The regular season is wrapped up and we are already almost one-third of the way through the play-offs. There is no time to hang around in the Sky Bet EFL.
As ever, it has been a roller coaster of a season: Aleksandar Mitrovic broke records as he fired Fulham to the Championship title, Derby bravely fought relegation against all the odds, Wigan found their way out of League One and Forest Green were promoted to the third tier for the first time in their history.
Players have shone throughout and so, speaking on Sky Sports News, Sky Sports EFL pundit Jobi McAnuff and George Elek from the Not The Top 20 podcast put their heads together to name their top performers from across all three divisions and who could make it in the Premier League in future…
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Which player is most likely to be signed by a Premier League club?
McAnuff: “Brennan Johnson has been outstanding for Nottingham Forest this season.”
Elek: “Keane Lewis-Potter from Hull has been linked with West Ham and Brentford. He scored 12 goals this season and is very versatile. He can play wide left in a three, he’s played wing-back at times and can play up front as well, just like Jarrod Bowen – I think he will follow suit.”
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Image: Hull's Keane Lewis-Potter
Who is one prospect Premier League teams should be looking at?
McAnuff: “Lewis O’Brien. He is not a household name, but he is a midfielder who has been a massive part of the Huddersfield team. He is only 23 but he has had four real, good, solid seasons at this level and has led the team at times. He’s got a bit of everything; he’s a good tackler and he’s popping up with a few goals as well.”
Image: Huddersfield's Lewis O'Brien
Elek: “I’m going down to League One with this one: MK Dons’ Scott Twine. What an unbelievable season he has had – 20 goals and 13 assists. He is a great striker of the ball from range and such a creative player as well. While having a goalscorer’s instinct too. He’s only going one way and that’s to the top. I think a Premier League club will be smart and intercept him.”
Image: MK Dons' Scott Twine
The Premier League loanee of the season is…
McAnuff: “Morgan Gibbs-White, who is an attacking player, who has been on loan to Sheffield United from Wolves this season. I was surprised to see him being let go, but I think he wanted to play regular football and the EFL affords that to up-and-coming Premier League players. Even if Sheffield United were not at their best at the beginning of the season, he was still delivering the goods.
Image: Sheffield United's Morgan Gibbs-White
“He can play up front and in that No 10 role. He creates and scores goals, he can play wide and, certainly in recent weeks, with the absence of Billy Sharp, he really has stepped up to the plate. He is going to be a massive player for them from now until the end of the season in terms of trying to get through the play-offs.”
Elek: “Elliot Anderson, who joined Bristol Rovers from Newcastle in January. Anyone who hasn’t seen what happened at Bristol Rovers on Saturday – he scored the dramatic seventh goal that led to the pitch invasion and, eventually, promotion. He came in when Rovers were 12th in League Two and they won 13 of the 20 games he played.
“I think this is his first-ever loan and I think, sometimes, parent clubs don’t see how good a player is until he is let go. I’ll be amazed if Bristol Rovers are able to get him back on loan next season in League One. I’m sure there are many Championship clubs circling a very talented player who had a great impact in a short period.”
Image: Bristol Rovers' Elliot Anderson
Which manager has done the best job outside the play-offs?
McAnuff: “Wayne Rooney, given everything he has had to deal with at Derby County this season. In his first role, every single obstacle that has been thrown at him, he’s dealt with. He really got that team organised. He has had budget issues, point deductions, injuries to key players and had to let players go in the January transfer window just to keep things ticking over there. I think he has done a remarkable job at Derby. The fact that they made a fist of staying up is an incredible achievement.”
Image: Derby's Wayne Rooney
Elek: “I think Gary Rowett deserves massive credit. I think people seem to forget that Millwall don’t have a budget to compete at the top end and they went into the final day needing a win to possibly make the play-offs. They didn’t get it and they just fell short, but that should not take away from Rowett, who has got Millwall competing. Losing Jed Wallace, whose contract is running out this summer, could be difficult.
Image: Millwall's Gary Rowett
“I would also give a mention to Blackpool’s Neil Critchley. In his first full season in charge, he came back into the Championship and in his second full year of management, he managed to stay safe from relegation very early on. He is also a former coaching staff member under Jurgen Klopp’s coaching team at Liverpool. He is very impressive, and I think we will see much more of him.”
Image: Blackpool's Neil Critchley
Which team needs to turn things around or face a very tough 2022/23?
McAnuff: “Reading. It’s been a disappointing season this year. A lot of issues off the pitch have contributed to poor performances and poor form. Financial issues haven’t really gone away and could come back to bite the club moving forward. There’s talk of further point deduction, possibly to start next season.
Image: Reading's Paul Ince
“Players may leave because of that financial situation, including some of the better players, including out-of-contract John Swift. It could be another difficult season and there are still questions around Paul Ince being the man for the job, too. I do hope they can get their house in order as this is a team that deserves to be competing at the top end of the league.”
Elek: “West Brom had an atrocious season. They appointed Valerien Ismael at the beginning of the season with so much positivity of being able to bounce back to the Premier League by the end of the season. It didn’t work under him and they then brought Steve Bruce in and he had an underwhelming time until a 5-0 win against Barnsley. The CEO Khaled El-Ahmad has come out saying they need to change every aspect of the club – including the way it’s been run these past couple of years.”
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