Josh Jirbandey - Hastings United’s player of the year - has spoken of his delight at avoiding relegation on the last day of the season.
The 6ft 4in defender, who is still a teenager until next month, has been a model of consistency since Jason Hopkinson switched him from right-back to centre-half.
He was also named captain in the absence of regular skipper Sean Ray for the recent match against Tonbridge Angels.
Jirbandey was presented with the supporters’ player of the year (as well as an award from the Away Boys) after the 3-2 defeat at home to Aveley on Saturday, a result which didn’t do as much damage as it might due to Maidstone United’s failure to beat AFC Hornchurch.
“It’s brilliant,” he said. “I wanted us to stay up more than get the awards because it’s so hard to get back into this league.
“It feels good to stay up and not rely on other teams coming down from other leagues or anything. Nothing can happen now, we’re definitely safe.”
Jirbandey, or JJ as he is nicknamed, admitted playing in such a crucial match was something of an unusual experience because of the distraction of events elsewhere.
“I’ve never been in this situation before, it was in our hands and I just wanted us to win,” he went on.
“It was a hard game because you are obviously thinking about what’s going on in the other match and you’re trying to focus on what you’re doing here.”
Jirbandey first joined Hastings on work experience from Peterborough United and also had a trial with Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund.
See today’s Hastings Observer for the full article.