Monday, April 26, 2010

League One Team of the Season

Back on New Year’s Eve, I blogged my League One team of the half-season, and it is interesting to compare how my picks back then face up against the actual full season team as voted for by the players and announced yesterday.

As a reminder, this was my team of the first half of the season, to be managed by Simon Grayson

Rob Elliot (Charlton)
Alan Dunne (Millwall)
Kelly Youga (Charlton)
Patrick Kisnorbo (Leeds)
Christian Dailly (Charlton)
Nicky Bailey (Charlton)
Bradley Johnson (Leeds)
Robert Snodgrass (Leeds)
Wes Hoolahan (Norwich)
Jermaine Beckford (Leeds)
Grant Holt (Norwich)

Subs – Smithies (Huddersfield), Bromby (Leeds), Semedo (Charlton), Sam (Charlton), Rhodes (Huddersfield), Barnard (Southend), Lambert (Southampton).

The goalkeeping spot, I argued, was up for grabs, and at that stage I hadn’t seen anyone better than Rob Elliot, who was making points winning saves each week. Subsequently, Charlton have been foiled by man-of-the-match performances by both Kelvin Davis and Fraser Forster (Norwich), while Elliot has spent much of the second half of the season injured. It is no surprise then to see Davis as the chosen ‘keeper over the whole season.

At right back, I chose Alan Dunne of Millwall, who has continued to be consistent over the second half of the season. I do think that many (including me) are surprised by the inclusion of Charlton’s own Frazer Richardson, especially as he was not at his best either side of Xmas due to injury. Richardson has done well going forwards, but has shown some defensive frailty but this just shows how difficult picking a choice of right back was, even at Xmas.

The left back slot would have been nailed on for Kelly Youga I think, had he not injured himself back in November. Since then, Carlisle’s Ian Harte has scored a hatful of goals - many penalties and free kicks – so it’s no surprise to see him chosen and that makes it an ex-Leeds duo at full back.

Carrying on the Leeds defensive theme, I picked out Patrick Kisnorbo in my team at half-way, and he stays at centre back in the side chosen by the players, despite a bad recent injury. Leeds ends-of-season frailties have been when Kisnorbo has been out of the side, indicating how much they needed his leadership at the back.

I have to say that I was surprised to see Norwich’s Gary Doherty picked alongside Kisnorbo; although he won most aerial battles at the Valley recently, he is consistently slow, and not the best passer around either. I still think that the Addicks Christian Dailly has had a better season, though he too has suffered from injury and been below par over recent months.

No surprise to see Nicky Bailey in the final eleven, as he can look way too good for this level when on form. One of his problems is trying too hard, and he often wastes possession when trying a forty yard pass when a much simpler one would have sufficed. The goals have dried up recently too (just one in 2010…), but he is such a competitor that it is just a matter of time before he bulges the net once more. I’m not sure I’d let him near my wife though…

In an attacking formation, Jason Puncheon, now of Southampton, gets the players nod in midfield, while I had gone for the more workmanlike Bradley Johnson, who had a good start to the season at Leeds. Since Johnson lost form, so have Leeds to a certain extent, while Puncheon, buoyed by a switch from a loan-arrangement at MK Dons to a permanent place at St Mary’s, has shown what a good player he can be. The interest shown in him by Charlton was real, and it’s a shame that we were outbid by Pardew as he would have pushed Charlton on that extra yard this season.

No surprise also to see both Wes Hoolahan (Norwich) and Robert Snodgrass (Leeds United) as the two wide-men in the end-of-season team - I also had them both in my half-way side. Hoolahan is the main reason, to my mind, why Norwich have won the title, as he just never gives up and always runs. Scorer of the goal that got Norwich back into the game at Carrow Road against Charlton that was possibly the turning point in the Canaries season, and they have seldom looked back since. Snodgrass meanwhile has simply provided most of the ammunition for whoever is playing up front at Elland Road. He has a sweet right foot (to balance Hoolahan’s left…) and has been on the scoresheet plenty of times too with crucial late goals. I think the pair are playing well below their natural level, and both will probably find themselves in the Premier League later in their careers.

Picking two strikers at half-way was difficult, and it got no easier as the season went on. I went for Jermaine Beckford (Leeds) and Grant Holt (Norwich) as they were the top scorers at the end of the year (with Rickie Lambert (Southampton) as a substitute), but subsequently, Beckford has lost some form and Lambert has scored the goal of the season. Both Holt and Lambert have scored over thirty goals and most have been points winners for their respective clubs. Both are likely to remain where they are, so expect plenty more goals from them next season.

This is the full team chosen by the players as the League One team of the Season –

Kelvin Davis (Southampton)
Frazer Richardson (Charlton)
Patrick Kisnorbo (Leeds United)
Gary Doherty (Norwich)
Ian Harte (Carlisle)
Wes Hoolahan (Norwich)
Jason Puncheon (Southampton)
Robert Snodgrass (Leeds United)
Nicky Bailey (Charlton)
Rickie Lambert (Southampton)
Grant Holt (Norwich)

Five of my team made it through the season and into the final eleven, plus one of my subs, so I’m quite happy that my interim team was on the mark. It's also good that Charlton do have two players thought of as the best in the division by their contemporaries.

As for the manager, at Xmas I chose Simon Grayson, but undoubtedly the man in the hot seat now would have to be Paul Lambert of Norwich, who has done an excellent job since joining from Colchester a couple of weeks into the season (having inflicted Norwich’s opening day 7-1 reverse!).


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