Best friend remembered when award is presented to defender

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A Bury-based Ipswich Town fan has presented Tommy Smith with an award — seven years after sponsoring the player while in the academy.

Martin Swallow, a member of the Ipswich Town executive committee, sponsored Smith during the 2006/07 campaign and again the following season with best friend Ashley Cushion, who died in 2009 from lymphatic cancer.

Swallow presented Smith with the Supporters’ Player of the Year award, while the 23-year-old also clinched the Away Match Passport Holders’ Player of the Year and Junior Blues Player of the Season at the event held in the Legends Bar at Portman Road on Saturday evening after the Blues’ 3-1 victory over Birmingham City.

Mr Swallow, 44, said: “I feel so pleased for Tommy — but it’s just a shame that Ashley wasn’t there to present it as well.

“It would have been nice for Ashley to share the night with us, but it’s been good to follow Tommy’s progression from the youth team through to the first team.

“I saw Tommy play in the Suffolk Cup at Needham Market a long time ago and he stood out for me.

“I said to Ashley ‘I know a player we really need to sponsor — I think this boy is going to be very good’.”

New Zealand international Smith, who won the Dale Roberts Trophy for the academy player of the year in 2007, beat Luke Chambers and Aaron Cresswell.

“It’s nice to be recognised by the fans who watch you every week, and it’s a really proud moment,” he said. “I’ve just spoken to Martin and he said he remembers me getting the Dale Roberts Trophy a few years back so it was a nice moment being able to get this award from him.”

Casting an eye towards next season, he added: “The positive signs are there and hopefully we can push on and be in a lot better position come this time next year.”