The EFL released the shortlist for the Championship Player of the Year on Monday. The three players that are competing for the award are Leeds United striker Chris Wood, Newcastle United striker Dwight Gayle and Brighton winger Anthony Knockaert. They have all starred in teams competing at the top of the division and there were few surprises when the news was announced. Wood and Gayle are also competing to finish the season as the division’s top scorer and it could be that the winner of that will win this award as well.
Why have they been nominated?
The current frontrunner for the award is Wood, which isn’t surprising considering the incredible season that he is having. The New Zealand international has scored 24 goals in 36 matches, with a goal coming every 121.5 minutes. His goals have directly led to nine wins for Leeds, highlighting that he not only scores often, but his goals are important ones. This season has been one of improvement as he has already scored 11 more goals than he managed in the last campaign, despite attempting fewer shots per game. He has helped his side to a play-off position and they have a great chance of reaching the Premier League for the first time since 2004. Without him, they would have struggled to finish in the top six.
Dwight Gayle was set for a record-breaking Championship season before injuries hampered his goal record during the second half of the season. He currently stands on 21 strikes and he will be confident of adding to his tally before the end of the season. The 26-year-old has managed to score a goal every 92.3 minutes, which is extraordinary at this level. After deciding to drop back down to the second tier, the pressure was on the striker to prove himself once again. People will point to him playing on the team expected to win the league, but that brings extra pressure and he has dealt with that well.
After joining Brighton at the beginning of 2016, Anthony Knockaert has wowed supporters on the South Coast. They managed to keep hold of him during the summer amid interest from Newcastle United and it was certainly the right decision to keep hold of him. Many pundits consider him to be the best player in the division and he has a very good case to win this award. He has contributed 13 goals and seven assists already this season, with a goal involvement every 157 minutes. The winger is exciting to watch and he is excellent at beating players, creating space for himself and his team-mates. He also works hard defensively averaging 2.6 ball recoveries per game.
Anyone unlucky to miss out?
There will always be a lot of debate among supporters about individual awards, but on this occasion, two players can feel unlucky to miss out. Tom Cairney has been excellent for Fulham and is the driving force behind their play-off push. The midfielder is set to play in the Premier League next season, with or without Fulham and it is easy to see why there is interest from bigger clubs. He has taken his game to the next level over the past 12 months, contributing nine goals and nine assists to date.
Another player that should be in the running is Matt Ritchie. He has arguably been Newcastle’s star man over the course of the season, but a lot of what he does goes unnoticed. His leadership and work rate can’t be quantified and that is why he may have been overlooked. Although he has failed to match his goal-scoring exploits of 2014/15, he has scored nine times and made seven assists. His consistency has been remarkable and he is unlucky not to be nominated.
Who will win it?
There is still a lot of football to be played and it is difficult to make a decision on such an award until the end of the season. At the moment, Chris Wood has the best case. He may have a worse scoring goal than Gayle in terms of goals per minute, but he has played for the entire season and has offered a lot to Leeds other than goals. A lot of his goals have been important ones and he could yet lead his team to the Premier League. There is also an argument that he has surpassed what was expected of him before the season kicked off, while Gayle has lived up to his pre-season billing.
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