Blackpool defender Marvin Ekpiteta won the Player of the Season award as he received awards from both the fans and Player of the Year.
The former Leyton Orient player has taken another step up to cement his place as arguably one of the Championship’s best centre-backs this season. This despite the fact that the first three games of the campaign for the Seasiders were initially not started and Neil Critchley decided to make other decisions.
It marks the character of a man who has climbed the football pyramid and only played for East Thurrock United in 2018. Ekpiteta has become a fan favorite and has continued to take on captain responsibilities when the need arises this season as well.
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His composure on and off ball possession and catching up sees him surpass everyone else in a Blackpool shirt and he’s added even more goals to his game – he has reached a personal target of five goals this season. Ekpiteta has signed a new deal to secure his future at the club until 2024 and is also on the Nigeria national team’s radar.
As always, Ekpiteta was blown away by the performance: “Thank you, I want to thank the fans and the players for the votes, I’m happy to get the player of the year and the player of the year.
“It feels really good to get both and I’m really honored to get them. It feels good to be with the guys, I’m with them every day, we train together, we work hard together so it’s nice that they recognize that and I’ve had a good year.
“It shows I’ve had a good year, my first full year (at this level) and hopefully I can continue next year.”
Ekpiteta climbed the English pyramid in a similar fashion to his former opponent Ethan Pinnock, moving from National League South Football to the Championship in five seasons. The only 26-year-old central defender has not yet reached his prime. The next step is the Premier League – which feels inevitable in the years to come, with or without the Seasiders.
“I have to see, but so far so good, so I have to keep climbing,” said Ekpiteta.
“The first three games I was on the bench so I was just waiting for my time and when I got it I took it and stayed with the team. I scored quite a lot of goals towards the end, my goal was it’s getting five for the season and I ended up getting those five so I’m hoping to do the same next year.
That day, Blackpool were frustrated by missed chances against Derby County in a 2-0 loss, while Ekpiteta watched from the stands after failing to risk after a cramp in the midweek win against Barnsley. The defender later picked up fan player of the year and player of the year presented by manager Neil Critchley and owner Simon Sadler respectively.
“Obviously we missed the penalty early, which probably would have made the game a lot easier, it wasn’t really our day today, so we just have to get going next week and end the season strong,” Ekpiteta added.
“It would be nice to get three points in the last game and then go into the summer, have a nice break and then start again.
“At the beginning of the season nobody thought we would do so well so compliments to the players and staff we had a great year so we have to be happy with that.
“The lads are great, the staff are great on the pitch and off the pitch everything is great here so I think that helps us play so well together because everything is good, the fans are good, that gives us the extra boost.”
One final game remains of a successful first season at league level when they travel to Peterborough United, the third side in a row Blackpool have met who have already been relegated. The focus for Ekpiteta is on a strong finish before looking ahead and pushing to greater heights again next season.
“That’s the goal, rest and recover and go back next year and then try to do even better. I’m going away with my family, I’m going to a few places, so it will be nice to relax.”
Neil Critchley confirmed Ekpiteta was rested due to the cramp in the win against Barnsley in Oakwell, while the Blackpool head coach took the opportunity to praise his ‘incredible’ middle half: “Yeah, he felt like both legs were cramping at the end Tuesday night’s Barnsley game, I think he did a lung-busting recovery run on their counterattack towards the end of the game and he felt like he was cramping. It wasn’t worth the risk today.
“Marvin was amazing, wasn’t he? He’s been outstanding this season, so consistent with his performances and that’s because of how he trains and how he behaves every day, he’s so consistent in his behavior, he doesn’t get up and down when things aren’t going his way Run at will or make a mistake, but don’t get too high either. Praise doesn’t come to his head, he’s the same all the time and I think that’s why he was where he is and where he is now and let’s see where he can go in the future.”
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