EFL team of the season: Emi Buendia and goal machine Ivan Toney make it as we reveal our Football League season awards

EFL team of the season: Emi Buendia and goal machine Ivan Toney make it as we reveal our Football League season awards

April 26, 2021

THE EFL will stage their annual season awards ceremony on Thursday night – and this year it will be a virtual event.

But today I am going to pick out my winners for what has been yet another thrilling campaign across all three divisions – and below is my EFL team of the season


LEAGUE TWO

Player of the season – Ricardo Santos (Bolton)

THEY call him The Wall up in this part of Lancashire, the centre-half has proved to be an inspired signing from boss Ian Evatt.

Snapped up from Barnet in the summer, he has not missed a minute of league action this season with Wanderers only needing one more win to guarantee League One football next season.

Manager of the season – Michael Duff (Cheltenham)

WHAT an incredible job the Burnley legend has done with the Robins. Has the eighth lowest budget in the division yet only needs a maximum of one point from the last three games to take the club into League One. 

A fantastic FA Cup run that saw Cheltenham go within nine minutes of beating Man City was one of the highlights of a superb season.

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LEAGUE ONE

Player of the season – Jonson Clarke-Harris (Peterborough)

HAS had an incredible first season with Posh after stepping into the enormous shoes left by Ivan Toney.

Since his £1.2million switch from Bristol Rovers, the striker has plundered 29 league goals to shoot Darren Ferguson’s men into the Championship.

Manager of the season – Grant McCann (Hull)

THE Northern Irishman stayed dignified in the face of stinging criticism from fans last season following the Tigers relegation. But he has secured their return to the Championship at the first time of asking.

CHAMPIONSHIP

Player of the season – Ivan Toney (Brentford)

HAS been the stand-out star in English football’s second tier.

When the Bees sold 25-goal striker Ollie Watkins to Aston Villa in the summer, no-one would have imagined that Toney would do even better.

His 29 league goals – with three games left to play – since his £5million move from Peterborough is the main reason Thomas Frank’s side are in with a shout again of promotion to the Premier League.

It will be hard for the Bees to keep hold of this player if they fail to win promotion with several top-flight clubs sniffing around.

His all-round game has improved and he gives Brentford a big physical presence up top.

Will be the key man in the play-offs next month.

Manager of the season – Valerien Ismael (Barnsley)

THE Frenchman has worked absolute wonders in South Yorkshire.

Barnsley were most people’s favourites to be relegated yet they go into next month’s play-offs with a serious fighting chance of a fairytale promotion to the Premier League.

His teams are hard-working, press high, are intense and well-drilled. Even Chelsea could count themselves fortunate to sneak past them in the FA Cup.

The signing of striker Daryl Dike on loan from Orlando in the winter transfer window proved inspiring and gave his team momentum  in the second half of the season.

EFL YOUNG PLAYER OF THE SEASON

Daryl Dike (Barnsley)

ALTHOUGH he has only been on these shores since the start of February, so superb has been the American’s impact that he is the standout rookie in the league.

Aged just 20, this powerful athlete has been a game-changer for Barnsley in their surprise promotion bid.

Dike already has netted nine goals in just 12 starts and a whole host of Premier League clubs are interested in signing him this summer.

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However, if the Tykes win promotion, keeping Dike will be a priority for the club’s board who say they have a water-tight agreement with Orlando to sign him permanently if they wish this summer.

A mention must also go to 20-year-old Spurs midfielder Oliver Skipp, who is on loan with Norwich.

His mature performances in the centre of midfield defies his 20 years of age.

Some are even saying he can be a future England captain. A real gem.

EFL GOAL OF THE SEASON

JAMAL LOWE (SWANSEA v Cardiff)

NOT a bad match to endear yourself to the fans by scoring a worldy.

Picking up the ball from Andre Ayew around halfway, the Swans striker rode past two tackles before planting a lovely shot past keeper Alex Smithies.

His two goals earned a 2-0 win over Swansea’s bitter foes.

DIRECTORS OF THE SEASON

BEST – DELIA SMITH & MICHAEL WYNN-JONES (Norwich City)

THE Canaries' majority shareholders deserve a lot of credit for keeping faith with Daniel Farke after relegation from the Premier League when so many clubs would have fired him. 

With good recruitment, helped by Stuart Webber, the German has rewarded them with an instant return to the top-flight.

If the club can be as clever in the transfer market this summer again, they will have a fighting chance of staying in the Premier League.


WORST – GARY NEVILLE (Salford)

SORRY but Neville might be a good pundit but his judgement as a part-owner of the League Two club this season has been shocking.

First he sacked experienced Graham Alexander, who got them promoted into the EFL as well as finishing a credible 11th in their first season. 

Fans were scratching their heads as Neville wielded the axe with the club unbeaten and fifth in League Two after just five games.

The Manchester United legend then sent Richie Wellens packing 10 days after winning the EFL Trophy at Wembley.

Incredibly, the club – despite all the constant managerial upheaval – still have a play-off chance which only masks Neville’s shortcomings. If thy get promoted it will be in spite of Neville, not because of him.

So good luck to new boss Gary Bowyer.

 

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