It has not, it’s safe to say, been a vintage season in the life of Carlisle United – but at least the Cumbrians pulled themselves out of the fire.

A relegation battle, a plummet in performances and then the timely return of Paul Simpson and improvement when results were most needed. 

Now, as the Blues approach the closing stages of a difficult 2021/22 with safety finally assured, we are asking you to select the player who you feel has brought more to the table than any other. 

CLICK HERE TO FILL OUT OUR PLAYER OF THE YEAR FORM

Who is the man who can leave this challenging campaign with his head highest? 

Whose performances make him your player of the season? 

Our annual News & Star readers’ poll is now under way and we are asking you to nominate the United player who you think deserves our trophy, which is sponsored by the Longhorn trophies division of Carlisle Glass. 

From a season of struggle, one or two obvious candidates emerge. 

What about the Cumbrians’ experienced last line of defence, goalkeeper Mark Howard

The 35-year-old joined the Blues at a time their form had fallen off a cliff, with the season's starting No1 Magnus Norman also out injured.

News and Star: Howard saved a penalty on his debut against TranmereHoward saved a penalty on his debut against Tranmere

Since his October arrival as a free agent, Howard has proved a reliable and reassuring figure behind the defences of Keith Millen and Paul Simpson. 

The former Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield United man has kept 13 clean sheets in all competitions, whilst also saving two penalties.

Not bad, considering United’s status at the wrong end of the table for most of the campaign.

CLICK HERE TO FILL OUT OUR PLAYER OF THE YEAR FORM

The keeper, who impressed again in his latest outing against Mansfield Town on Easter Monday, will surely be in supporters’ thoughts as they weigh up their star man of 2021/22. 

Of the outfielders, meanwhile, what about Jordan Gibson

The midfielder, signed from Sligo Rovers in late August, has been one of United’s most dangerous performers at a time they have needed all the attacking threat they could get. 

News and Star: Jordan Gibson has enjoyed some memorable moments this season (photo: Ben Holmes)Jordan Gibson has enjoyed some memorable moments this season (photo: Ben Holmes)

Gibson did not long to get off the goalscoring mark and his tally of eight from the wing or more central midfield positions is certainly respectable.

The former Bradford City man has chipped in at regular intervals and has played a decisive part in some crucial wins under Millen and Simpson – not to mention the nerveless penalties he’s also put away. 

If you’d prefer to crown a defender, then Morgan Feeney is likely to attract a decent share of votes. 

The former Everton man endured an injury-hit first season in Cumbria, but has steadily made a central position his own in the back line in 2021/22.

News and Star: Morgan Feeney has become a fans' favourite at United this seasonMorgan Feeney has become a fans' favourite at United this season

Feeney has also grown in stature and popularity with supporters for his wholehearted performances, while his winning goal at Oldham was one of the campaign’s most memorable moments. 

He’s also captained the side of late, and after fans have sung his name, they could now opt to recognise his efforts with our award.

CLICK HERE TO FILL OUT OUR PLAYER OF THE YEAR FORM

Then there are others who’ve risen to the task in recent months – not least Omari Patrick, whose goals since rejoining the club in January have been a major part of the Simmo-led revival.

Patrick has hit nine to date, many of them crucial and lots of them impressively-taken. It was fitting, given his 2022 form, that he should be the man to score the goal on the day Carlisle finally secured safety.

News and Star: Omari Patrick's goals have been pivotal to United's survival (photo: Barbara Abbott)Omari Patrick's goals have been pivotal to United's survival (photo: Barbara Abbott)

United would be in a much more perilous position without the speedy attacker’s contributions at this key point in the season. 

And, given the way Carlisle’s campaign turned around in the last 12 games, it would be no surprise if the dynamic Patrick gains plenty of votes. 

At the back, meanwhile, Dynel Simeu has gradually become a fans’ favourite for his improved performances and wholehearted celebrations of goals or victories. 

The Southampton loanee recovered from a shaky start to show his full potential in United’s defence since January. 

Earlier, Rod McDonald’s experience saw some solid displays from the centre-half in his second campaign in Cumbria, while Jon Mellish has impressed since he has reverted from midfield back to defence under Simpson.

CLICK HERE TO FILL OUT OUR PLAYER OF THE YEAR FORM

Other regulars who could come under consideration include Corey Whelan, Kelvin Mellor, last year’s winner Callum Guy, Jack Armer, Brennan Dickenson and Joe Riley

Our list of contenders is compiled on the proviso they’ve made at least ten league appearances for the Blues this season.

The winner will be the latest to receive an award which has gone to several former favourites since we relaunched it in 2008. 

News and Star: Callum Guy was our readers' player of the season in 2020/21 (photo: Barbara Abbott)Callum Guy was our readers' player of the season in 2020/21 (photo: Barbara Abbott)

Keiren Westwood was the winner that year after his stunning League One campaign. 

Since then, our trophy has been claimed by such as Cleveland Taylor, Richard Keogh, Kyle Dempsey, Danny Grainger, Nicky Adams, Clint Hill, Adam Collin and, last year, captain Guy. 

Voting for this year’s prize is open until 11.59pm on Thursday, April 28. Over to you… 

CLICK HERE TO FILL OUT OUR PLAYER OF THE YEAR FORM