Another season of Sky Bet Championship football is almost in the books, and those individuals who’ve particularly helped make it another thrilling campaign are set to be honoured at the annual EFL Awards on Sunday, April 23.
There are three awards to be won per division of the EFL (Championship and Leagues One & Two), each with three nominees, these are: Manager of the Season, Player of the Season and Young Player of the Season.
In this article, I’m going to be taking a look at the nominees for each award in the Championship, and analysing their accomplishments to help discover why they have been chosen ahead of the rest. *Spoiler* North East football may well have a chance at taking home an award or two…
Manager of the Season
Vincent Kompany – Burnley
To any follower of Championship football, former Manchester City captain and current Burnley manager Vincent Kompany’s exploits this season, and indeed his inevitable nomination for this award, need no explanation. But just in case you’re not aware, allow me to fill you in.
Burnley secured their return to the Premier League against Middlesbrough last week with seven games still to play, a feat that means the Clarets broke the record for the earliest Championship promotion in the modern era of the league.
An achievement made only more impressive when you consider the precarious financial position the club began the season with, as relegation from the Premier League was followed by the ALK ownership group spending a reported £32.5 million pounds towards paying off a previous £65 million pound loan that was taken out in 2020, leaving Kompany with tightened purse strings to operate in the transfer market.
But they were expertly able to utilise the loan market, with many of their key contributors arriving at Turf Moor on a temporary basis. At the time of writing, Southampton loanee Nathan Tella has netted 17 goals and five assists, whilst Ian Maatsen, Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Louis Beyer and Michael Obafemi have also been crucial to the success of the team.
With 40/41 games played, no team in the Championship has a better goals per game average (2), no team has a better goals conceded per match average (0.8), and no team has a better average amount of possession per game (64.3%). Burnley are champions elect, and it’s incredibly hard to look past Vincent Kompany for the Manager of the Season award too.
Michael Carrick – Middlesbrough
When Manchester United legend Michael Carrick took charge of his first managerial job with Middlesbrough in late October 2022, Boro sat just one place and indeed one point outside of the Championship relegation zone.
Since then, the club have won 16 out of 25 league games at the time of writing under Carrick, and have flipped their position in the table from fourth bottom to fourth placed, and now have their eyes firmly set on a return to the Premier League via a Wembley win in the play-off final.
Carrick has galvanised a previously out of form, and out of belief squad of players, and found the key to the Chuba Akpom door that many a manager before him have failed to do. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that had he been at the helm since the very beginning of this season, that Middlesbrough may well have found themselves pushing Burnley for the order of the automatic promotion spots.
He may well have to concede this award to the aforementioned Vincent Kompany, but that won’t bother him one bit should his Boro side join Burnley in the promised land next season. Regardless whether they do or not, the transformational job that Michael Carrick has done on Teesside is nothing short of spectacular.
Mark Robins – Coventry City
He might not be grabbing the headlines like his two other nominees are, but Mark Robins absolutely deserves to be in their company for this award. Under his second spell at Coventry City which began in 2017, he’s taken the Sky Blues all the way through the EFL pyramid from League two to the Championship.
Since guiding the club back to the second tier for the 2020/21 season, the club have solidified and grown into the division, with the club sitting three points outside the play-off places with five games to play.
Robins has his team playing with a confidence and belief that they belong at the league’s top table, with a potent attack spearheaded by the highly sought after Swede Viktor Gyokeres, whilst also building a defence that is the Championship’s joint top in clean sheets with 18 at the time of writing.
Player of the Season
Chuba Akpom – Middlesbrough
There’s been no player more deadly in front of goal in the Championship this season than Boro’s Chuba Akpom, a sentence that nobody would’ve expected to be writing at the start of the season.
At the time of his nomination for the award, Akpom has bagged 26 league goals, eight more than his nearest rival Viktor Gyokeres. In the summer he was training on his own as he awaited news from his agent of a new home after being told he was not in Chris Wilder’s plans for his then Middlesbrough team. Due to an injury crisis up front and moves for incoming targets largely not materialising, Akpom was called upon to stand in as an initial emergency option.
And well, the rest really is history. He’s become Middlesbrough’s first player in 33-years to score 20 league goals in a season, his true potential has been uncovered in his deeper role as a ball-playing number 10, and Boro fans everywhere have been counting their lucky stars that for once it was a good thing the club were unable to recruit a striker in the transfer market.
Viktor Gyokeres – Coventry City
City’s super Swede may not have found the net as many times as Chuba Akpom this season, but his importance to Coventry City is equal to that of Akpom’s to Middlesbrough. Without the 24-year-old’s 18 goals and nine assists this season, the Sky Blues would likely be already content with planning for another Championship campaign next season.
But as it is, Coventry fans remain hopeful that their side can snatch a play-off spot and see their side reach the Premier League for the first time since 2001. If they don’t however, like Middlesbrough they may well have a hard time retaining their star striker, as multiple Premier League clubs including Everton were knocked back in January but are expected to re-ignite their interest in the summer.
Josh Brownhill – Burnley
If you were to ask Vincent Kompany which player is the first name on his teamsheet every week, there’s a high probability his answer would be Josh Brownhill. For all the likes of Nathan Tella grabs the headlines for his goals and Ian Maatsen for his undoubted star potential, there’s arguably not been a more consistent eight out of 10 player week in, week out in the division this season than Brownhill.
His eight assists from central midfield are the most in Burnley’s squad at the time of his nomination, and he’s chipped in with six goals too. He’s been the metronome of Kompany’s side this season, and his importance to how Burnley have been able to dominate possession and indeed games of football this season cannot be understated.
Young Player of the Season
Amad Diallo – Sunderland
The Manchester United loanee with the football world at his feet. Between young players and established veterans, there hasn’t been many better widemen in the Championship this season than Amad Diallo.
The 20-year-old Ivory Coast international has shone the brightest at the Stadium of Light on many occasions this season, with the talent that saw him complete a deal worth up to £37 million pounds to Old Trafford in 2021 shining through for all to see.
His 11 goals and two assists in 32 league appearances have played a crucial role in the Black Cats’ excellent first season back in the second tier, with his mazing runs and wonderful pieces of individual brilliance leaving Sunderland fans wishing he was fully fit all season, and ruing the day they must say their goodbyes to a player who’s quality will be talked about on Wearside for many a year to come.
Hayden Hackney – Middlesbrough
Middlesbrough’s renowned academy system appears to have found its next bright talent to come off the production line. 20 year-old Redcar native Hayden Hackney has up until this season been a name that’s quietly crept around Boro fans for a couple of seasons now, earning rave reviews for his academy performances, before earning his first real opportunity in senior football with a loan spell at Scunthorpe United last season.
But it would be interim manager Leo Percovich that would hand him his first opportunity to don the colours of his beloved Boro in the centre of midfield, in a Championship game after the sacking of Chris Wilder in October, and the Scotland youth international has not been moved out of that spot since. The youngster has contributed a goal and four assists in 30 league matches this season.
Hackney is showing all the makings of an excellent box-to-box midfield player in the future, with the ability and confidence to put himself in the spotlight of a game, with an already dangerous arsenal of passing, dribbling and tackling ability. He looks every bit of a player who can go as far as he wants in his career for sure.
Alex Scott – Bristol City
Bristol City have been gathering a reputation for producing exciting young talent for a little while now, but there may be none more than they have been as excited about as 19 year-old central midfielder Alex Scott.
It is a complete understatement to say that his one goal and four assists in 37 Championship matches so far this season do not tell the full story here, reported interest from Liverpool among many top clubs, and high praise directly from Jack Grealish after their FA Cup meeting will testify to that.
How he moves and glides past players when he’s dribbling with the ball is highly similar to that of Grealish, match that with a passing ability that many midfield players could only wish for, and an engine that certain Formula One teams would do well to produce. But it’s not until you realise that he’s just as good at the defensive side of playing in central midfield as he is the attacking side, then you see why so many top clubs view him as a prospect that has every chance of going to the very top of the game. It’s widely believed he is expected to command a minimum fee of £20-25 million pounds to depart Ashton Gate this summer, and even that could look like a steal in a the years to come.