MY EFL award winners as Sol was a ray of sunshine and Jack Marriott starred in the best match,
It’s end of season awards time and here are my Football League highlights and lowlights from the 2018-19 campaign.
Best match: Leeds 2, Derby 4, Championship play-off semi-final. Yes I know Villa and Forest fought out a 5-5 draw full of spectacular goals, but for sheer drama with so much at stake nothing topped last week’s play-off match at Elland Road.
Obviously seeing the worst fans in the Football League so upset thanks to a couple of goals from a former Posh player helped.
Manager of the Year: A tough one as Sheffield United’s Chris Wilder, Norwich City’s Daniel Farke and Luton Town’s Mick Harford deserve great praise for success achieved in a stylish way, while Graham Potter’s efforts at cash-strapped Swansea and Wally Downes keeping AFC Wimbledon up were also impressive.
But Sol Campbell gambled on starting his managerial career at League Two no-hopers Macclesfield Town and somehow kept them in the Football League.
Few thought a former England international could succeed at such a low level so well played Sol.
Best player: Marcus Maddison obviously, but I’ll avoid accusations of bias by considering Teemu Puki at Norwich, Luton left-back Justin James and Leeds wizard Pablo Hernandez before plumping for Dwight Gayle at West Brom, a striker who guarantees a club 20 goals a season at Championship level.
He used to play for Posh so actually I am biased.
Worst player: Anyone who dived to con officials with a special mention to Leeds United’s Patrick Bamford who picked up a two-game ban for faking injury and then collected a caution for simulation on his first game back.
Best managerial departure: Middlesbrough waited too long before dumping dinosaur Tony Pulis so AFC Wimbledon’s decision to replace Neal Ardley with Wally Downes is the winner followed by Rochdale’s decision to replace club legend Keith Hill with Brian Barry-Murphy.
Worst managerial appointment: The decision to hire Ardley as manager was the last of a string of baffling decisions that cost Notts County their place in the Football League.
Over-achievers: AFC Wilmbledon again obviously, but not Accrington Stanley as their survival was accompanied by excessive time-wasting which, for me, punctures a big hole in their attempt to be perceived as a plucky underdog.
Norwich City were 50/1 and other fancy prices to win the Championship last season and did it in style so they are my over-achievers.
Under-achievers: Sunderland may well still go up, but to finish fifth in a pretty ordinary League One despite the advantage of Premier League parachute payments was a dismal effort.
They even spent £3 million on a striker they don’t start because he doesn’t fit in with an ugly style of play.