The battles for automatic promotion, the play-offs and to avoid relegation went down to the final day in League One, with positions changing constantly throughout the last game. In the end it was Wigan Athletic, with the youngest chairman-manager duo in the country, who went up as champions a year after being relegated, and they will be joined in the Championship next season by Burton Albion, playing in the second tier for the first time in their history after achieving back to back promotions.
The final spot to go up went to rank outsiders Barnsley, who were in the drop zone at Christmas and only qualified for the play-offs on the final day on goal difference by beating Champions Wigan 4-1. The Tykes defeated Walsall (who finished 10 points ahead of them and just a point off automatic promotion) comfortably in their semi-final before securing promotion against Millwall at Wembley, who had beaten Bradford in their semi-final.
At the other end, League One is the cruellest in the fact that four teams go down, and this campaign it was Doncaster Rovers, Blackpool (suffering successive relegations), Colchester and Crewe who were resigned to League Two next season. Incredibly, none of the newly promoted teams were relegated back to the fourth tier.
Final League Table
Team of the Season (PFA)
Player of the Season
Bradley Dack (Gillingham)
Labelled ‘the League One Frank Lampard’ by some Gillingham supporters, Bradley Dack was the creative spark in the Gills side that challenged for the play-offs for the majority of the campaign before eventually falling short. Having come through the ranks at the Kent club, the 22 year old was used out wide in previous seasons, but Justin Edinburgh moved him into a central attacking midfield role at the start of the 2015-16, and it’s been a superb decision. Dack scored 13 goals and grabbed 11 assists, meaning that he contributed to over a third of Gillingham’s 71 league goals. Following the success of Dele Alli after his move from the third tier last summer, there’s a lot of interest in Dack, with Crystal Palace especially reported to be tracking him closely. You think that at 22, the midfielder has a bright future ahead of him.
2nd – Will Grigg(‘s on fire) (Wigan Athletic)
3rd – Sam Winnall (Barnsley)
Manager of the Season
Gary Caldwell – Wigan Athletic
With the other promoted clubs Burton and Barnsley changing managers midway through the season, Gary Caldwell almost wins this award by default, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve it – far from it. Having featured as a centre-back for Wigan since 2010, entering his first job in management was never going to be easy, especially when the pressure is so great to earn promotion to the Championship. But Caldwell, who at 34 years old was the youngest manager in League One, showed that experience didn’t matter as he got it tactically spot on to lead Wigan to the title. No one else scored more goals than the Latics’ 82, and between December and April they went on a 20 game unbeaten run, dominating the division with ease. Backed by 26 year old chairman David Sharpe, grandson of Dave Whelan, the prospect of the Championship is an exciting one for Caldwell.
2nd – Nigel Clough (Burton Albion)
3rd – Phil Parkinson (Bradford City)
Goal of the Season
Game of the Season
Colchester 4-4 Walsall (Moncur (49′), Sordell (52′), Garvan (60′), Ambrose (80′); Sawyers (11′), Lalkovic (30′), Evans (57′), O’Connor (90+1′))
James O’Connor scored in added time to secure Walsall a point in a dramatic eight-goal thriller at Colchester. Romaine Sawyers and Milan Lalkovic gave second-placed Walsall a two-goal lead before George Moncur’s curler and Marvin Sordell’s finish made it 2-2. On-loan George Evans restored Walsall’s lead before Owen Garvan smashed in a 25-yard volley following a corner. Darren Ambrose put the U’s 4-3 up from Callum Harriott’s cross but O’Connor’s dramatic late finish earned a point. [Read the full BBC report here]
Club-by-Club Player of the Season
Barnsley: Sam Winnall
Blackpool: Mark Cullen
Bradford City: Tony McMahon
Burton Albion: John Mousinho
Bury: Leon Clarke
Chesterfield: Sylvan Ebanks-Blake
Colchester United: Alex Gilbey
Coventry City: Adam Armstrong
Crewe Alexandra: Jon Guthrie
Doncaster Rovers: Andy Williams
Fleetwood Town: Jimmy Ryan
Gillingham: Bradley Dack
Millwall: Lee Gregory
Oldham Athletic: Mike Jones
Peterborough: Erhan Oztumer
Port Vale: Anthony Grant
Rochdale: Ian Henderson
Scunthorpe United: Paddy Madden
Sheffield United: Billy Sharp
Shrewsbury Town: Abu Ogogo
Southend United: Ben Coker
Swindon Town: Nicky Ajose
Walsall: Tom Bradshaw
Wigan Athletic: Will Grigg
The 2016-17 rebranded English Football League One 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!