Whilst the Premier League provided us with incredible drama in 2015-16, the Championship reminded us why it remains one of the most entertaining leagues as well. Burnley, who were unbeaten in their final 23 league games dating back to December, romped to the title and returned to the top division at the first time of asking. Meanwhile, the battle for the other automatic promotion spot went down to the last day, with the two contenders Middlesbrough and Brighton facing off in the North East. A 1-1 draw meant Boro finished second on goal difference, securing promotion for the first time since their relegation from the Premier League in 2009.
The Seagulls went on to lose their play-off semi-final against Sheffield Wednesday, whilst Derby County were defeated by Hull City in the other tie. That meant it was The Owls vs The Tigers at Wembley, with Steve Bruce’s side winning 1-0 thanks to Mo Diame’s goal to also go straight back up.
At the bottom, ownership troubles meant former top tier sides Bolton Wanderers and Charlton were both relegated to League One without so much as a whimper, whilst MK Dons were the other unfortunate side, going straight back down to the third division.
Final League Table
Team of the Season (via PFA)
Player of the Season
Andre Gray – Burnley
When Andre Gray joined Burnley for a club record £6 million from Brentford last summer, he had already scored twice in two games for the Bees. He would go on to net 23 more goals for Sean Dyche’s team, spearheading their charge to the Championship title. He ended the season with a plethora of awards. Not only did he have a gold medal round his neck, Gray boasted the league’s golden boot, PFA Player of the Year award and a place in the association’s Team of the Year. Quick and a clinical finisher, the 24 year old is every defender’s worst nightmare, and is ready to set the Premier League on fire next season. It will top a remarkable rise that echoes that of the likes of Jamie Vardy and Charlie Austin, as Gray was playing in non-league just two years ago with Luton Town.
2nd – Alan Judge (Brentford)
3rd – Joey Barton (Burnley)
Manager of the Season
Sean Dyche – Burnley
I know it’s predictable to give the manager of the year award to the man who set up the champions, but Sean Dyche’s Burnley side were considerably ahead of the rest of the division, and the ‘Ginger Mourinho’ has to take a lot of credit. He took the Clarets up two years ago, and despite relegation from the top flight 12 months ago, the Turf Moor board stuck with Dyche and rightly so. No other team won more games or lost more games than Burnley, who are currently unbeaten in the league in 2016 – not losing since the start of December against Hull, 23 games ago. That’s half of the season without defeat. They were also the league’s top scorers and only Middlesbrough conceded less goals, proving just how good Dyche’s men were. He’s proven himself as one of the best managers in the Championship, now his job is to keep Burnley in the Premier League.
2nd – Carlos Carvalhal (Sheffield Wednesday)
3rd – Chris Hughton (Brighton & Hove Albion)
Goal of the Season
Marco Matias vs Leeds United
Game of the Season
QPR 4-3 Bolton (Emmanuel-Thomas (13′minutes, 90+4′), Fer (44′), Chery (62′); Madine (8′), Feeney (11′), Wellington (85′))
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas curled in a 94th-minute winner against Bolton to end QPR’s four game winless run. Liam Feeney crossed for Gary Madine to head home the opener before adding a second, steering home the rebound after Robert Green saved from Darren Pratley. Emmanuel-Thomas immediately pulled one back, with Leroy Fer then stabbing in an equaliser and Tjaronn Chery put QPR 3-2 up from the edge of the area. Bolton’s Wellington Silva levelled late on only for Emmanuel-Thomas to win it. [Read the full BBC report here.]
Club-by-Club Player of the Season
Birmingham City: Jon Toral
Blackburn Rovers: Grant Hanley
Bolton Wanderers: Zac Clough
Brentford: Alan Judge
Brighton & Hove Albion: Dale Stephens
Bristol City: Jonathan Kodija
Burnley: Andre Gray
Cardiff City: David Marshall
Charlton Athletic: Johann Berg Gudmundsson
Derby County: George Thorne
Fulham: Ross McCormack
Huddersfield Town: Nahki Wells
Hull City: Abel Hernandez
Ipswich Town: Ryan Fraser
Leeds United: Chris Wood
Middlesbrough: Adam Clayton
MK Dons: David Martin
Nottingham Forest: Nelson Oliveira
Preston North End: Paul Gallagher
QPR: Massimo Luongo
Reading: Oliver Norwood
Rotherham United: Lee Camp
Sheffield Wednesday: Fernando Forestieri
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Jack Price
The 2016-17 rebranded English Football League Championship campaign starts on 6th August. If you disagree with any of the awards, please feel free to let me know who you think deserved a mention in the comments below!