Leeds United manager Steve Evans will be handing out the accolades to the stars of the season at the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League’s 2016 Players of the Year Awards.
The Elland Road boss, pictured, will be on stage as guest of honour on a star-studded night at the Brooklands Holiday Inn near Barnsley on Sunday 17 April.
More than 300 players and officials are expected to return to the four star venue for the fifth year running since World Cup referee Howard Webb handed out the inaugural accolades in 2012 alongside BBC 5 Live and Non-League Show presenter Caroline Barker.
Evans, who kicked off his managerial career during four years at Stamford before moving on to manage Boston, Crawley Town and Rotherham, will also be following in the footsteps of England C manager Paul Fairclough who did the honours last April, former Wales manager Brian Flynn in 2013 and former England striker and Manchester City, Oldham Athletic and Norwich manager Joe Royle in 2014.
Born in Glasgow, Evans played professionally as a striker for Bolton Wanderers, Clyde, Albion Rovers, Ayr United, Hamilton Academical and St Johnstone until a knee ligament injury ended his playing career at the age of 24. As a manager, the 53-year-old has often been in football’s spotlight while building promotion winning sides at every club he’s guided.
John Jones, who has organised the event since 2012, was delighted to secure a figure who knows the Non-League game inside out and will appreciate what the awards will mean to players striving to make a name for themselves or win a second chance.
Jones said: “Steve agreeing is a coup and another great name to be with us after Howard Webb, Brian Flynn, Joe Royle and Paul Fairclough. He is known for his passion and the career he has forged in Non-League so I am absolutely delighted for the players.
“The awards keep growing every year and with his profile in the game, Steve’s attendance this time around is yet another seal of approval.”
The brainchild of former Manchester City keeper and Evo-Stik NPL stalwart Alan Ogley, the awards are unique in the top levels of Non-League football with the focus purely on recognising talented players and the winners being chosen by the league’s managers who have until mid-March to vote for their top stars this season.
With the countdown to the event now well underway, they will vote for a ‘player of the year’ and ‘young player of year’ in each division along with eleven more in three EVO-STIK NPL ‘teams of the year’. Since last week, fans have also started voting for their nominations for the next NPL Facebook Group Fans Player of the Year.
The coveted accolade was won last year by Robbie Dale at Blyth Spartans and a shorlist of five finalists will be named on March 18 ahead of a further vote by fans for the winner. More than 4,000 votes were registered for 144 players in the initial nomination stages last season and the poll for fans to choose this term’s top stars closes at a minute to midnight on the last day of the month, February 29.
Dale swept the boards in front of his peers, collecting the fans’ laurels as well as the Premier Division’s Player of the Year award and inclusion in the top flight’s dream team to follow in the footsteps of previous winners Cheyenne Dunkley, Ryan Kendall and Steven Thompson.