NEWLY-crowned Hartlepool player of the year Paul Stephenson last night reflected on his award and admitted: "It's all thanks to the manager.''

Stephenson polled almost twice as many votes as 16-goal midfielder Tommy Miller as he walked away with the supporters' honour on Tuesday.

And he was quick to pay tribute to manager Chris Turner for kick-starting his career by moving him into a central midfield berth, just six months after he wanted out of Victoria Park.

Stephenson slapped in a transfer request last season that was rejected by the board and this season has flourished after moving into the middle of the field after a career on the wing.

"I've got to thank the boss a lot,'' he admitted. "He tried me in a new position and stuck by me.

"We didn't have a great start to the season and he could have said it wasn't working and put someone in there who is a bit more defensively minded.

"But he stuck with it and I cannot thank him and the lads enough.

"Last season was a disaster for me in terms of form and fitness and the fans weren't too keen on me.

"I think there was a turning point this season when I thought I was starting to win the fans over. After we beat Darlington in October we turned the corner as a team and have gone on from there.''

"After the season I had last year I never thought in a million years I would pick up the award.

"Tommy Miller has had a great season and scored lots of goals, but a lot of the lads have played really well - it has been a great team effort.

"Sometimes it's horrible to pick one player out, we have all been in it together.''

Stephenson's only other individual award came 14 years ago as a youngster at Newcastle and he admitted: "There's some great names on this trophy - Joe Allon, Rob McKinnon, Brian Honour are the lads I know and Micky Barron was aiming to make it three years in a row.''

Mark Nesbitt won the young player of the year award.

l TICKETS are on sale until 5pm tomorrow for Saturday's all-ticket clash with Rotherham at Victoria Park.

l Egil Olsen yesterday abandoned his struggling Crazy Gang to collect the highest honour in Norwegian football.

The former Norway boss flew back to his homeland to be presented with the Norwegian FA's Gold Award for his service to the game.

Olsen left his new assistant Terry Burton to explain how Wimbledon were shaping up for their most important game of the season, at Bradford on Sunday, when defeat would plunge the Dons into the bottom three.