Bournemouth winger Matt Ritchie has been named FourFourTwo's best player in the Football League for 2015.
Regular match-going fans across all three divisions and the country, from Cheltenham Town to Charlton Atheltic, Norwich City to Newport County, were asked to name the three best players in their division (not including their own club) to help determine the cream of the crop below the Premier League.
And it’s the former Portsmouth and Swindon Town attacker who has come out on top, with his 11 goals and 13 assists this season helping the Cherries mount a surprise assault on the Championship title.
“It's nice to get recognition for the hard work we’ve put in,” the 25-year-old says in the May 2015 issue of FourFourTwo.
“I've always scored goals. Being a winger you're expected to do that, and fortunately enough I have pretty regularly this season.
“Individual awards are nice, but the team this season has been outstanding.”
Indeed, Eddie Howe’s free-scoring side currently sit a point clear atop the second tier, and are potentially seven games from rising from the bottom of League Two to the top flight in the space of just six seasons.
“No one expected us to be up where we are and doing so well, but we believed that we could achieve great things this season,” says Ritchie.
Establishing myself in the Championship has been a good test. I feel like I’ve done that now, but I know I’ve got a lot of work ahead to improve
“The manager allows us to express ourselves. I've played in teams before where it was a bit more rigid, but it’s great here. Obviously there are phases of play that we work on, but we're free to play our own stuff.”
Ritchie, who made two Premier League appearances for Portsmouth at the end of the 2009/10 campaign, is no stranger to personal success.
The wideman was named League Two Player of the Year in 2012/13, following it up with the League One equivalent just a year later. Helping Howe’s side over the promotion line may well result in him completing the set.
“Establishing myself in the Championship has been a good test. I feel like I’ve done that now, but I know I’ve got a lot of work ahead to improve,” says Ritchie.
“The big dream now? It's about going out there and making promotion happen. You don't get anything without working hard, and we're all striving every day to try to achieve that.”
Read the full interview with Matt Ritchie in the May 2015 issue of FourFourTwo and find out who makes our Top 50 Football League Players before discussing it online using the hashtag #FLtop50. This month’s magazine also examines whether Jurgen Klopp is poised to move to the Premier League, chats to Nacer Chadli, Simon Mignolet and Ryan Bertrand about the chase for the Champions League and meets the hardest player ever (that you’ve never heard of). Subscribe!