Connor Southwell: Why Emi Buendia must be crowned City's Player of the Season
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
There is a claim to be made for every regular Norwich City player to win the Player of the Season award as voting opens.
As the Canaries edge closer to the Championship title, every member of Daniel Farke's squad has contributed to a mammoth effort after a disappointing relegation.
Behind the 90 points that City have on the board is a collective effort, one that many expected would be tough to rediscover given the fallout from their top-flight campaign. Farke has managed to re-motivate and inspire his group to tackle the division with the same level of hunger as they displayed two seasons ago.
Those points can be boiled down to individual moments or contributions across the season that have helped City on their way. Be it Dan Barden's composed performance at Cardiff, Jordan Hugill's brace against Bristol City or Teemu Pukki's goal-scoring haul, this has been a team effort.
It's been a season largely of high points, with very few moments of frustration. Within that, City fans will be tasked to crown a new holder of the Barry Butler Memorial Trophy.
The only problem is, they can only choose one player.
Throughout the years, this has been a trophy used to champion true City heroes for their outstanding contributions on the pitch. Promotion or relegation, this trophy has been a constant whether success is present or not.
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That is why it mustn't be hijacked by opposition supporters. That is why it's so crucial the club are protecting the voting system to ensure a fair fight and honour the prestige of this award.
City have robust processes in place to prevent a flood of opposition fans from swaying the vote in the favour of a particular player. This will be different to those man of the match votes conducted on their official Twitter profile.
Oliver Skipp will receive numerous votes from genuine City supporters for his performances this season. There is a valid case for his inclusion in the top three, the 20-year-old has been outstanding and consistent throughout.
Spurs fans may be desperate to get their hands on any piece of silverware they can find, but doing so would rob Emi Buendia of the recognition he deserves for an incredible campaign.
Next season, the likelihood is that Tottenham supporters will be able to vote for the England U21 international in their own polls and competitions rather than invading City's.
Skipp deserves to be in the top three, if he makes it, on merit rather than a false elevation from those who support his parent club.
Buendia has to win. City fans cannot let the opportunity to recognise his talent slip through their fingers.
By a country mile, the Argentine has proven himself to be the best player in the Championship. Adopting his performance data this season, the quality of his displays are closer to that associated with Champions League standard rather than Football League.
As Buendia has discovered in recent weeks, when you are operating at a level far above that of your counterparts, all they can do to level the playing field is kick lumps out of him.
It is extremely rare for a Championship operator to be linked with a club like Atletico Madrid and many people could foresee it happening. Only Adel Taarabt has impressed like Buendia in a similar position at this level, and there is an argument that City's midfielder has outshone him due to his ability off the ball as well as on it.
The extent of his influence is illustrated by the daunting statistics that show Norwich's win rate with and without him in the side.
To some extent, it is a travesty that Buendia has been playing in the Championship, his ability should be being consumed on the stage of a European competition. Of course, not that Norwich fans feel that way.
He has resembled a high school student playing football against a group of primary school children.
The Argentine has the capability to remind us all of why we all enjoy watching football. He isn't just Norwich City's star man, but also the Championship's.
After Wes Hoolahan, few anticipated there would be another capable of provoking that childish joy that one experiences when watching him perform. There will come a time when he takes that step up, and not to reward his talents accordingly would be a grand shame.
After all, this could be the last season of him weaving his magic in a yellow and green shirt, reports in Spain are already linking him with a move away from Norfolk.
But whether you vote for Buendia or anyone else, do so knowing this is an award that won't be sabotaged.
Football is a game of opinions. It is what makes it so special. Whether you have 70 international caps or you've never played beyond Sunday league, you can form a view that holds just as much weight. There is something unique about that concept.
Many City supporters will view Grant Hanley, Skipp or Teemu Pukki as worthy winners of the accolade. There is a wealth of options after such a successful campaign.
Whoever City fans crown as victor of Player of the Season, the headlines are deserving to their talented group of players who have brought such joy to supporters during a time of real misery. When the turnstiles open and fans are permitted to return to Carrow Road, they will honour this special team accordingly.
- You can cast your vote for City's Player of the Season by clicking here