As The Championship reaches the crucial Christmas period, it seems the perfect time to suggest a ‘Team of the Season’ for the first 20 games (19 for some clubs after last weekend’s freeze).
Six clubs supply players to the side, with leaders QPR providing three and third-placed Swansea four, largely on the back of the two sides outstanding defensive records in what has generally been a high-scoring division.
Do you agree with this selection? Or are their players who could push for a claim to join the elite?
The side then:
Goalkeeper: Dorus de Vries (Swansea)
Since joining from Scottish side Dunfermline back in 2007, de Vries has proved himself an outstanding ‘keeper for the promotion-chasing Swans.
After setting a new club record for clean sheets last season (25), he has continued where he left off this time around (nine already). Commanding of his area and capable of making world-class saves, he looks sure to be playing Premiership football next season either for the Welsh club or a top-tier side looking for a reliable stopper.
Angel Rangel (Swansea)
Although he has not been an ever-present this season, Rangel has impressed and the Swans are very keen to tie him down to a new contract to ward off interest from a number of top-flight clubs.
Superb in the South Wales derby victory against Cardiff, he also snatched a dramatic stoppage-time equaliser against Doncaster two weeks ago to keep momentum going.
Clint Hill (QPR)
Since signing from Crystal Palace in the summer, Hill has been a rock at the back for an R’s side which has remarkably conceded just 9 goals in 19 games and kept 11 clean sheets already this season.
Able to play across the back four, Hill’s versatility and reliability have been a feature of the Loftus Road’s side superb performance.
Ashley Williams (Swansea)
The Welsh international has proved a revelation since being plucked from League Two Stockport County back in 2008.
Broke the club record for number of consecutive games played on October 30 against Crystal Palace, appropriately in an impressive 3-0 win.
A real leader at the back, he and club captain Garry Monk have formed a formidable central defensive pair who have proved pivotal in Swansea’s season.
Kaspars Gorkss (QPR)
Latvian international Gorkss has been in inspired form at both ends of the pitch for QPR this season.
Rangers supreme record at the back has already been documented, but the 6’3 centre half has also chipped in with some vital goals at the other end of the pitch – none more so than the one he scored against title rivals Cardiff in the recent 2-1 win.
Lewis McGugan (Nottingham Forest)
The 22-year-old central midfielder has enjoyed a stunning season so far, and could very easily already have a portfolio of goals that would be suitable for a nationwide ‘Goal of the Season’.
The 35-yard screamer of a free kick against Ipswich is probably the pick so far, but his strikes against Cardiff, Watford and Middlesbrough were also breath-taking.
Adel Taarabt (QPR)
The Moroccan star and club captain has been outstanding so far this season, and as mentioned previously on this blog, could, and really should, be playing at a higher level.
Of the nine goals he has notched this season, none were more important than his most recent against Cardiff. If he keeps to his current level of form, it would take a very brave man against QPR winning the division.
Kris Commons (Derby)
Scottish international Commons has been the Rams ‘X Factor’ star in helping the side to seventh place.
Unfancied for success at the start of the season, Nigel Clough’s decision to give Commons something of a free role has allowed him to bag 11 goals already.
Scott Sinclair (Swansea)
Scott Sinclair had always flattered to deceive at this level during his previous spells with Plymouth, QPR, Charlton and Crystal Palace amongst others. An obvious talent, but perhaps one unfulfilled.
This season has seen the talent flourish in Wales. Although the winger has only scored 1 in his last 6 games, he has 8 for the season, and a possible England call-up (he has played at every international level so far) may not be a completely distant dream.
Jay Bothroyd (Cardiff)
England international (who would have predicted that at the start of the season!) Bothroyd is the league’s top scorer and perhaps the key man at the Welsh Capital club, even more so than loanee Craig Bellamy.
His absence was noticeable in the defeat to Swansea, and his ability to hold the ball up well, as well as hitting the target has proved critical in moving his side into a top-two position.
If the Bluebirds fail to gain promotion, he will almost certainly leave, so the second half of the season will be fascinating to watch.
Lucciano Becchio (Leeds)
Argentine Becchio has made a late push for inclusion after a red-hot patch has seen him bag 5 goals in his last 4 games, taking his tally for the season to 11.
The Elland Road side have performed admirably since returning to the second tier of English football, and Becchio has filled the void left by Jermaine Beckford brilliantly.
There were many others in contention – Frank Fielding has been superb in goal at Derby while Paul Robinson and Alan Dunne have gone well at the back for mid-table Millwall, and the other QPR and Swansea defenders have generally been outstanding. Andy King has been prominent in Leicester’s recent good run, while Peter Whittingham and Seyi Olofinjana have excelled in Cardiff’s central midfield.
Up front, Jamie Mackie was sensational for QPR at the start of the season but has cooled off, and Chris Iwelumo has scored 9 at Burnley.
So many good players in this most unpredictable of seasons, so where have I gone wrong in this selection?