Peter Mann’s Stars Of 2021

The year just finishing, and considering all that is going on in the world around us, it has been one that has witnessed relative success for the sporting endeavours within our beautiful County of Nottinghamshire.

Here, at the Nottingham Sport, we’ve covered most of what has happened across the region, and our Senior Correspondent, Peter Mann, has chipped in with quite a lot himself; so, allow him to look at what has been his runners and riders of the year that was, 2021, with some close calls along the way.

TEAM OF THE YEAR – RETFORD UNITED/NOTTINGHAM FOREST WOMEN

Up until recent months, this would have solely gone to that of Central Midlands League side, Liam Kay’s Retford United, who built on recent momentum and claimed last season’s Chairman’s Cup before, this campaign, heading into the New Year still battling on four fronts.

Then there came that of Andy Cook’s Nottingham Forest Women, who, like everyone really, has seen progression blighted by the ongoing pandemic. Their form in the first half of the 2021-22 season, particularly progression in the Vitality Women’s FA Cup, where they’ll face Manchester City in the next round, pushed them into the mix and alongside the Badgers.

Honourable mentions through 2021 go to Beeston Hockey Women, Trent Rockets, and the Nottingham Caesars.

COACH OF THE YEAR – VANDEN WARNER

This surely must go to Vanden Warner, Head Coach of our British American Football outfit, the Nottingham Caesars. With a new, yet shortened format to contend for the 2021 campaign, Warner and his coaching team led the Caesars though what was an undefeated, divisional campaign, collecting eight victories along the way. The only ‘blot’ on their copybook, a cross-divisional reverse against the highly-regarded Manchester Titans, and they ran them close.

Honourable mentions in this category go to Andy Cook (Nottingham Forest Women), Liam Kay (Retford United), Chris Woodhead (in registering 250 games as Retford FC manager), and Benny Tring (Nottingham Vikings Ball Hockey)

OUR STARS OF THE YEAR

LEIGH WOOD

Nottingham has produced many a good boxer, a fighting champion, down the years, and the latest to join that illustrious line is Gedling’s ‘Leighthal’ Leigh Wood. The featherweight combatant, who presently boasts a healthy, 25-2(15) record, heads into 2022 as a world champion, coming off the back of a year to remember.

At the start of 2021 Wood claimed the British strap, and followed it up in the summer with that victory, against Xu Can, for the World title – a fight date (TBA) will come soon enough, against Michael Conlon.

JAMES SHAW

The region’s professional cyclist has made the move from that of Ribble Weldtite, to EF Education Nippo, for the 2022 season, after what had been a decent run of form with the former of the two this past year.

Starting the season with a brilliant, third place finish in the TT Road Race Championships, Shaw would soon follow that up with back-to-back fifth place finishes in Norway, and Slovenia, before adding an incredible performance, on home soil, in the Tour of Britain, to sign off in style.

MAI MONCASTER

One of many stars in the Nottingham Forest Women’s squad, Mai has been amongst the goals during the first half of the season, instrumental in the Reds’ success whether starting, or coming off the bench.

A key component in the Reds cog, Mai has already notched a half dozen times and will be looking to add more during the second half of the campaign, one which they hope will lead to promotion, and maybe silverware, along the way.

IGOR MLYNARSKI

What more is there to say about a player who, even according to those close to him at Cannon Park, deserves to be plying his trade at a higher level?

Mlynarksi’s performances this year alone, both as provider and goal-scorer, warrants his place in any, end of year conversations and, if he continues his form, which has already brought Chairman’s Cup success with the Badgers, in the second half of the season, then promotion, even a league title, could well come his way.

Honourable mentions this year must be given to Anabel McKechnie, who retired following lengthy service to Nottingham Forest Women, and to young Millie Evans, a Notts County super-fan, she’s a credit to the youth of Nottinghamshire.

Posthumous recognition to Nicky Booth and Kirkland Laing (boxing), Stephen ‘Coach Beef’ Brittle (American Football), and Martin ‘Buster’ Keeton (football), to name a few.

STORY OF THE YEAR – AJA AGUIRRE

Last, and by no means least, the story of the year goes to that of Nottingham Forest Women’s goalkeeper, Aja Aguirre.

Until the start of the current campaign, Aja was Forest’s number one, however, injury, and the arrival of Emily Batty, has, for now at least, side-lined the Canadian-born shot-stopper – but, this past year, she has been more than that.

Having lost her brother, Xavier, to a rare illness, Amyloidosis, during the previous year (2020), Aja and friends, throughout the summer (mid-July) would like to raise an initial, £5,000 when partaking on a charity bike ride from Glasgow to Nottingham – read more here

That total was quickly recalculated to £10,000, and Aja, to her delight and credit, has raised even more than that as well – well done again from the Nottingham Sport.

In late August, on what would have been Xavier’s 32nd birthday, Aja would present the National Amyloidosis Centre, at the Royal Free Hospital (London) with a cheque for £7,500, and in late October, on World Amyloidosis Day, added a further £1,800 to the Mayo Clinic, with a further $3,000 going to the University of Calgary (Amyloidosis Research Department, Canada) – all of which will look to help fund research into the causes and treatment of Amyloidosis.

Be sure to check out the page ‘Journey to Amyloidosis Awareness: Xavier’s Legacy’ (here) to read up on this, and more information, as she looks to make it an annual event.

Thank you Nottinghamshire for a great year of sport, and here’s to the next one – let’s make it even greater!

*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).

*Main image @NFFCWomen Aja Aguirre in more usual surroundings in goal for Forest.

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