LEE Bell says his Burton Albion player-of-the-year award has lifted his spirits after he missed out on the play-offs.
The 30-year-old midfielder got sent off at Bradford City in the penultimate game of the season, earning a four-match ban which keeps him out of the whole play-off campaign.
But fans still voted for him in their droves and he pipped rivals Jacques Maghoma and Zander Diamond to the award.
“I’m still trying to get over not being involved in the play-offs,” he said. “But that’s football – there are ups and downs.
“Right at this minute, this is a little up for me and I’m thankful for the award.
“I’ll be reminded at training that I won’t be involved in the game.
“I’m obviously still disappointed that I won’t be involved in the play-offs – but it’s my fault.”
Bell was amazed to get the award, with Maghoma picking up the players’ player of the year gong at Tuesday night’s ceremony.
“I’m massively surprised,” said Bell. “I can’t believe it.
“I think there are better players than me in the team.
“I honestly thought that Mags (Jacques Maghoma) would win everything.
“I was really surprised to hear my name on the video after 10 seconds – it took me back a bit.
“But, on a personal note, I know I have worked quite hard this year.
“It isn’t what we do it for – we do it to be involved in things like playing in play-offs.
“But I’m really proud of this award and I really appreciate it from the fans, I really do.
“I’ve won them before, at Macclesfield and Crewe, but this one means a little bit more because of where I was at the start of the season.”
Bell was released by Crewe and felt briefly like he was on the football scrap heap until a call to Gary Rowett secured him a move to the Pirelli Stadium
“It’s strange, with Crewe getting to the play-off final, we were three weeks behind everyone else,” he said.
“There had been a couple of offers for me and Crewe hadn’t told me where I was, so I had put them on the back burner.
“Then you get released and you have to ring a manager up and say ‘I’ve been released now, I want to come and sign for you’ and they know your heart isn’t really into that.
“It’s getting harder and harder each year.
“The finances just aren’t there in football, so better and better players are dropping down the leagues.
“My options were to go and play in Scotland, which wasn’t going to happen because of personal commitments, or go and play in London, which was the same – it wasn’t going to happen. Or I could have dropped into the Conference.
“So I’m just glad I made that phone call to Gary Rowett.
“And I just want to work hard again next season to make sure I’m not in that position again.”