania in March and two more caps now await on the trip to the USA and Chile later this month. With David Healy and Kyle Lafferty absent, he will have a chance to earn a regular spot.
It was no surprise that other clubs were out to snap him up and Glentoran — as revealed in the Belfast Telegraph — did just that on a pre-contract in January. If he can reproduce that kind of form next season it will make Scott Young’s job an awful lot easier.
To be successful Young will have to turn the tables on Linfield, whose boss David Jeffrey walked off with the Manger of the Year award after guiding Linfield to the Premiership and Irish Cup double.
Patterson’s fellow striker, Liam Boyce of Cliftonville, took the Young Player of the Year award after 19 goals during the season, one of which won him the Goal of the Season prize.
Rangers star Steven Davis was named International Personality of the Year, with Loughgall the best non-senior team.
Player of the Year: Rory Patterson (Coleraine)
Manager of the Year: David Jeffrey (Linfield)
Young Player of the Year: Liam Boyce (Cliftonville)
International Personality of the Year: Steven Davis
Championship Player of the Year: Paul Owens (Limavady Utd)
Non-senior Team of the Year: Loughgall
Goal of the Season: Liam Boyce (Cliftonville v Lisburn Distillery, Sept 29, Co Antrim Shield)
Merit Award: Eric Halliday
Special Award: Noel Bailie (Linfield)
Sunday Life Golden Boot: Rory Patterson (Coleraine)