By Tony Leighton
Watford's exciting young Czech striker Matej Vydra was named the npower Championship's Player of the Year at the 2013 Football League Awards.
Bournemouth winger Matt Ritchie and Port Vale striker Tom Pope took the League 1 and League 2 accolades respectively, while Blackpool winger Thomas Ince was named The League's Young Player of the Year.
There was also a Goal of the Year award for Nottingham Forest's Simon Cox at the annual ceremony, which was held at The Brewery in London on Sunday evening in front of 650 attendees from clubs, sponsors and the football industry.
In his first season of English football 20-year-old Vydra, on loan from Italian club Udinese and wearing the number 20 Watford shirt, has hit 20 Championship goals and earned not only the admiration of Hornets' fans but also the interest of Premier League giants Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.
That's quite an impact, but Vydra - who last Friday earned his fifth international cap in the Czech Republic's World Cup qualifier against Denmark - has not surprised Watford manager Gianfranco Zola, who accepted the player's award as the striker is with his national team ahead of Tuesday's meeting with Armenia.
Zola said: "Matej deserves this great award. He has done incredible things for us and I am pleased and proud to collect the award on his behalf.
"Since he came to the club he has shown very good qualities. He was on the bench for a while, but he stayed patient and as soon as he got the opportunity he started to score goals and he hasn't stopped."
Vydra's Hornets are currently third in the table and challenging for automatic promotion, while the League 1 and League 2 sides who provided the npower Player of the Year are also strong promotion candidates.
Bournemouth's Ritchie is in fact aiming to achieve a big double. Last season the 23-year-old winger won the League 2 Player of the Year award while helping Swindon Town clinch promotion from League 2, and now he wants to repeat the feat with the Cherries following his January move from the Robins.
Having hit his first Bournemouth goal on Saturday in a 4-1 win against Bury that took the Cherries up to third in the table - level on points with old club Swindon who are second - Ritchie said: "I was surprised to be in the top three, so to win the award has left me speechless.
"It's a massive award, and to think I've achieved it in League 1 a year after picking up the League 2 award is very satisfying. After winning the League 2 award last season I helped Swindon to get promoted, and it would be great if I could play a part in Bournemouth getting promoted this year."
In League 2, Port Vale's Pope is enjoying the best season of his career, the 28-year-old striker's 27 goals to date helping the club he has supported since childhood to spend the vast majority of the campaign in the top three places.
"It's a great achievement for me personally," he said, "but anyone who knows Tom Pope knows that he needs good service from other players, and my team mates have certainly been providing me with that.
"My goals have dried up recently, but that's more down to the opposition doing a good job on us. This award will give me more confidence, although if we don't get promoted then winning the award won't seem as sweet as it does right now."
Two divisions higher, 21-year-old Ince, son of his Blackpool manager and former England midfield star Paul, collected the Young Player of the Year award having hit 19 goals in 39 appearances for the Seasiders this season and also after playing a key role in the England Under-21 squad.
"This is a massive honour," said the hugely talented youngster. "When you look at some of the players who have won this award before and what they have gone on to achieve, it's an inspiration.
"Hopefully I can build on the progress I've made this season with Blackpool and the Under-21's and go on to have a good career."
The Mitre Goal of the Year award went to Forest striker Cox for his stunning strike against Birmingham City in a 2-2 draw earlier this season.
The player was unable to attend the Awards ceremony as he was on international duty with the Republic of Ireland. His father David, collecting the trophy on his behalf, said: "I'm pleased as punch for him to get this award.
"Although he's on international duty I know he's watching the Awards on his laptop and I'm sure there'll have been a big cheer there when it was announced. He'll be very pleased and I'm very happy for him, he deserves it for a great goal."
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