David Hannant: Why Christoph Zimmermann has my vote for Player of the Season...just!
PUBLISHED: 07:56 08 April 2019 | UPDATED: 07:56 08 April 2019
Choosing the recipient of the Barry Butler Memorial Trophy last year was probably the easiest task it has ever been.
Had James Maddison not lifted the trophy it probably would have been the biggest Norwich City-based injustice since Darren Huckerby was unceremoniously booted out of the door by – of all people – Glenn Roeder. Shudder.
However, as this season reaches its final stages with City poised pretty on top of the table and on the brink of the promotion, selecting one player of the season is like trying to choose a favourite Radiohead album – it can’t be done as they are all so terrific for such different reasons. Except Pablo Honey, which is a bit naff...
Every single player that has pulled on the yellow and green this season has been tremendous – they’ve all worked their socks off, they’ve all shown quality, work ethic, composure, class, endeavour and everything in between.
I’ve seen plenty of people argue that we should just give the award to the whole team, which while a lovely sounding idea, defeats the object for me. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating individual achievement and, after all, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll all have a certain piece of precious metal to celebrate how good they’ve all been as a unit anyway.
So just how do you even begin to narrow down such excellence and pick out just one player?
For me, you find the one player that best encapsulates everything great about this season.
Somebody who has always put in his all, somebody who has shown quality, composure and grit and somebody who – like Norwich City in general – has shown more than anyone ever realised he had.
Of course, that paragraph could describe a number of players this season, which is why we find ourselves just where we are.
However, for, me, the man the fits that bill the most is Christoph Zimmermann.
The towering centre half has made the captain’s armband his own in recent weeks, to the extent that I’m left wondering why he didn’t have it to begin with.
He is a leader on the pitch, a warrior who reads the game beautifully and has demonstrated time and time again that he puts the City cause above all others - even his own health.
But what makes Zimbo so special is his story.
Christoph has had to get where he is the hard way and two years ago almost turned his back on the game altogether. Perhaps this is why he is so willing to put everything – for example – his head – on the line for City. He’s grateful for giving him one last chance to live his dream.
Now, I honestly don’t think I’m getting too over-excited to suggest that two years from now he could find himself involved in the German national set-up.
Perhaps it’s his 6ft 4in stature and Adonis build that sees him typecast as ‘the stopper’ in any defensive partnership but he is so much more than just that.
He also has a trait that so many of his team-mates also have.
It’s been a real trend of the City squad this season that they all do things you wouldn’t expect them to do - or even think asked.
We have a centre forward in Teemu Pukki that makes 80 yard sprints to win back the ball.
In Emi Buendia we have a lad with South American flair and the dogged determination of a Scot.
In Tim Krul we have a keeper who would rather pick out a pass than just lump it long.
And Christoph Zimmermann is no different.
He is a stopper, obviously, as we saw with his outrageous goal-line clearance that earned City two extra points at the Riverside.
However, he also has a passing range he just doesn’t get enough credit for.
That inch perfect lofted pass through for Pukki’s second goal on Saturday was no fluke.
He’s done it time and time and time again, producing the kind of passes people would bang on about for months on end had they been played by Andrea Pirlo.
But the thing the big German deserves applause for the most is the fact that he’s exceeding all expectations of him.
Even when he arrived, Daniel Farke down played the role he would likely have.
At the start of the season, who would have predicted he would be the first choice centre back? Even fewer would probably have picked him as captain.
This time two years ago he was playing in the German fourth tier. Next year, don’t bet against him looking in his depth in the English top flight.
So while there are more glamorous choices for POTS – after all we have one player with 27 goals to his name, another with 15 assists and two of the most exciting young full backs in the league – Christoph has earned my vote... just!