Recently, the winners of the Football League awards were announced, with the most accomplished players from across the three divisions recognised for their accomplishments. Originally established in 2006, over the years the ceremony seems to have rewarded multiple players, both experienced and with potential, expanding their repertoires and perhaps enabling them to reach the pinnacle of English football: The Premier League. Whilst the awards seemed to be equally shared between players from various teams, perhaps the most prestigious award was awarded to Anthony Knockaert due to his efforts in elevating Brighton into the promotion positions; with the French winger having already amassed top flight experience, both in England and abroad, perhaps he may ultimately be superiorly impacted in comparison to the other victors, as this may provide him with the incentive to return to the top.
Individually, awards seemed to be offered for the player deemed the most proficient in each of the three divisions, with under 21s eligible for the equivalent in the Young Player category. In addition, prizes may also be presented to clubs, hence the incentive to perform well both on and off of the pitch may be increased due to the various honours available for representing their respective teams positively. Therefore, the ceremony seems to allow players from a smorgasbord of backgrounds, and a smattering of teams, to be rewarded, perhaps showcasing both the commitment of the FA to ensure these leagues get the recognition they deserve, and simultaneously offering players a platform from which they may elevate their credentials.
The player who may be able to maximise the experience may be Anthony Knockaert, winner of the most prestigious award: Championship Player of the Year. After notching thirteen goals and nine assists this campaign, he seems to have been the driving force behind elevating his team to the top of the league, and thus seems to be a deserving victor. Yet, Knockaert may have been placed in good stead prior to the season commencing, as his experience at other top clubs may have acted as the catalyst in his consistent performances this season. After winning the Championship with Leicester three seasons ago, he left to pursue other opportunities, and, after earning a transfer back to England with his current club, he may be aiming to replicate his previous consistent form in order to become an integral part of a Premier League side.
With the fourteen awards smattered across various clubs, it seems there may be multiple accomplished players in all divisions who might be worthy of attaining these prizes. Yet, perhaps the most important reward may be attaining a place in the Team of the Year, as this suggests they have been hand-picked ahead of thousands to be in the superlative eleven. With Dwight Gayle the solitary representative from Newcastle United, who have been Championship leaders and thus amongst the favourites to gain promotion, this suggestion of competitiveness seems to be emphasised. Along with Gayle, five other Championship players enter the frame, with top scorer Chris Wood and golden glove leader David Stockdale perhaps the notable representatives. Yet, it is the League One and Two players who may gain the plaudits as, although they play in the third and fourth tiers, they seemed to have showcased quality, and proved they boast the necessary credentials to enter the elite.
With five games remaining in the Championship, and consequently fifteen points available, there may be an intriguing conclusion to an already competitive season. The awards may influence these ties, with both the victors striving for continued perfection, and their rivals seeking to highlight the reasoning as to why perhaps they might’ve been nominated. As such, this ceremony may be pivotal for the season as, whilst short-term it allows the players to amass silverware, it may also long-term enable them to gain the necessary experience and exposition to perform in the Premier League. Whilst this may logically be the overall aim for the players, ultimately continuing to recognise their achievements may ensure these divisions continue to attract a vast audience, leading to the prolongation of funding opportunities and therefore narrowing the gap between the EPL and EFL.
How may the victors utilise these individual awards to ensure team glory?