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2017 K League Season Awards

The results are in for this year's winners of K League United's 2017 Season Awards. After weeks of votes coming in from around the globe, these are the most dynamic, profound, and thrilling players and moments of the season as voted on by you, the fans.

Although the Promotion/Relegation Playoff and FA Cup have yet to conclude, we here at K League United are looking back on the best and brightest of 2017 in Korea's top two flights. The winners of each category earned the most votes in polling in two different stages: a shortlist created by KLU, Tavern of the Taeguk Warriors, and the 48 Shades of Football podcast, then fan votes open to all. This year we'll be announcing the winners one at a time starting with 2017's Newcomer of the Year.

For anybody who has watched the Australian on a regular basis this accolade should come as no surprise as he has had an astonishing first season in the league. With so many foreign players often failing to settle after a full year in Korea it was extremely surprising to see an Australian perform to such a high quality from his first game in Asian football. This consistent quality has seen him make his debut in continental competition this season (The AFC Champions League) and he also gained international recognition with the Socceroos helping to guide them through to the 2018 World Cup. After such a successful 2017 there really was only one choice for Newcomer of the Year award and Matthew Jurman is full value for it.
- Scott Whitelock (@ScottySSBFC)

Joo Min-kyu’s talent came to the fore two seasons ago with a unexpected goal haul for a then newly established Seoul E-Land. Whilst he may have endured a marginally quieter follow up season in 2016, it only ever seemed like a matter of time before he made the step up to Korea’s first division. Perhaps he did not expect it to come via his national service though. Joining military side Sangju Sangmu at the start of the year, he has been the beacon of light in a disappointing campaign for the club, scoring a whopping seventeen goals despite significantly lacking the service of those who finished above him in the golden boot race. The striker’s year also saw him level the league’s record goal per game streak, somehow finding the net in seven consecutive games during the club’s annual exodus of players who came to the end of their term. The striker bagged eleven goals over that particular period to help keep his team afloat and even then, he still did not get a call up to the national team. However, his heroic efforts were not enough to keep Sangju out of the relegation play-offs, though he can hardly be blamed for their descent. For a player to make the step up despite no Classic experience prior, and look so comfortable in doing so, he will be hoping that when his service ends next Autumn, his path back to the top flight will be relatively straightforward, as it is clearly where he belongs.
- Matthew Binns (@Matt_Binns)

With his back to goal, 2 defenders on the goaline and the ball spiraling towards  the corner flag only a mad man would attempt a shot at goal, right? Luckily for Kleague fans we have our own resident mad man in Brazilian forward, Johnathan. Exactly what was going through his mind when he decided to attempt such a shot at goal will remain a mystery, but this goal will go down in Kleague history not only for it’s uniqueness but for the sheer skill and audacity in the strike. Watch the goal again on SpoTV's YouTube channel.
- Scott Whitelock (@ScottySSBFC)

Cho Jinho will be remembered as being one of the brightest young managerial prospects in the country and was touted by many, ourselves at K League United included, as a possible candidate for the Korean National Team manager in the future, right up until his untimely passing at the age of just 44. Coach Cho made the brave decision to leave Sangju Sangmu at the end of 2016 after guiding the army team to 6th in the K League Classic. The history and stature of Busan IPark proved to be too much of a temptation for the former Daejeon gaffer and the Gyeongsang native very nearly sealed promotion for his new side at the very first time of asking. His general outlook on life and football, with his infectious smile and animated touchline manner will live on in the memory of Korean football fans. Much like his Daejeon and Sangju sides, Cho's Busan team went about their business with verve, flair, energy and pace. The effervescent nature of the man himself was mirrored by the style of football his players adopted when they crossed the white line. The neutrals will have been hoping that Busan IPark could have gone on to seal promotion back to the Classic. However, after finishing 2nd in the league and dispatching Asan Mugunghwa with relative ease in the Promotion Final,  the four-times K League Champions then lost on penalties to Cho's former club Sangju Sangmu in the Promotion/Relegation Final last Sunday. Sometimes life and indeed football is not fair and Sunday's penalty shootout defeat for Busan was a harrowing reminder that life isn't a fairy tale, no matter how much the narrative might lead you to believe that it ought to be. Congratulations to Cho Jinho on being the K League United Manager of the Year for two years running. Rest in Peace.
- Paul Neat (@NeatPaul)

After a such a stellar year is it really any surprise that Matthew Jurman has claimed 2 of our end of year awards, having also picked up the Newcomer of the Year award. The big Australian has brought a new aggressive brand of defending to these shores and it has clearly hit a note with fans of the Kleague. His 89 interceptions this year (the most per game of any defender in the Classic) have been only one successful facet of his game this year and again, he is most deserving of this award.
- Scott Whitelock (@ScottySSBFC)

As the only man to score over 20 goals in 2017, Johnathan's name was always going to top this list. However, the massive voting victory is about more than his 22 league goals, or any statistic he could have put up this year. It was instead more indicative of the way the Brazilian plays the game that makes him hands down the most threatening striker in K League. The other forwards on this list are indeed masters of their trade, but none play with the complete and total lack of fear Johnathan does. Few (if any) would have even attempted his bicycle kick Goal of the Year, which perfectly illustrated the creativity, nerve, and at times recklessness that characterizes his game. Proving capable of scoring from nearly anywhere in the final third, it's not a matter of teams stopping Johnathan as much as it is teams attempting to contain him.
- Ryan Walters (@MrRyanWalters)

Perhaps this should have been more predictable, yet while pre-season hype circled newly purchased Bluewings goalkeeper Shin Hwa-yong, and mid-season excitement centred around FC Seoul’s initial back-up option Yang Han-been, Daegu FC’s Cho Hyun-woo has been quietly going about proving himself as one of the league’s most trusted hands between the sticks. Claiming the goalkeeper spot in the K League Challenge’s Best Eleven’s for 2015 and 2016, Cho has repeated the feat this year in the Classic’s chosen eleven with some outstanding displays. The 26 year-old ‘keeper has racked up ten clean sheets in a league campaign in which his team was widely predicted to struggle, showing enough composure to earn him a place in several national team squads and eventually obtaining his first international cap earlier this month with an assured display. His focus now will be on breaking into the starting eleven for the national team in December's EAFF E-1 Football Championships and offering food for thought to national team coach Shin Tae-young as he prepares to select his squad for the World Cup this summer. For now though, he is the deserving recipient of your choice for Goalkeeper of the Year.
- Matthew Binns (@Matt_Binns)

Despite being overlooked for Kleague’s end of season awards, Johnathan is the stand out performer in Kleague this season in our eyes. The Brazilian forward is a unique talent on the Korean Peninsula and it is not often that a striker who can shoot, dribble, head, hold up the ball and score goals regularly comes along in Kleague. Without a doubt, Johnathan is the biggest threat to any defence in the league. His 32 goals in only 43 games since re- joining the league last year speak for themselves and he is well on his way to cementing himself not only in Suwon folklore, but also Korean folklore. 
- Scott Whitelock (@ScottySSBFC)

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