·31 May 2023
·31 May 2023
The 2022/23 Championship campaign has come to an end and now it’s time to dust off my bow tie because (everybody get excited) it’s awards season, folks.
Vincent Kompany, Middlesbrough’s 28-goal striker and Man Utd’s £19m winger are winners. No actual trophies are up for grabs but the victors (unless you’re the biggest flop) earn our utmost respect and if anything, that’s better.
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Manager of the Season – Vincent Kompany (Burnley) After years of Burnley being moulded around Sean Dyche, the club took the bold step to appoint an inexperienced manager who was diving into the deep end in the Championship.
Following a lacklustre spell at Anderlecht, there were a lot of question marks surrounding Kompany heading into his managerial bow in English football but he has been a sensation in the second tier.
In a single year, the 37-year-old has transformed Burnley from top to bottom, with the inspiration he’s taken from Pep Guardiola clear to see. The Clarets (or Man City-lite) have comfortably been the best team in the Championship this season and there is an argument to be made that they are the greatest side this league has ever seen.
Kompany has masterminded an impressive squad overhaul (both in personnel and playing style) and Burnley are returning to the Premier League as a more progressive outfit. Tougher tests lie ahead for the Man City legend, but he has made a dream start at Turf Moor.
Player of the Season – Chuba Akpom (Middlesbrough) The ex-Arsenal academy product has always been highly thought of but up until this season, he has meandered his way through his career without producing anything of note.
As it turns out, the 27-year-old was just waiting to be managed by Michael Carrick. Like Kompany, the Man Utd legend has enjoyed a superb debut season as a Championship head coach and he has worked wonders to eke everything out of Akpom.
He has thrived in the number 10 role and he has found the net at a remarkable rate. 28 goals in 40 Championship games is a stunning return for a forward who has previously failed to score on any consistent basis.
Boro were arguably the early favourites to get promoted out of the play-off quartet but their semi-final exit at the hands of Coventry City could end their hopes of keeping Akpom who – according to TEAMtalk – is already being targeted by Crystal Palace, Everton and Wolves.
Young Player of the Season – Joao Pedro (Watford) The Hornets have endured a pretty dire season in 2022/23. Two mid-season manager changes have not helped to forge the level of success they biannually enjoy at this level.
Not many positives have come from their mid-table season, but Pedro has been their shining light once again. In his third year as a regular for Watford, he has proven that he is too good for this level as he has grabbed 11 goals and four assists in 35 league outings.
The 21-year-old is not yet the final product and his decision to join Brighton should prove to be an inspired one. The £30m man is joining the best-run club in the Premier League and he adds to an already exciting list of attacking options at Roberto De Zerbi’s disposal.
Most improved player – Ollie McBurnie (Sheffield United) Akpom is the obvious pick for this award, but let’s mix it up a bit and give McBurnie his flowers.
The Scotsman’s 24-goal season for Swansea City in 2018/19 earned him a £20m move to the Blades ahead of their return to the Premier League. The burden of trying to live up to a price tag can get to certain players. For a while, this looked to be the case for McBurnie, who netted just seven goals in his first 87 league games for Sheffield United.
McBurnie failed to score a single Championship goal last season, but the 26-year-old has enjoyed a mid-career renaissance. He is level with Iliman Ndiaye on 15 goals for the 2022/23 campaign and he provides a great foil for the Senegal international.
From his perspective, McBurnie will be hoping it is third time lucky as he attempts to establish himself as a Premier League-calibre striker next season. He needs seven goals to beat his record tally in the top flight and these goals would come in handy for the likely relegation candidates.
Breakout star – Anel Ahmedhodzic (Sheffield United) The Blades have focused on the loan and free transfer market this season but they saw enough in Ahmedhodzic to spend £3m to beat Blackburn Rovers in the race for the centre-back, who has previously played in the Champions League with Malmo.
The Bosnia international has slotted perfectly into Paul Heckingbottom’s preferred 3-5-2 formation. The ball-playing defender has also proved to be a surprising goal threat.
Sheffield United must keep Iliman Ndiaye and Sander Berge next season, but Ahmedhodzic is fast becoming equally as important as his two highly-rated teammates.
There was a mystique around Ahmedhodzic heading into this season. But the Blades have been rewarded for their bravery in splashing out to sign the 24-year-old as they now arguably have a £10m-plus asset on their hands.
Best signing – Carlton Morris (Luton Town) Luton Town earned promotion via the play-off final at Wembley to round off a remarkable season.
The Hatters have needed to get the maximum out of their limited resources to reach the so-called promised land and most of their budget went on snatching Morris from Barnsley for around £1.7m.
Morris has shown flickers of promise at Championship level but prior to this season, you would not have classed him as a near-£2m asset.
His 27 goal involvements have been priceless but his overall play alongside Elijah Adebayo has been equally as important. He has blossomed into a powerful striker who is a nightmare for defenders to deal with and he’ll have plenty of joy in the division above.
Best loanee – Amad Diallo (Sunderland) I’ve waxed lyrical about Diallo quite a lot and this season should be his last at Championship level.
Sunderland have arguably had the best two wingers in the second tier this season in Diallo and Jack Clarke. Both are now primed to play a role in the Premier League in 2023/24.
20-year-old Diallo has made the most of his time at an attack-minded Sunderland outfit and his moments of brilliance have highlighted that his ceiling far exceeds life in the Championship.
14 goals and three assists is a great return for a player of such limited experience and he returns to Man Utd far more prepared for the rigours of life under Erik ten Hag.
Biggest flop – Dwight Gayle (Stoke City) The ex-Newcastle United forward has previously been a Championship cheat code. Before this season, he had grabbed 59 goals and 16 assists in 100 second-tier appearances.
So Stoke City fans would have expected a sure-fire hit of a signing when Gayle joined on a free transfer last summer. You would have put your house on him reaching at least 15 goals this season, but he has fallen way short of that tally.
The 33-year-old has managed just three goals and five assists this term, with his mediocre campaign perhaps a result of Stoke’s underwhelming finish in the bottom half.
Gayle’s regular goalscoring was supposed to be one of the few guarantees this season. But you can never rest on your laurels in the Championship and he has a big job on his hands next season to escape from the flop category.
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