NIGHT OF SURPRISES FOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR
A modest Michael Essien spoke of his astonishment at picking up two awards on Tuesday night, including Chelsea Player of the Year 2007.
The 24-year-old Ghanaian added to a memorable and varied second season at the club by collecting both of the honours voted on by supporters.
The other was Goal of the Season and he received them at a lavish ceremony at Battersea Evolution in London, attended by over 1000 of those fans and broadcast live on Chelsea TV.
The climax of the evening, which was hosted by BBC's Gabby Logan and Sky Sports' Matthew Lorenzo, was the moment it was announced that Essien had become the first African to win Player of the Year, that announcement and the trophy presentation made by Chelsea Football Club's life vice-president Lord Attenborough (pictured).
'I am really surprised,' the winner admitted. His head had dropped on to the table in front when he heard the result read out.
'I am really happy for this though. I have to thank the fans and the credit goes to my team-mates. They have been fantastic this season.'
Though taken aback, he had a good idea why he has been so appreciated by the fans.
'I have had to fill in a lot of space, right-back, centre-half, and I did everything for the team. We are all happy for the season. I have enjoyed every moment of it. It has been really hard for us and I think we deserve credit.'
Essien himself certainly received more credit when the evening's presentation ceremony commenced with the supporters' vote on Goal of the Season. His 35-yard thunderbolt against Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in December topped the poll.
'I meant to do it,' he confirmed. 'I called to Frank [Lampard], he gave me the ball and the first thing that came into my mind was to shoot. They are one of our big rivals so to score a fantastic goal against them is nice. But I am surprised it won.'
The best goal award had been presented by BBC Match of the Day's Gary Lineker.
For the main Player of the Year accolade, Essien had beaten competition from Didier Drogba and Ricardo Carvalho, the two other nominees by most votes gained.
Charlie Cooke, a double Chelsea Player of the Year from 1968 and 1975, paid tribute to that achievement.
'I think it could have been any of them but you have to say well deserved Michael Essien. He's such a powerful player that you could play him almost anywhere in defence and midfield and he is going to do a good job. In the midfield, no doubt at all - world class.'
Cooke was there to hand over the adidas Chelsea Young Player of the Year award which went to another African - John Mikel Obi.
'I am happy with the way I am improving at Chelsea and I made the right choice in coming here,' said the 20-year-old Nigerian after the quality in his first season in London had been recognised.
'The manager and the rest of the players have been very nice to me and I want to thank the manager for giving me the opportunity to prove myself even though we have lots of big players here.'
There was consolation for Drogba for missing out on the main honour when his team-mates, and the staff he works with day-to-day at the training ground, chose the team's top scorer as Samsung Players' Player of the Year.
'It means a lot for me,' he said. 'I want to thank my mates because they don't know how much I love them for what they did for me all season. They gave everything for me.'
Drogba had collected his trophy from another to have led the attack for Chelsea - Gianluca Vialli who received a tremendous reception.
Another appropriate ex-Blue to hand over an award, and the very first Player of the Year for his goalkeeping excellence back in 1967, was Peter Bonetti.
He presented a new award for Outstanding Achievement which went to Petr Cech in recognition of his remarkable comeback from serious injury.
'Everyone was looking out for me, everyone helped me when I was in a difficult situation and everyone involved in Chelsea Football Club - supporters, medical department, players - take huge credit for my achievement,' Cech said.
'They gave me the energy and the motivation to come back as soon as I could.'
The other honour of the night was the Young Talent award for the Academy player who has impressed the most, chosen by director of youth development Frank Arnesen, Academy manager Neil Bath and reserve team coach Brendan Rodgers.
It went to striker Ben Sahar who at the age of 17 became Chelsea's youngest ever international appearance maker and goalscorer.
The full list of Chelsea Player of the Year winners is:
1967 Peter Bonetti
1968 Charlie Cooke
1969 David Webb
1970 John Hollins
1971 John Hollins
1972 David Webb
1973 Peter Osgood
1974 Gary Locke
1975 Charlie Cooke
1976 Ray Wilkins
1977 Ray Wilkins
1978 Micky Droy
1979 Tommy Langley
1980 Clive Walker
1981 Petar Borota
1982 Mike Fillery
1983 Joey Jones
1984 Pat Nevin
1985 David Speedie
1986 Eddie Niedzwiecki
1987 Pat Nevin
1988 Tony Dorigo
1989 Graham Roberts
1990 Ken Monkou
1991 Andy Townsend
1992 Paul Elliott
1993 Frank Sinclair
1994 Steve Clarke
1995 Erland Johnsen
1996 Ruud Gullit
1997 Mark Hughes
1998 Dennis Wise
1999 Gianfranco Zola
2000 Dennis Wise
2001 John Terry
2002 Carlo Cudicini
2003 Gianfranco Zola
2004 Frank Lampard
2005 Frank Lampard
2006 John Terry
2007 Michael Essien