WHEN it comes to the list of candidates for The Yorkshire Post’s Team of 2015-16, you are quite literally spoilt for choice.
It has proved to be a particularly onerous exercise deciding upon this year’s final XI and leading manager/head coach, with the list as notable for who is out as for who is in.
Several who did not make the cut are entitled to feel unlucky at missing out – step forward Messrs Ayala, Hammill, Friend, Broadfoot, Mawson, Sharp, Hernandez, Darby, Lees and Livermore. Others, too.
Below is the best county XI based on performances witnessed travelling across the Broad Acres in 2015-16. The formation is 4-1-3-2. Feel free to disagree...
Goalkeeper: Lee Camp
An outstanding comeback season for the experienced player, who collected a stack of accolades at Rotherham United’s end-of-season awards night. A reassuring presence.
Right-back: Moses Odubajo
A marauding threat down the right. Energetic and enterprising, the Londoner has clearly benefited from playing alongside two seasoned defensive operators in Curtis Davies and Michael Dawson and excelled at the season’s climax. Made two vital contributions in the Tigers’ key Championship play-off semi-final first leg win at Derby and was also prominent at Wembley.
Left-back: Charlie Taylor
A consistent force for Leeds United and one of the first names on the teamsheet during 2015-16. Determined in defence and proactive going forward with high energy levels, Taylor is now an established Championship player. It was Uwe Rosler who called Taylor a “machine” in homage to his qualities and you can see where the German was coming from.
Centre-back: Michael Dawson
Another area where the jostling for position was intense. But vastly-experienced Dawson gets the nod. Commanding and imposing, his nous helped get the Tigers over the line when it mattered. His experience will again come to the fore next time.
Centre-back: Reece Burke
Class act and easy to see why he is so highly thought of by West Ham following an exemplary campaign on loan at Bradford City. Cool, calm and collected – and bestowed with gongs at City’s player awards night. His education is likely to continue in the Championship now, with Slaven Bilic name-checking him as a “very clever player”.
Midfield: Adam Clayton
Outstanding Championship performer all season for Middlesbrough, having reinvented himself as a tenacious ball-winning defensive midfielder under Aitor Karanka. Wonderfully consistent – earned a place in the PFA Championship Team of the Year and won the monthly gong for his performances in December. A shoo-in for the holding role.
Midfield: Conor Hourihane
Provided his customary fair share of goals – 11 – and assists during 2015-16. But just as important was the mature leadership and responsibility he assumed just when Barnsley needed it as their season was in danger of unravelling. Hourihane has produced a string of influential displays in Barnsley’s rise since Christmas and was outstanding at the season’s denouement. Do not be surprised if Republic of Ireland recognition comes soon.
Midfield: Barry Bannan
A season of renaissance for Sheffield Wednesday and most definitely for Bannan, who has got his career back on track in eye-catching fashion. Rolled back the clock to his outstanding campaign in Blackpool’s promotion season of 2009-10 – prodigiously talented, easy on the eye and very much the Owls midfield talisman.
Midfield/forward: Fernando Forestieri
Not everyone’s cup of tea and his reputation for histrionics may precede him for some.
But one thing is for sure – most rival Championship sides would gladly take all that baggage to have him in their side.
Blessed with sublime skills and bewitching movement with a predatory edge, the diminutive forward has proved a massive favourite at S6 and while fans of other clubs have called him, no one of a Wednesdayite persuasion would let a bad word be said about him. Capable of unlocking most defences.
Striker: Nahki Wells
No one has been transformed more in the David Wagner era than the Bermuda international, who has been quick to pay credit to him for ‘revitalising’ his career.
Looks an accomplished all-round player these days, with his haul of 18 goals being a commendable one in a side who finished in the bottom six of the Championship. Starting to come into his own and a big part of Herr Wagner’s brave new world.
Striker: Sam Winnall
Like Hourihane, Winnall stepped up to the plate in scintillating fashion during the Reds’ resurgence – leading the line and weighing in with his fair share of goals, 24 in total. You sense that the Championship calls at a timely juncture.
Manager: Paul Heckingbottom
Several contenders including Carvalhal, Warnock, Karanka, Bruce and Parkinson. But given the remarkable start to his managerial career that has seen him sample Wembley glory not once, but twice, it is impossible to ignore the claims of Barnsley’s Heckingbottom.