Goalkeeper, Sheffield Wednesday
Having begun his career with Manchester City, Keiren enjoyed lengthy spells with both Carlisle and Coventry before finding his way to Sheffield Wednesday via Sunderland. The Republic of Ireland international, who was named in the League One team of the year in 2008, has been in exceptional form for a Wednesday side who really needed to match the consistency of their keeper if they were to maintain a play-off push.
Norwich skipper Russell has led by example as Norwich have taken managerial changes in their stride to put themselves in with a great chance of automatic promotion. The Scotland international is equally comfortable either in his role as a raiding full back or a dependable centre back, and with more than 200 appearances for the Canaries under his belt he is looking forward to making many more – and then managing the club one day!
Defence, Derby County
The Derby skipper has been a rock for the Rams, and the leadership qualities he brings to the team are massively appreciated by colleagues and fans alike. Named player of the year at each of his last three clubs – Carlisle, Coventry and Derby – he is revered by all, and was honoured during his time at Brunton Park where Carlisle supporters paraded a banner ‘In Keogh we trust’. A fitting tribute to the Republic of Ireland international.
George began his career with Exeter and had spells with Wolverhampton and Doncaster before moving even further north to sign for Middlesbrough in 2012. He is enjoying his best-ever season and gives much of the credit for his personal success to Aitor Karanka who he describes as ‘the best manager I have ever worked under’. Boro’s player of the year for the last two seasons, George continues to go from strength to strength.
The Cherries have been the surprise package in the Championship and full back Simon has been one of the picks of a very special bunch of players brilliantly assembled and nurtured by manager Eddie Howe. Having been overlooked by hometown clubs Nottingham Forest and Notts County, his professional career has taken him from Bradford to Bournemouth, via Southend and Charlton amongst others, to the brink of Premiership football.
The former England Under 21 international, who began his career with Sunderland, has made over 100 league appearances for each of his three clubs so far. After a three-year spell with Ipswich, Grant joined Middlesbrough in 2012 and has been a key figure in the Riverside revolution under Aitor Karanka, and has contributed more than a dozen goals – many of the spectacular variety – from his central midfield position.
League Two player of the year in 2012; League One player of the year in 2013; Matt has now made his mark in the Championship as a key player in a Bournemouth side capable of taking on all-comers. The former Portsmouth and Swindon wide man’s goal tally is well into double figures and he was rewarded earlier in the year by being called up to the Scotland squad, making his international debut against Northern Ireland in March.
Bakary Sako, together with Nouha Dicko and Benik Afobe, make up one of the most formidable and fearsome front lines in the division. Pace, power and purpose are the order of the day at Molineux right now and double figure tallies from the terrific trio have sent helped keep Kenny Jackett’s men in play-off contention. A former French Under 21 international, Sako is also making his mark on the international stage with Mali.
Brentford have been one of the great success stories in the Championship this season – throughout the whole league, in truth – and Alex has played a key role in keeping them in the promotion mix for so long. The attacking midfielder, on loan from Spurs, has been the main man for the Bees and his progression through the international ranks recently saw him nominated for the England Under 21 player of the year award.
A regular contender for the season’s various player of the month awards, Daryl has been scoring goals for fun in an Ipswich side which emerged as surprise play-off contenders. As early as February, Murphy became the first Town player since Darren Bent in 2005 to score 20 goals in a season. Many of those strikes have been spectacular ones and the Republic of Ireland international has become a firm favourite at Portman Road.
A product of the Aston Villa youth system, Troy made well over a hundred appearances for Walsall before joining Watford in 2010. A lifelong Birmingham City fan, he has the Second City club’s crest tattooed on his leg, but he is very much part of the Watford family now. On April 6, by scoring in a 2-0 win over promotion rivals Middlesbrough, he became the first Watford player to score 20 goals in three successive seasons.