Coral’s League One Team of the Season
With the play-offs still to come, Coral football experts are looking back at the regular Football League season, and now it’s the turn of third-tier. Who made our League One all-star XI? Read on to find out.
Former Blackburn Rovers and Derby County custodian Fielding kept 20 clean sheets en route to Steve Cotterill’s club scooping the title. Only MK Dons counterpart David Martin came close to matching this delightful defensive record with 19 shut-outs.
Tottenham academy product Byrne, 22, has really flourished in his second full season with Swindon (11/4 play-off chances), setting up 10 goals, scoring three himself and helping Mark Cooper’s men in 13 of their clean sheets this season. As Byrne has been the outstanding right back in the division, we’ve got some honourable mentions to a couple of defenders that have switched positions this term.
Luke Ayling, an ex-Arsenal youngster, moved across the West Country from Yeovil Town to Bristol City and infield to be the right-side centre half in a three-man rearguard in front of Fielding at Ashton Gate.
Tom Clarke, who followed former Huddersfield Town boss Simon Grayson to Preston North End, meanwhile, has played at full back and in central defence superbly, helping the Deepdale outfit keep 18 clean sheets ahead of their 10th tilt at promotion via the play-offs.
Talk about typifying the phrase set-piece threat. Flint, 25, has scored a stunning 14 goals from centre half to supplement Cotterill’s strikeforce as the Robins reached the Championship. This massive contribution, not to mention helping towards those 20 shut-outs, cannot be understated.
Previously voted in the Conference (2010/11) and League Two (2011/12) Teams of the Year by his fellow professionals, 28-year-old McFadzean certainly deserves credit for helping Karl Robinson’s Dons keep 21 clean sheets. Stadium:mk teammate Antony Kay partnered him successfully throughout this season when the Milton Keynes club finally got out of League One.
Ashton Gate academy graduate Bryan, 21, has been a revelation at wing back for Cotterill this season, scoring six times and assisting 11 other goals for teammates. His engine up and down the left flank aided the Robins in their strong defensive displays, but as his stats suggest, Bryan has been an all-action outlet as Bristol City clinched the title.
Teenage Swindon loanee Harry Toffolo (owned by Norwich) has shown real potential, teeing up teammates at an impressive average of almost once every three games (eight in 26) during his spell at the County Ground.
The Football League’s Young Player of the Season simply had to be included. Awesome Alli, still just 19, has had a huge hand in the Dons finally going up. Striking 16 times and notching nine assists, his box-to-box brilliance may get a run-out in the Premier League next term at Spurs; that’s if Robinson can’t persuade Maruicio Pochettino to let him have Alli for another season.
Barnsley bargain buy Conor Hourihane, meanwhile, cost just £200k to sign from Plymouth Argyle, and has exceeded all expectations at Oakwell. His 13 goals and 15 assists for a team that ultimately fell short of a top six finish are signs that he may be living up to the potential that got the Irish midfielder into Sunderland’s youth set-up.
It’s some achievement to win a major international trophy whilst playing third-tier club football, but 22-year-old Australia anchorman Luongo managed that and even grabbed the opener in the Asian Cup final.
Six goals and six assists for Swindon seem somewhat mundane following that Socceroos success, but he has demonstrated he is a cut above League One and is linked with joining former Tottenham youth boss Tim Sherwood at Aston Villa.
Korey Smith was a hugely effective midfield shield in Bristol City’s title-winning team, but his stock has simply not been raised to the magnified extent that Luongo’s success with his country bought.
Scottish wideman Gallagher, 30, made a sumptuous 17 assists during the regular season, and scored seven times for Grayson to boot. His deliveries from the flanks are key to Preston’s promotion hopes, and one of several reasons why they are 7/4 favourites to win the play-offs.
MK Dons counterpart Carl Baker is a similarly seasoned pro, and his own tally of nine goals and setting up 11 others were important in snatching automatic promotion away from North End.
Once on Arsenal’s books, the 23-year-old has been reinvented by Cotterill as a nifty number 10; a fact evidenced by Freeman being leading League One assistant with 18. He also netted seven times as the Robins went up as champions.
Daniel Johnson, who had time on the books of Crystal Palace and Villa as a youngster, turned out for three different third-tier teams this term. Starting the season at Chesterfield, he then had a subsequent loan spell at Oldham Athletic, but Preston purchased him in January and he has recorded impressive tallies of 11 goals and 10 assists in an advanced midfield berth.
Deadly Done was part of an attacking duo at Spotland with Ian Henderson, but became the latest Dale sale in the winter window when the Blades came calling.
His tally of 17 goals and 10 assists, most of which came before Boxing Day, may not be quite as impressive as Henderson’s return (22 goals and nine assists), but 26-year-old Done has dared to step up and help the Steel City side seal play-off promotion at 13/5.
Completing our League One all-star XI is the division’s leading marksman Garner, 27, with 25 goals and three assists. It was almost enough to put Preston in the Championship automatically, but a final day loss at Colchester United meant they finished third.
North End’s play-off semi-final opponents Chesterfield chose to cash in on top scorer Eoin Doyle (21 goals and eight assists), who simply could not stop scoring throughout the first half of the season. That decision may come back to bite the Spireites.
Other honourable mentioned up front are Swindon’s top scorer Andy Williams (22 goals), MK Dons leading marksman Will Grigg (20) and Bristol City front two Aaron Wilbraham (18) and Kieran Agard (13).