The 2021/22 campaign has been a whirlwind ride for Paddy Lane, who has gone from plying his trade in the seventh tier of English football to winning the League One Young Player of the Season award in less than 12 months.
The midfielder left Northern Premier League Premier Division side Hyde United to join Fleetwood Town in the summer and has made that sizeable step up with remarkable ease.
Lane has quickly grown into a vital figure in Fleetwood’s pursuit of League One survival – scoring five times and providing eight assists as he’s showcased his quality from both flanks and in central midfield
His stunning first season in the EFL has not gone unnoticed, with the 22-year-old handed his Northern Ireland debut in March and now linked with a summer move to West Ham United (The Mirror (17/04: p74)).
The latest recognition came on Sunday, as he was named the 2022 League One Young Player of the Season at the EFL Awards.
The beaming smile across his face as he spoke to Football League World with the award firmly grasped in his hand highlighted just what it meant to him but he was quick to give credit to those that have accommodated his rise.
“It’s one of them where if someone had told me this at the start of the season I would’ve told them to get out of the room,” said Lane in an exclusive interview with FLW.
“It’s been some season, some feeling but like I say I’ll forever be thankful for my family and teammates because I wouldn’t be here without them.”
While the Northern Ireland international was happy to take in a night that must’ve seemed unreachable just a year ago, he is determined not to get caught up in his own success.
Asked about what it has been like on the whirlwind ride that has seen him establish himself at Fleetwood, draw links to the Premier League, and beat plenty of other exciting young players to the EFL award, Lane said: “They’ve all been pinch yourself moments but I’ve tried not to look back.
“Keep working, keep going forward and keep focussing on the next game, the next training session – that’s where my head is at the minute and that’s where I want it to stay.
“I set myself a target at the start of the season. I said if I get five appearances for the first team I’ll be over the moon.
“Now being here on a night like this it is unbelievable. It’s such a feeling and again I can’t thank my teammates, my family, the gaffer, and all the staff at Fleetwood enough.”
It’s uncertain what the future could hold for the 22-year-old but in the here and now, his only focus will be helping Stephen Crainey’s side avoid relegation.
Their 3-2 defeat at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday yesterday leaves them outside the relegation zone on goal difference.
That means as long as they equal Gillingham’s result on the final day of the season and there is not a mammoth swing in goal difference they will stay up.
You certainly wouldn’t bet against Lane playing his part against Bolton Wanderers on Saturday, in what would be a fitting way to cap a magical first season in the EFL.