KIERON FORBES knew winning the England C Player of the Year was really special - when his dad gave him a pat on the back.

Forbes joined the great and good of grass-roots football at Fulham's Craven Cottage on Wednesday for The Non-League Paper's National Game Awards, in association with Budweiser Club Futures.

The Forest Green Rovers midfielder landed the prize voted by NLP readers and, perhaps even more significantly, some of his England C team-mates.

Forbes said: "I went back to my mum and dad's house after the awards and they were really proud. My dad has always been disciplined, in a good way, so when he said, 'Well Done,' it must mean I have done really well.

"It's a great honour. All thanks must go to the gaffer, Paul Fairclough, and the rest of the England C staff.

"I love playing for England C. It's great to get a change of scenery from club football, get to know other players you normally play against and take on another challenge."

It was a knock-out season in an England C shirt this year for Forbes - in more ways than one. The Rovers midfielder was seeing stars after clashing with club and country team-mate Jamie Turley when the Three Lions took on Belgium Under-21s in September.

While that meant a short hospital visit, a fat lip and a banging headache, it's the 22-year-old's contribution on the pitch that has seen him crowned with the England C Player of the Year, sponsored by The Football Association.

The former Watford and Wealdstone youngster established himself at the heart of England C's midfield. Last summer he won his second cap against Russia in Moscow before adding to his collection with appearances against Belgium and Turkey as England C reached the International Challenge Trophy semi-final.

There would have been another start in Albania last October until the heavens opened and a last minute downpour saw the game postponed with the players already in their kit. England were then on the wrong end of a 1-0 defeat in the semis, but Forbes showed his quality against a talented Turkish side featuring full international caps and the likes of Galatasaray 's Champions League regular Emre Colak.

With many of the England C alumni now operating in the Football League and beyond, Forbes says the current crop can be inspired. Forbes, brother of ex-Norwich City, Luton Town and Swansea City midfielder Adrian, said: "Playing against Russia and Turkey are the real stand-out moments.

"In those games we were up against players playing in the Champions League and their top divisions. It's a real test and challenge but, particularly against Turkey, we showed there's not a lot of difference between us and them.

"Seeing former England C players playing at a high level gives us hope and shows it's not impossible. We all have that dream."

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