The votes are in...
With the Football League season done and dusted for another year, FourFourTwo readers have voted for the best players in tiers two to four of English football.
From stars in the making to former teachers, League Two veterans to Championship loanees, fans from every club have had their say on who deserves a place on the list.
Every club’s support gave us the names of five players not at their club who have impressed in the 2018/19 campaign. These were then ranked according to the points they accumulated by being named in numbers one to five, and the league they are plying their trade in.
51. Luke Freeman (QPR)
Freeman has been one of the few consistent positives in a rollercoaster season for QPR, threatening defences with his directness and dangerous left foot.
The technically gifted ex-Stevenage and Bristol City midfielder has also proved that he will show up in the big games, scoring his first three goals of the season against Aston Villa, West Brom and Leeds.
50. Tyler Walker (Mansfield)
Walker has managed to shake off the ‘son of Des’ tag by earning a reputation as a reliable goalscorer on his own merit. The on-loan Nottingham Forest man knows how to find space in a crowded penalty area and has shown impressive composure in front of goal.
He will head back to his parent club this summer brimming with self-belief after plundering more than 20 goals, but sadly missed the crucial penalty as Mansfield tumbled out of the League Two play-offs against Newport.
49. Ashley Hunter (Fleetwood)
Since breaking into Fleetwood’s first team a couple of years ago, Hunter has become his team’s creative spark and is one of League One’s leading providers of assists.
The 23-year-old operates best out on the left, where he can whip in inswingers with his favoured right foot to put defences on the back foot.
48. Chuks Aneke (MK Dons)
Aneke’s talent has never been questioned since his days in the Arsenal academy, but he has needed time to work out his best position.
Now it seems clear that he is a superb lower-league striker who can stand up to the physical challenge of League Two defences while creating and converting chances. He has been an integral figure as the Dons have successfully bounced back to League One.
47. Eberechi Eze (QPR)
Eze went from a League Two loanee to a clutch player for QPR in under a year. The technically gifted playmaker can glide past defenders and possesses a shot that packs a punch, although his forward threat means he is often a target for brutish defenders.
Like his club he fell off the pace a bit in the second half of the season, but has the talent to progress – and aged just 20, the time to become more consistent.
46. Max Aarons (Norwich)
Aarons was given a shot in the Championship after impressing in the early stages of the Carabao Cup, and soon became Norwich’s first-choice right-back.
The teenager provided great width for the Canaries when getting forward, has pace to burn and the intelligence to link up with attackers. He has also shown impressive maturity defensively and looks to be the prototype of a modern full-back.
45. Ian Henderson (Rochdale)
Not many players on this list are as essential to their team as Henderson is to Rochdale. He finished the season as their top scorer for the fifth year running and has found the net more than anyone in League One over that period.
Capable of operating as a deep-lying forward or on the wing and still providing his team’s main threat, he isn't showing any signs of slowing down either.
44. Alan Browne (Preston)
Browne would be at the top of this list if it were ranking the most underrated players in the Football League.
He recently reached the landmark of 200 Preston appearances and scored 12 Championship goals for the club this season, while his work off the ball was also crucial in helping Alex Neil’s side defend from the front to great effect.
43. Padraig Amond (Newport County)
Amond scored 14 league goals this season, plus another in the play-offs, but it was in the FA Cup where he really impressed.
The 30-year-old found the net in every round of Newport’s storming run to the last 16, including a late goal against Manchester City which earned him personal praise from Pep Guardiola after the full-time whistle was blown. Not bad indeed.
42. Lukas Jutkiewicz (Birmingham)
‘The Duke’ has always been a reliable Championship striker but has been a key part of Garry Monk’s Birmingham side in his best season yet.
The 30-year-old has thrived alongside Che Adams, hitting double figures for goals and assists by February, as well as winning the most aerial duels in the division.
41. Jason Shackell (Lincoln)
One of several Lincoln players capable of playing at a higher level, Shackell has not disappointed since his move to Sincil Bank.
He led the Imps to the League Two title, scoring four goals along the way – including a stunning free-kick.
40. Oli McBurnie (Swansea)
After being named Barnsley’s Player of the Year last season despite only arriving in January, McBurnie has excelled back at his parent club.
The Scotland international has become a fan favourite thanks to his old-school playing style and colourful character, but he also possesses great talent.
39. Reece James (Wigan)
James achieved something not many full-backs manage by being named Wigan’s player of the month for three consecutive months between September and November, and then made the Championship's official team of the year.
The right-back excelled so much that boss Paul Cook gave him a run-out in central midfield – where he continued to impress. James has now been linked with a move to Premier League outfit Brighton, but Chelsea could give their talented teenager a chance next season as they face up to a transfer ban.
38. Ivan Toney (Peterborough)
Portsmouth forked out £650,000 to sign Toney from Newcastle, but he has thrived with the regular first-team minutes. The striker already looks to be heading down the same path as former Posh forwards Dwight Gayle and Britt Assombalonga after scoring 21 goals this season across all competitions.
Mobile, good in the air and two-footed, Toney has formed a lethal partnership with assist king Marcus Maddison.
37. Nicky Law (Exeter)
Law was branded a “League One player” by boss Matt Taylor when he dropped into League Two last summer – and the Grecians chief has been proven right.
The versatile midfielder has been able to cover several roles and provide a forward threat in Exeter’s play-off chase, and the fact he has made it onto this list shows the high esteem in which he’s held in the fourth tier.
36. Adam Reach (Sheffield Wednesday)
Reach has been consistently delivering in the Championship for the last five seasons, but came to wider public attention with two screamers in the space of one autumn week – both live on TV.
His wand of a left foot stunned Leeds and West Brom on those occasions, but Reach is also a hard worker and versatile enough to step into several different roles.
35. Jay O’Shea (Bury)
O’Shea has returned to his best form at Bury after being moved into a deeper midfield role to the one he occupied with Chesterfield.
That hasn’t stopped him getting forward, though, and the Irishman notched a combined 20 goals and assists in the league to help fire the Shakers to League One.
34. Sammie Szmodics (Colchester)
Colchester’s youth system has provided them with an impressive group of players this season, including local lad Szmodics.
The attacking midfielder has shown off his superb accuracy from the edge of the box, hitting double figures for the second season in a row, and has the technical ability to do well at a higher level.
33. Jamal Lowe (Portsmouth)
A former PE teacher who climbed up the ladder through non-league football, Lowe ended this season with more goals than the last as he helped Portsmouth to the League One play-offs.
The 24-year-old enjoyed a moment to remember when Pompey booked a place in the Checkatrade Trophy final at Wembley, just “15 minutes away” from where he grew up.
32. Jon McLaughlin (Sunderland)
The Scot has been crucial in aiding Sunderland’s adjustment to League One football, making saves that have earned the Black Cats points throughout the campaign.
Last year he grabbed his first Scotland cap at the age of 30, and if he continues in this form he could still become their No.1.
31. Alex Mowatt (Barnsley)
Mowatt had an inauspicious start to life at Barnsley, receiving a red card 40 minutes into his debut in January 2017 before being sent on loan to Oxford for a season.
However, he has since turned things around under manager Daniel Stendel and has pulled the strings in midfield this season with an impressive passing range. The former Leeds player has been crucial at providing for the Oakwell outfit’s forward line, and the question is now whether he can continue this form in the Championship next term.
30. Adam Webster (Bristol City)
Alongside Tomas Kalas, Webster has helped form one of the meanest defences in the division. Good in the air and in one-on-ones, he is also composed with the ball at his feet.
The 24-year-old has risen through the tiers with Portsmouth, Ipswich and now the Robins, and could well end up in the top flight before too long.
29. James Justin (Luton)
Justin’s potential is getting Luton fans very excited after a season of providing and goals and assists from left-back, despite being naturally right-sided.
Luton’s back-to-back promotions could help them keep hold of their prized asset, but the 21-year-old is likely to make waves on a bigger stage sooner rather than later.
28. John Egan (Sheffield United)
The Blades’ record signing has proven to be superb value for money since arriving from Brentford for just £4 million. Egan has dominated the area, helping United record the joint-second-best defence in the Championship this season.
With a title-winning footballer as a mother, and a father John among Gaelic football royalty, he comes from good sporting stock.
27. James Norwood (Tranmere)
The step up from non-league to League Two football is often said to be a tough one for strikers, but Norwood has adapted superbly to life in the fourth tier since firing Tranmere back into the Football League.
Andy Cook’s departure to Walsall last summer sparked concerns that the striker could struggle without his partner in crime, but Norwood’s output has only increased – a crucial leveller in the play-off semi-final second leg against Forest Green took his tally to 30 for the season.
26. Matt Clarke (Portsmouth)
At the age of 22, Clarke has already racked up more than 150 Portsmouth appearances and has constantly been a key figure for the club in that time.
With the dual qualities of defensive solidity and technical ability to his repertoire, it's likely that the centre-back won’t be in the third tier of English football for long.
25. Mason Mount (Derby)
Mount has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of Frank Lampard’s first season in management, putting in some displays reminiscent of the Chelsea great while on loan from Stamford Bridge.
The 20-year-old has had an impressive season pushing Derby into the play-offs, building on last season’s campaign in the Netherlands with Vitesse.
24. Joe Lolley (Nottingham Forest)
Lolley was popular at Huddersfield but not a major player, and at the City Ground he has found a home where he can regularly wow crowds with his dazzling dribbles and long-range howitzers.
When Forest played out a remarkable 5-5 draw with Aston Villa, the club Lolley supports, the winger impressed with four assists and a wonderful goal from 35 yards out.
23. Kamil Grosicki (Hull)
The Poland international was relegated from the Premier League within months of arriving at Hull in January 2017 and there were question marks around his future at the club.
He stayed on, though, setting about helping the Tigers in their scrap at the bottom end of the Championship. By the end of the season they'd finished 13th, with the winger having provided goals, assists and a work rate that was previously doubted of him.
22. Danny Mayor (Bury)
Mayor is the highest-placed League Two player in these rankings and earns his spot after an impressive campaign helping Bury return to League One at the first time of asking.
His 11 assists from midfield played a big part in helping the Shakers not only achieve promotion but finish the season as top scorers in the league.
21. John Marquis (Doncaster)
Marquis was sent on loan a staggering nine times while at Millwall before eventually being sold in 2016. Since then, though, he has been a talismanic figure for Doncaster and the club’s most reliable finisher.
Marquis is key to his club's hopes and one of the finest strikers in League One: he rarely goes more than two games without finding the net.
20. Darren Randolph (Middlesbrough)
Middlesbrough have built something of a formidable defensive structure, starting with a midfield that numbers Mo Besic and John Obi Mikel in its ranks, then wing-backs who are often even more central midfielders. If you get through them, you have to deal with three centre-backs and then, finally, Randolph.
The Ireland international was the last line of defence that conceded a joint-league-low 41 goals, and he was arguably the best goalkeeper in the Championship this season.
19. Dwight Gayle (West Brom)
Gayle is a bit of a yo-yo player, struggling to convince managers in the Premier League but appearing to be the ultimate Championship striker.
He enjoyed another prolific season in the second tier with the Baggies, finishing off for 23 goals despite often being moved out wide so Jay Rodriguez could occupy a central role.
18. Kieffer Moore (Barnsley)
His arrival at Barnsley last January couldn’t keep them in the Championship, but Moore has proven to be a super signing this season.
The target man has added goals to his game, found formidable form in League One, and will be eager to show that he can cut it in the second tier next term.
17. Lyle Taylor (Charlton)
When Taylor departed AFC Wimbledon last summer, it was surprising that he remained in League One by moving across south London to Charlton.
However, he formed a lethal partnership with Karlan Grant before the latter’s January switch to Huddersfield and has proven to be a superb player at this level.
16. Emi Buendia (Norwich)
Buendia has made a name for himself as one of the best playmakers in the Championship this season.
The 22-year-old, who has previously featured for Getafe in La Liga, has impressed with his dribbles and passes since arriving last summer.
The Argentine looks like he has the quality required to shine at the top level and now he will get that chance.
15. Neal Maupay (Brentford)
Another season of frustration for Brentford after a fast start, but Maupay delivered again with a 25-goal haul. He has a knack for getting into the right positions, and while last season he missed a few sitters, the striker has become more clinical in the last year.
Maupay is likely to be on the wish list of a few bigger clubs this summer as the Bees again look likely to sell some of their stars during the transfer window.
14. James Collins (Luton)
According to those who voted, League One's top scorer is also the best player in the division. Luton took the league by storm in 2018/19, clinching their second consecutive promotion, and their striker played a huge part in that success with 25 goals.
Collins’s form was rewarded with his first Republic of Ireland call-up at the age of 28, and he will now be rubbing his hands at the thought of troubling Championship defences next season.
13. Jarrod Bowen (Hull)
For a winger, Bowen’s return of 34 goals in two Championship seasons is highly impressive – even more so when you consider that Hull were languishing towards the bottom half of the table for most of that time.
Speculation of interest from Spurs has emerged and the Tigers will have to get used to the rumours as they go into the summer.
12. Pontus Jansson (Leeds)
While Marcelo Bielsa’s team has been praised mostly for its lung-busting pressing and attacking qualities, Jansson has helped build a solid foundation in defence alongside Liam Cooper.
A physical powerhouse who can stay calm with the ball at his feet, Jansson’s win-at-all-costs mentality (and social media presence) have made him an Elland Road favourite.
11. Jay Rodriguez (West Brom)
Rodriguez showed great commitment by staying with West Brom following their relegation from the Premier League and he has shown his top-flight quality in the second tier.
Ex-Baggies boss Darren Moore often struggled to accommodate both Rodriguez and Dwight Gayle in his team, but the pair's combined goal haul kept promotion hopes alive.
10. Jack Grealish (Aston Villa)
If it weren’t for injury, there’s no doubt Grealish would’ve ended up higher on this list.
When he is fit, there is no better player in the Football League. Every facet of his game has got better and his ability to glide past defenders is of the top level; they're rightly terrified of being embarrassed by his footwork.
The Villa star has also been on the receiving end of significantly more fouls than anyone else in the division – having missed a third of the campaign.
9. Kemar Roofe (Leeds)
Written off by many after two unimpressive seasons with Leeds, Roofe has been brought back to life by Marcelo Bielsa. He's finally had the chance to play in his favoured role up front, and the striker’s poaching ability has come in handy for a team that creates bucket loads of chances.
It’s just a shame that his knee injury came in mid-February; the timing could hardly have been worse.
8. Bradley Dack (Blackburn)
Dack was arguably the best player in League One last season as he helped Rovers to promotion, and he has adapted well to life in the second tier. Playing just off the main striker, Dack scored nine goals in his first 17 games of the season and confounded defences with nimble footwork and elusive movement.
Although his scoring form dropped off a bit in the middle of the season, his tally of 17 for the campaign is not to be sniffed at.
7. Che Adams (Birmingham)
Birmingham didn't have an easy season, after seeing their play-off hopes ended by a nine-point deduction. But one of the bright points of their season has been the form of Adams, who scored 22 league goals to mark a new career best.
Interest in the 22-year-old is bound to arrive over the summer and the Blues’ resolve to keep him is sure to be tested with Premier League clubs circling.
6. Tammy Abraham (Aston Villa)
It was something of a coup for Villa to convince Abraham to return to the Championship, and the striker has certainly not disappointed by netting 26 times, demonstrating excellent movement and composure in front of goal.
Wolves were already showing interest in January and it would be surprising if we ever see Abraham playing at this level again.
5. Oliver Norwood (Sheffield United)
Norwood arrived in Sheffield after spells with Brighton and Fulham, and has proven to be a good luck charm after achieving his third consecutive promotion to the Premier League. The influential midfielder has kept things ticking for the Blades, dictating play with more passes per game than anyone else in the Championship.
Additionally, he gave Chris Wilder’s side some steel in the centre of the pitch and the danger he poses from dead balls has set up several goals.
4. Harry Wilson (Derby)
After excelling at Hull last season, Wilson’s loan spell with Derby should be enough to show Jurgen Klopp that he deserves a chance at proving himself with parent club Liverpool’s first team.
He has regularly scored from distance and set-pieces for the Rams and Wales, meaning his left foot has generated thousands of social media hits.
3. Billy Sharp (Sheffield United)
It’s about time Sharp got a crack at the Premier League, 15 years on from his Championship debut with Sheffield United. He has made more than 300 appearances in the second tier, scoring an impressive 114 goals in that time and displaying incredible character during personal tragedy.
Despite that, he’s played 20 minutes of top-flight football. The 33-year-old should get a chance to make up for lost time next term after a prolific campaign.
2. Pablo Hernandez (Leeds)
During a career that has taken him through nine different clubs, Hernandez has rarely displayed the form he has shown for Leeds this season.
The 34-year-old’s 12 goals and 12 assists have aided the Elland Road club’s promotion quest, and he told FourFourTwo that Marcelo Bielsa’s attention to detail is to thank for his superb form. “He is just loco for football,” beamed the Spaniard.
1. Teemu Pukki (Norwich)
It’s safe to say Norwich weren’t quite expecting this when they brought Pukki in from Brondby on a free transfer.
This season the Finn has scored 29 goals to help the Canaries win the Championship title, providing 10 assists for good measure.
He has undoubtedly been the bargain of the season, but, according to FourFourTwo readers, he is also the Football League Player of the Season after making the difference for Norwich time and again.
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