Coral’s Championship Team of the Season 2014/15
Now that the regular Championship season is at an end and before the play-offs get underway, Coral football experts select their second-tier Team of the Season.
Just five names that made it into the PFA’s XI are included, so who have chosen? Find out below!
As his name suggests, Boro’s Greek goalie, 36, has played superbly between the sticks at the Riverside this term, and kept more clean sheets (20) than any other Championship custodian. Konstantopoulos thus gets the nod in nets ahead of PFA pick and Sheffield Wednesday stopper Keiren Westwood (17 shut-outs).
Here’s our first nod to Eddie Howe’s Cherries with 30-year-old full back Francis selected after eight assists and featuring in 18 clean sheets. Young Derby County and Republic of Ireland counterpart Cyrus Christie had a promising campaign, but we’ve gone with the man who won the Championship title here.
He maybe be related to Boro chairman Steve, but there’s no nepotism about our selection of central defender Gibson as the 22-year-old is in on merit. Helping Aitor Karanka’s club seal 19 shut-outs is excellent.
Norwich City skipper Russell Martin is an honourable mention with five assists and 13 clean sheets, while Derby counterpart Richard Keogh (16) was also included by the PFA and Wednesday’s Tom Lees (17) also impressed.
Like Francis, Bournemouth centre back Cook, 24, kept 18 clean sheets en route to winning the Championship, but his five goals is only bettered for a defender by Ipswich Town opposite number Christophe Berra (six), Sean Morrison (seven), who left Reading for Cardiff City this season, and Birmingham City penalty taker Paul Caddis.
Howe getting the Cherries up owes a lot to the partnership formed by Cook and Tommy Elphick, who has as many shut-outs, and these two will be key if the south coast club are to stay in the Premier League (evens) or even challenge for a top 10 finish (7/1).
A word too for Watford’s defence that has been chopped and changed due to early season managerial madness and injuries, with Italian centre half Gabriele Angella (14 clean sheets) most impressive.
Like keeper Konstantopoulos, 27-year-old Boro full back Friend has helped the Teesside team achieve the best defensive record in the division this term (just 37 goals conceded and 20 shut-outs). Bournemouth counterpart Charlie Daniels has more assists (six) than consistent PFA pick Friend, but less clean sheets (17).
We’re talking about a huge contribution to the Cherries’ Championship title win from Scotland winger Ritchie, 25. He finishes the regular season as leading provider of assists (17) and has also netted 15, which make him a lock for inclusion. It’s no wonder his fellow professionals chose him.
Nottingham Forest’s Michail Antonio proved just as consistent, striking 14 times and laying on as many other goals for teammates, but that just helped the Reds finish in mid-table.
It wouldn’t do to move on before mentioning Brentford’s attacking ensemble cast. Alex Pritchard (another PFA pick after 12 goals and seven assists), Jota (11 goals, three assists) and Alan Judge (three goals, 15 assists) supplied and supplemented leading scorer Andre Gray (16 goals and eight assists) as the Bees sealed a play-off place.
Boro skipper Leadbitter, 29, has really led by example, delivering time and again from dead balls. A dozen goals and eight assists means he will be a handful in the play-offs.
Deep-lying Wolverhampton Wanderers midfielder Kevin McDonald proved effective without scoring, as he teed up teammates 11 times, though the West Midlands outfit just came up short in their bid for a top six finish. Kosovo-born Swiss box-to-box player Almen Abdi netted nine goals as Watford went up automatically.
Speaking of mobile midfielders, look no further the Canaries’ attack-minded 28-year-old Johnson, who struck 15 times during the regular season to get the nod. Often found by Carrow Road clubmate Wes Hoolahan (11 assists), those two will be key to Norwich’s play-off push (narrow 15/8 favourites to go up). Another Republic of Ireland talent, Harry Arter, also netted nine like Abdi.
No Championship Team of the Season would be complete without the Player of the Year. That’s 21-year-old Boro loanee Bamford, who scored 17 times, but he was run really close by PFA pick Bakary Sako as the Wolves winger got 15 goals and more assists (eight). We chose five players from Middlesbrough in total for this XI, so they look a tasty bet at 2/1 to win the play-offs.
Choosing Cherries frontman Wilson over Watford captain Troy Deeney is somewhat controversial, but the margins were so fine between them that overall play and making the step up from Coventry City saw us ultimately select the youngster.
Wilson, 23, scored 20 and assisted 13 other goals en route to the Premier League. Deeney’s own contribution is no less impressive with 21 strikes and laying on 10 more for teammates. Both of these clubs have got up because of strikeforces as a whole.
Behind leading lights Deeney and Wilson, Bournemouth had veteran French forward Yann Kermorgant (15 goals, 11 assists) and Dean Court stalwart Brett Pitman (13 goals, two assists), while Watford could count on Nigeria international Odion Ighalo (20 goals, four assists) and Czech attacker Matej Vydra (16 goals, six assists).
Completing the Championship Team of the Season is 32-year-old leading marksman Murphy, who scored 27 times as Mick McCarthy’s Tractor Boys scraped a play-off place (4/1 outsiders to be promoted).
Blackburn Rovers front two Rudy Gestede and Jordan Rhodes matched the combined tally of Deeney and Ighalo (41), so Gary Bowyer will do well to keep both at Ewood Park this summer. Seasoned campaigners Cameron Jerome (Norwich) and Chris Martin (Derby) grabbed 18 apiece to complete the honourable mentions.