Goalkeeper: Mark Travers (Bournemouth) He made his mark on his Premier League debut against Tottenham three years ago, and established himself as the No. 1 at Bournemouth on his way to promotion. The 23-year-old had 12 months in. Last May, five years after scoring on his debut for Weymouth, he headed the equalizer in overtime in the Hampshire Senior Cup and finished the season with the Golden Glove.
Central Defence: Joe Worrall (Nottingham Forest) Team captain. leader. Caption? Worrall may have achieved that stature even before he led Forest to the Premier League, wiping away tears as he tries to put his performances at Wembley into words. He joined his childhood club at the age of 14 and has long demonstrated what it means to him to play for Forrest, whether it was to express his hatred of the derby or his party’s stunt: getting down to clear the ball with his head. “We don’t mind suffering,” he said. “We struggled off the field for a long time.”
central defender: Daraj Linehan (Blackburn) The Republic of Ireland defender, who joined Blackburn from Dublin’s Belvedere in 2011, experienced his best season to date as a three-man central defense. Rovers ran out of breath as their playoff lead faltered – they won three games after February – but Linehan exaggerated his contribution as Rovers threatened to spoil the expected standings. Blackburn, whose contract expired this summer, is in talks to extend the centre-back’s stay for an extended period.
Central Defence: Lloyd Kelly (Bournemouth) It’s good that Bournemouth crossed the line because in April Scott Parker declared Kelly – the tournament’s youngest captain – too good for the division. Eddie Howe knew he had a special talent when Kelly was signed from Bristol City in 2019, with several top-flight clubs expressing their interest and the sporting defender, who also played as a left-back, found himself at home at the center-back. After a layoff at the start and an injury-ridden first season, Kelly makes up for lost time.
Right midfield: Jed Spence (Nottingham Forest) A major player in Forrest’s transformation. The player on loan from Middlesbrough excelled as a full-back, and his quick runs made him a key element in earning a call-up to the England Under-21 team. His release by Fulham in 2018 is looking more and more mysterious by the day. Burruss Isaiah Jones, in fact the reason Spence was allowed on loan, also played on the right. “Trials and trials happen,” Spence said after the promotion. “You just have to keep going and work hard.”
Midfield: Louis O’Brien (Huddersfield). Perhaps the best player in the playoffs, it would have been fitting that O’Brien finish off a good season with another clean, neat performance, even if he ended in defeat. At the height of Huddersfield’s climb-up spurt, O’Brien’s momentum and pace propelled her into third place. He joined U11 and signed a new long-term agreement last September. O’Brien, the season ticket holder for Manchester City, has won high-profile fans this season.
Midfield: Morgan Gibbs-White (Sheffield United) He showed the level to score 12 goals and 10 assists on loan from Wolverhampton, who have signed coach Bruno Lage to bring the attacking midfielder back to his squad for next season. He developed a good relationship with Billy Sharpe, who tapped into Gibbs White’s eye for a fatal pass. The 22-year-old has been pivotal in helping the Blades reach the playoffs, reclaiming Player of the Season and Young Player of the Year on Bramall Lane.
Left midfield: Harry Toffolo (Huddersfield). Signed from Lincoln for £500,000 two years ago, he thrived under Carlos Corberan and proved a threat in a campaign that ended in heartbreak. Especially for Tovolo, who seemed to be fouled in the penalty area only by referee Jon Moss to book him in the Sim. His teammate Sorba Thomas also shone, while Ken Lewis Potter of Hull and Blackpool’s Josh Bowler impressed, especially against Fulham, who sacked him when he was young.
Right winger: Brennan Johnson (Nottingham Forest) There are a myriad of highlights for Johnson, whose blistering pace and straight sprinting proved a nightmare for the defense. He has felt energized since he scored his first goal in the woods to score a point in the derby in August and his performance against Leicester in the FA Cup in February reflects his heroic role. He has a penchant for being in the right place at the right time, and his Sliderule passes and relationship with Spence have helped Forrest become a force.
Striker: Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham) Normally, Joel Perroy and Ben Brereton Diaz would have come with a shot, but it’s impossible to get past the record-breaking Mitrovic’s 43 goals in a single match. Add the injury-time winner for Serbia in Porto to secure a place in the World Cup and it was a successful season. “He knows I will be asking him more and more from tomorrow,” said Fulham manager Marco Silva. The Premier League is waiting.
Left winger: Andy Wiemann (Bristol City) The numbers speak for themselves. The return of 22 goals and 10 assists in a team that has flattered, faked and tackled touchdowns for most of the season is extraordinary. More importantly, the former Aston Villa striker has entered this season after undergoing surgery for an ACL injury. A workaholic and a dream manager, Weimann plays everywhere from linebacker to forward. Austria was recalled in March.
Coach: Steve Cooper (Nottingham Forest) Last week, Jurgen Klopp looked embarrassed to beat Cuper the League Managers’ Player of the Season award given the way the Welsh Forest had taken the club from the bottom of the table to the Premier League in eight months. Forrest’s 20th permanent manager since 1999 has earned the status of champion. Corberán and Nathan Jones both worked wonders at Huddersfield and Luton respectively.
Michael Cooper (Plymouth); Jack Watmog (Wigan), Harry Darling (MK Dons), Michael Ihikoi (Rotherham); Paddy Lane (Fleetwood), Barry Bannan (Sheffield Wednesday), Cameron Branaghan (Oxford), Calum Lange (Wigan); Scott Twain (MK Dons); Ross Stewart (Sunderland), Will Kane (Wigan).
Player of the Season: Scott Twain (MK Dons) No player has scored more league goals than Twine (20 goals, 13 assists), who was still on loan at sixth-tier Chippenham Town in 2020. MK Dons paid Swindon £300,000 for Court For a striker who has developed physically and honed his overall playing style while still maintaining a penchant for long-range shooting or the free kick. Twain started on loan at Newport in the Second Division last season and looks set to be promoted again.
Coach: Paul Warren (Rotherham) Perhaps the greatest compliment is that Warren has long given a third promotion in five seemingly relatively easy seasons, even if they eventually cross the finish line and have to settle for second behind Wigan, whose manager Lim Richardson also deserves credit for handling the remainder of the management. And guarantee an immediate return to the championship. Warren once again recovered from losing key players in the closing season and won the Papa John Cup.
JoJo Woolacott (Swindon); Nathan Smith (Port Vale), Conor Taylor (Bristol Rovers), Pierce Sweeney (Exeter); Ken Wilson (Forest Green), Ebo Adams (Forest Green), Timothy Deng (Exeter), Anthony Evans (Bristol Rovers), Elliot Anderson (Bristol Rovers); Dominic Telford (Newport), Mattie Stevens (Forrest Green).
Player of the Season: Ken Wilson (Forrest Green) The full-back was a constant threat on the right side, as he finished with the 13th best assists in the league. On occasion, Wilson actually served as an extra striker for the division’s top scorers. The 22-year-old left West Bromwich Albion youth club without a league match, but has traced his roots in the Cotswolds after a string of loan spells two years ago. He did not look back and return to the pyramid beckoning.
Managing Director: Rob Edwards (Forrest Green, now with Watford) Edwards’ start of next season at Watford is indicative of much of the work he did in his first season as director of the Football League, leading Forest Green to the title and turning heads in seductive fashion. Matt Gray should finish a close second for leading Sutton United to the play-off berth and the Cup Final in his first season in the Football League, while Daryl Clarke overcame personal tragedy to leave Port Vale at Wembley to head the League One.