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Grant Leadbitter and Ben Gibson pick up gongs at Middlesbrough Disabled Supporters’ Association award ceremony

Grant Leadbitter won the Player of the Year trophy while Ben Gibson won the Young Player of the Year in the awards.

Engine room hero Grant Leadbitter and stopper starlet Ben Gibson have picked up the first gongs of the year.

The pair picked up the prestige prizes at the Middlesbrough Disabled Supporters’ Association award ceremony at the Riverside Stadium.

Leadbitter, who won the Player of the Year trophy, declared himself proud.

“It’s always nice to be recognised and especially by the fans,” said the industrious midfielder.

“They pay to see the team home and away to watch their team and so for them to choose me is very nice.

“Thank you for voting for me, I’m very proud.”

And he paid tribute to the disabled fans – “the wheelies” – who travel all around the country following Boro.

“Full credit to them overcoming a lot of problems to get to games”, he said. “But that’s North-east fans for you.

“No matter what they always turn out, getting up early in the morning, travelling all over the country, it’s what they do, what their parents did and hopefully what their children will do too.

“We have brilliant fans at Middlesbrough and all the team are very proud of them. We all just want to play well for them.”

Defender Gibson won the Young Player of the Year in the awards, which are uniquely voted over the calendar year. There was also a special award to Anthony Emmerson, Boro’s head of supporter services.

Emmerson, soon to join top flight Stoke in a similar role, has overseen the creation of the new Generation Red family zone, the move of home fans into the South Stand, a new post-match bar in the North Stand and improved relations with fans’ groups.

“He was gob-smacked but he thoroughly deserves recognition after all he’s done,” said MDSA stalwart Paddy Cronesberry.

“Anthony has helped develop strong relationships with all the various supporters’ groups and has been especially supportive and helpful with the MDSA.”