An alternative Championship team of the year

As the dust settles on another PFA Team of the Year, the recriminations begin. Fans up and down the country make their cases for the inclusion of their own favourite players rather than those selected from other sides. Quite how you can judge so many players you barely see with any accuracy is beyond me. Nevertheless, let’s jump on the bandwagon with an alternative Championship team of the year…

For those of you stumbling across the site through Google in search of the actual PFA team of the year, tis this:

    Kenny (QPR)
    Naughton (Leicester, on loan from Tottenham)
    Harte (Reading)
    Morgan (Nottingham Forest)
    Williams (Swansea)
    Taarabt (QPR)
    Sinclair (Swansea)
    King (Leicester)
    Hoolahan (Norwich)
    Holt (Norwich)
    Graham (Watford)

Some completely cast-iron choices (Taarabt, Sinclair, Holt, Graham). Some more controversial ones (Naughton, Morgan, King).

So let’s go for a completely different XI and see what we come up with.

Goalkeeper: Lee Camp (Nottingham Forest)

Some may be surprised that Camp didn’t get the nod ahead of Paddy Kenny in the genuine article. With a confidence that borders on arrogance and a defiance that borders on, well, arrogance, Camp is one of the Championship’s characters and has been a key part of Forest’s reasonably successful season.

Opposition supporters will be baffled by his exclusion too, because Camp so often catches the attention. A string of brilliant displays just before Christmas demonstrated the best form of his career. Billy Davies’s men have since tailed off in recent weeks but that wouldn’t affect the PFA vote, so Camp is unlucky to miss out. An honourable mention to Swansea City’s Dorus de Vries.

Right-back: Kevin McNaughton (Cardiff City)

That rarest of breeds: a consistent, reliable Cardiff City player. It says everything about the weight of expectation on Cardiff this season that they can lie second in the Championship table and yet none of their side has made the PFA Team of the Year. Maybe this is because people were expecting such extraordinary things of the likes of Jay Bothroyd, Craig Bellamy and Peter Whittingham that they were never going to live up to their billing?

McNaughton has been a solid performer for some years now and is arguably enjoying his best season in a Cardiff shirt. The PFA should definitely have added a Scottish prefix to the surname that eventually filled the right-back berth in their Team of the Year. Honourable mention to Norwich City’s Russell Martin.

Left-back: Clint Hill (Queen’s Park Rangers)

Whisper it, but there’s been another side to Queen’s Park Rangers this season. The media may only want to focus on the genius of Adel Taarabt and the circus that is Neil Warnock, but there has undeniably been a mean streak to the R’s this term and this has contributed greatly to their success.

A team of Taarabts would be a risky manoeuvre at Championship level but liberally sprinkle some Clint Hill, Shaun Derry and Heidar Helguson into the mix and you get a very different prospect indeed. Hill epitomises the little-explored aggression that has helped to take QPR to the top and benefits from a dearth of excellent Championship left-backs this season.

Centre-back: Luke Chambers (Nottingham Forest)

They picked the wrong one! Wes Morgan got the nod for the actual PFA Team of the Year but it has been Luke Chambers that has performed most admirably among the Forest back four this season. Chambers has managed a breakthrough season in many ways, helped by the ongoing Kelvin Wilson saga.

Wilson eventually negotiated a move to Celtic but by the time he was gone, Forest fans were past caring. They had an even better replacement who had been doing the job all season: Chambers has excelled in a Forest side that threatened to challenge QPR at one point. Now it’s back to the drawing board for Chambers and his team-mates as they attempt to put together a late season burst to make that coveted top six.

Centre-back: Steven Caulker (Bristol City)

You can argue the toss all day about whether Premier League loan players should be included in the Championship Team of the Year. It is a tricky one. Do we recognise their impact, especially if they are season-long loanees who have grown to be just as much part of the squad as their team-mates on permanent contracts? Or do we ignore them?

If we are to include them, then perhaps the wrong Tottenham defender got in. Caulker looks an excellent prospect and has bolstered a Bristol City defence that looked capable of getting the Robins relegated early in the season. A possible Premier League regular in the very near future.

Central Midfielder: Jonny Howson (Leeds United)

Another glaring omission from the real thing, Howson has captained Leeds to within spitting distance of the play-offs in their first season back in the second tier after a three-year exile. Regular League One watchers over the last couple of years may have doubted Howson’s ability to turn promise into consistency, but he has finally managed it and at a higher level.

Howson has chipped in with vital goals, rallied an inexperienced team and driven them on from the centre of the park on numerous occasions this season. His form has been particularly impressive given the relatively poor defence behind him and the attack-minded players in front. England Under 21 recognition has duly arrived but now Howson must push for that tantalisingly close top six spot.

Central Midfielder: David Fox (Norwich City)

In such a vibrant, free-flowing Norwich side, which has usually employed a front two with a diamond midfield four, it was imperative that Paul Lambert selected the right man for the vital anchor position in midfield. He chose David Fox, who played under his charge at Colchester United. He chose wisely.

Fox is an unspectacular player who has understandably failed to attract the headlines in a side that contains Team of the Year members Wes Hoolahan and Grant Holt. But look beyond the goals and you will find a quietly reliable performer who has never hidden. These final few weeks will be fascinating and Fox will have to step up again.

Winger: Max Gradel (Leeds United)

Another who probably should have made the final cut, Gradel has exceeded all expectations this season to rack up a remarkable goal tally and, along Robert Snodgrass, provide much-needed attacking width to the play of Leeds United. Gradel was discarded by Nigel Pearson at Leicester and sent to Elland Road, first on loan and then on a permanent basis. He excited the Leeds faithful but, like so many names in this list, struggled for consistency.

And, like so many names in this list, he has found it this year. Simon Grayson can take a huge amount of credit for Gradel’s quite brilliant form but there was always a sense that this was what would be waiting for the manager whose patience allowed it. Rumours of interest from Bundesliga side Hamburg in recent weeks demonstrate just how much of an impact Gradel has made this season.

Winger: Jimmy Kebe (Reading)

Brian McDermott’s men have now won eight in a row in the league and look set to mount an unlikely late bid for an automatic promotion place. This upward trajectory was still but a glint in McDermott’s eye when the voting for the PFA Team of the Year took place, but Kebe has been an excellent performer all season for the Royals.

It says it all about the number of brilliant attacking midfielders in the division that there is no guarantee Kebe would have made it even if the last few weeks had been taken into account – surely only the most partisan Reading fan would argue for his inclusion ahead of Taarabt and, to a lesser extent, Scott Sinclair. Nevertheless, Kebe still seems unlucky to miss out so he gets a spot here instead.

Striker: Shane Long (Reading)

There had to be two Royals in this side really, given what is taking place at the end of this week. And also because of that incredible run of form. Long fits the template of this side, a player who has added consistency to sporadically exciting displays in the past to become a key man in a successful team. His goals have propelled Reading up the table and he will be a feared opponent in the play-offs if McDermott’s men fail to steal second place.

Emerging from the shadow of his compatriot Kevin Doyle, the big question now is whether this campaign is a flash in the pan for the whippet-like Irishman. If, instead, it is a sign of things to come, Reading could make even more money from Long than they did from Doyle. Or he could take them to the Premier League and stay. A superb striker that Championship defenders have grown to despise.

Striker: Steve Morison (Millwall)

Millwall, like Watford, are one of those teams that do not receive too much media attention and fail to attract live television coverage on a regular basis. As a result, many opposition supporters can only take a look at the highlights of their games each week and the top goalscorers table and their appreciation begins and ends with the name of their foremost centre-forward.

That is what has happened to the Hornets this season, for whom Danny Graham has been just one of a number of excellent players. It is also taking place at the Den, with Morison getting the headlines for his goals after the Lions were elevated from League One. There must be more to it, for Millwall to be skirting the edges of the play-offs. Perhaps the likes of David Forde, Paul Robinson and Liam Trotter deserve equal praise. But Morison is the man in the limelight.

Your go! In the comments below, let’s have your teams from the players who made neither the PFA Team nor the alternative team listed above.

The Seventy Two
The Seventy Two published an outstanding series of articles about the Football League between 2010-12 and was the brainchild of Leicester City fan, David Bevan. As well as collaborating with The Two Unfortunates on the Football League Blog Network and a mammoth 2011-12 season preview, the site featured a host of leading bloggers and David was rewarded with a nomination in the 2011 Football Supporters’ Federation awards. Latterly, he was joined as co-editor by Joe Harrison and TTU is happy to present this archive of the site’s output.


  1. NLFG
    April 18, 2011

    No Don Cowie? Ahm ooooot

    His consistant excellence where ever he’s asked to play (and stupid number of assists) are as important as DG10 to us.

  2. Shev
    April 18, 2011

    Liam Rosenior (Hull)

    Pearson snapped Rosenior up as a free agent just before Christmas. Since he signed I think we only lost 3-4 games and have gone from hovering above drop zone to pushing for playoff place.

    He is a player with premiership class and I hope we can keep hold of him. Future club captain?

  3. Mike
    April 18, 2011

    Good choices – I’m not a Millwall fan but as you’ve pointed out Morison seems to have evaded media coverage while doing a good job for the Lions. I am a Bristol City fan and I totally agree with Caulker – no nonsense defender, he’s already too good for the Championship and I kept forgetting exactly how young he is (still only 19) – I think he could make a good international defender given time and experience. One thing’s pretty certain – he probably won’t be back at Ashton Gate next season.

    @Shev: Rosenior is a good player, if he makes 100 appearances for Hull then it means he’s taking it seriously – four different clubs (plus two loans) in almost a decade without reaching a ton for any of them.

  4. MYounger14
    April 18, 2011

    Some good choices in the alternative choice; based on Naughton’s performances throughout the entire season and King’s until just after the England Wales came, you can see how they both got into the team of the year.
    Be interesting to put together a worst team of the year from the Championship – I think Ricardo and Yakubu would be pushing for starts based on their performances for the Foxes this season.

  5. Stanley
    April 18, 2011

    Good choices, David. Of the real PFA XI, I’d only question Ian Harte and Wes Hoolahan. And even then, fairly quietly. On the basis of their performances against Millwall this year, I would agree with your selections of Jimmy Kebe, Luke Chambers and Kevin McNaughton; Chambers, in particular, dominated Morison at the Den and belied a disastrous earlier visit to SE16 as a full back.

    I’d like to nominate a couple more Lions: Tamika Mkandawire, who is a likely contender for POTY, has been more than a match for Fox and Howson at his very best; and Paul Robinson has been the key member of a defence which might look a bit dodgy, but is in fact the rock on which the team is built.

    Honourable mentions also to John Eustace and Don Cowie of Watford, and (begrudgingly) Luciano Becchio of Leeds.

  6. Lanterne Rouge
    April 19, 2011

    Even as a Reading fan, I’d say that Ian Harte was lucky to make the PFA eleven. Andy King deserves to be in though.

    Luke Chambers is a superb choice. Others who might have made this would be Clint Hill’s fellow QPR bruiser Shaun Derry and Russell Martin of Norwich.

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