Ranked! The top 50 Football League players 2023
As the season’s run-in approaches, it can only mean one thing: with help from our readers, it’s time for FFT’s annual list of the finest stars outside the top flight
FourFourTwo compile a list of the best players in the Football League at this time every year – and we do it by asking you, our readers.
We polled fans of all 72 Football League clubs, from Accrington Stanley to Wycombe Wanderers, asking supporters to name the standout stars in their team’s division – not including those in their own side.
Championship supporters gave us a ranking list of their top 10 players, with first place getting 10 points, second receiving nine, down to a single point for 10th.
In Leagues One and Two, supporters offered their top five, with five points for first, down to one point for fifth. The points were then totted up, and a weighting given to each division, to reveal our final half-century.
No countdown is ever met with universal agreement – we’ve learned that by now – so let the debate begin. If you’re convinced our voters have got it utterly wrong,
tell us how and why via Twitter including the hashtag: #FLTOP50
The top 50 Football League players this season: according to you
50. Hannibal Mejbri
Club: Birmingham City
In another challenging season for Birmingham, the Manchester United loanee’s intense pressing has won him many a fan, either side of 10 minutes at the World Cup with Tunisia. If he channels his aggression better, he’ll go far.
HIGHLIGHT Pulling off a clever and perfectly-executed free-kick against West Brom to catch out David Button at his near post.
49. Andy Cook
Club: Bradford City
Strong enough to be a focal point, skilled and mobile enough to thrive individually, ‘Cookie’ did threaten in patches last season but is now more consistent, with 18 league goals before March.
HIGHLIGHT Showing strength, spirit, technique and composure to score against Gillingham after nicking the ball on the touchline.
48. Paul Smyth
Club: Leyton Orient
The pacy left-winger has made 2022/23 his sizzle reel, bagging
a wide array of majestic goals.
HE SAID “It’s quite strange, not scoring a worldie” – in August, referencing his wonder-strike against Barrow last March. He’s since netted a 20-yard peach,
a bicycle kick and a solo dribble he converted after being floored.
47. Will Collar
Club: Stockport County
Dave Challinor’s mad Hatters mix up their game impeccably and Collar is a big part of their push for back-to-back promotions. He’s a fine passer with boundless energy in his box-to-box role.
DID YOU KNOW? With a dozen goals, even as a No.8, he nets in bursts: five in three in December, then five in five during February.
46. Dion Charles
Club: Bolton Wanderers
Like many strikers to rise from non-league, Charles is dogged and aggressive. He transmits his work ethic a tad more selfishly through Ian Evatt’s instruction and has gained his rewards by keeping narrow: with 18 before March, he should be Bolton’s first player to hit 20 goals in a season (all competitions) since 2000/01.
45. Conor Chaplin
Club: Ipswich Town
Having been Valerien Ismael’s pressing monster in Barnsley’s incredible Championship play-off campaign of 2020-21, Chaplin is the cute No.10 Kieran McKenna wanted at Ipswich: still physical, but instinctive in the final third.
THEY SAID “Conor is the best finisher I’ve ever worked with” – former Ipswich boss Paul Cook.
44. Tom Ince
Under his dad’s guidance at the Madejski, ‘young Thomas’ has had one of his most consistent seasons. Previously an enigma, he now sets the tone, chasing, harrying and cajoling while also bringing his individual ability.
DID YOU KNOW? Royals fansite The Tilehurst End awarded Ince Player of the Month four times. Anybody else fancy stepping up?
43. Laurence Vigouroux
Club: Leyton Orient
HE TOLD FFT "A lot comes down to the goalkeeping coach and the manager: they give me everything I need to prepare for the weekend, and we go by what we’ve seen in previous games. If I go by my instincts, I could go too high and get lobbed from the halfway line or something!" [Laughs]
42. Carl Piergianni
‘Pidge’, 6ft 1in, isn’t League Two’s tallest defender, but desire and a phenomenal leap ranks him among the best for aerial duels and in the division’s top 10 – in all positions – for shots inside the box. He’s an inspiration for Steve Evans’ shock promotion chasers.
DID YOU KNOW? He’s the EFL’s top-scoring centre-half, having netted seven goals before March.
41. Troy Parrott
Club: Preston North End
The Tottenham striker is progressing well on loan at Preston, even if goals remain frustratingly out of reach. His pressing, dribbling and link-up play have not gone unnoticed at Deepdale since his return from an October lay-off.
THEY SAID Boss Ryan Lowe: “His work rate is phenomenal. For his size, he’s a bit of a unit inside.”
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Huw was on the FourFourTwo staff from 2009 to 2015, ultimately as the magazine's Managing Editor, before becoming a freelancer and moving to Wales. As a writer, editor and tragic statto, he still contributes regularly to FFT in print and online, though as a match-going #WalesAway fan, he left a small chunk of his brain on one of many bus journeys across France in 2016.
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