Football League Team Of The Season: 2014-15

Daniel Bentley

Daniel Bentley

With the 2014-15 Football League season almost over, this blog decided to create a team containing the best players from the Championship, League One and League Two. The rules: no more than 4 players from any division, and no more than 1 player from each club.

Goalkeeper – Daniel Bentley – Southend United

At just 21 years of age, Daniel Bentley has set League Two alight with his performances for Southend United. He has conceded just 31 goals this season, and became the first Shrimpers goalkeeper in history to keep 11 – now 12 – consecutive home clean sheets. With interest from bigger clubs having been growing over the last 2 years, it is both surprising and admirable that Bentley has stayed at Roots Hall to further his career. On current evidence, he is getting the rewards.

Right-back – Mark Little – Bristol City

Mark Little has stood out from the pack this season, and in a Bristol City team that has dominated League One since August, that takes quite some doing. The rampaging right wing-back often acts as a winger, with his determination to burst into the box and put in a cross, as he did to assist Aaron Wilbraham on the opening day at Bramall Lane. Since Little’s outstanding performance that day, he has never looked back, unlike opposing left wingers.

Centre-back – Daniel Ayala – Middlesbrough

ayala

Daniel Ayala

Middlesbrough have kept 20 clean sheets this season, and the presence of Daniel Ayala is a significant factor behind this. The Spaniard’s reading of the game is arguably as good as any defender in the country, and his height enables him to deal with high balls, which opposing sides are often forced into playing due to the discipline of the whole Boro team. With Ayala out of the side, Middlesbrough have lost key games, 2 of which against Bournemouth and Watford, the teams who have gone on to secure automatic promotion at Boro’s expense.

Centre-back – John Egan – Gillingham

Over the last year, John Egan has made a name for himself in the Football League. He joined Southend on loan from Sunderland for the final 2 months of last season, and helped the Shrimpers keep 7 clean sheets in a run which ensured a play-off finish. In the summer, Egan’s contract at Sunderland expired and Gillingham swooped for his signature, which has proved to be a very wise decision. When the Gills operate with 2 centre-backs, Egan adds pace and ball-playing ability to the defence, complimenting a more old-school defender in Leon Legge. Manager Justin Edinburgh has got the best out of his key centre-back since joining in January, and will be keen to extend Egan’s contract beyond next summer.

Left-back – Joe Jacobson – Wycombe Wanderers

Joe Jacobson

Joe Jacobson

Ryan Giggs and Gareth Bale are not the only Welshmen with a good left foot, as Wycombe Wanderers full-back Joe Jacobson has set out to prove this season. A powerful set piece specialist who has put in some whole-hearted performances, Jacobson has caught the eye at Adams Park, after joining in the summer from Shrewsbury. His quality, aggression and stamina make him the most complete full-back in League Two, and a key man behind the Chairboys’ promotion push.

Defensive midfield – John Welsh – Preston North End

Mention Preston to any football follower and most will think of their top scorer, Joe Garner. However, a man who has perhaps slipped under the radar is the Lilywhites’ midfield anchor man, John Welsh. Part of an otherwise vibrant, attack-minded midfield, he plays a crucial role in breaking up opposition attacks, before playing the easy pass to a more creative player. Welsh’s work rate, strength and bravery make him the best holding midfielder in League One.

Right-midfield – Matt Ritchie – AFC Bournemouth

ritchie

Matt Ritchie

It has been a whirlwind couple of years for Matt Ritchie. In November 2013, he made his first start for Bournemouth after a 7 month injury lay-off, and in their draw with Brighton that day, he was the best player on the pitch. Since then, the wide man has gone from strength to strength, forming an excellent right-sided partnership with full-back Simon Francis. Ritchie is arguably the most intelligent player in the Championship, as his ability to drift inside and cause problems in central areas has enabled him to gain a staggering 13 goals and 17 assists this season. Premier League, watch out.

Central midfield – Ryan Woods – Shrewsbury Town

After suffering the heartbreak of relegation with Shrewsbury Town last season, Ryan Woods has recovered to play a key part in his team’s promotion back to the third tier. Now in his favoured central midfield position, Woods is tirelessly energetic, but he is also a very intelligent footballer who can find space easily and dictate play. Nicknamed ‘The Ginger Pirlo’, the 22-year-old impressed in a League Cup tie against Chelsea, when tested against the likes of Oscar and Andre Schurrle. That may not have been the last time Woods faces Premier League opposition.

Central midfield – Dele Alli – MK Dons

alli

Dele Alli

Dele Alli’s form earned him a January move to Tottenham Hotspur, and when watching his performances from MK Dons, one can understand why. Strong in the tackle, quick with the ball at his feet and creative in his passing, Alli is the most dynamic midfielder in the Football League. He burst onto the scene when playing a cup match against Manchester United back in August, and stole the show as MK Dons ran out 4-0 winners. Since then, Alli has been a driving force behind the Dons’ promotion push.

Left-midfield – Danny Mayor

Bury’s team is jam-packed with players of attacking quality, and Danny Mayor is the pick of the bunch. Right-footed, Mayor loves to cut inside sharply and unleash a shot from range, or slip in a through ball for a teammate. His knack of accelerating quickly makes him somebody opposition teams are often scared of, they know it takes just a split second for him to produce one moment of brilliance. Current performances force one to question why Sheffield Wednesday were willing to sell the 24-year-old in the summer, because with his technical ability, Mayor should be playing at a much higher level than League Two.

Forward – Daryl Murphy – Ipswich Town

Daryl Murphy

Daryl Murphy

Daryl Murphy is the best forward in the Football League. If you overlook the 25 goals he has scored to demonstrate his obvious finishing ability, Murphy is strong, industrious, good in the air and surprisingly quick for a big man. What makes his goal return all the more impressive is that he is playing in a side that is functional, rather than consistently creative. The likes of Troy Deeney and Callum Wilson, although excellent strikers, have played in a team that is nearly always on the attack. Ipswich pride themselves on cohesive pressing and good organization without the ball, but they do not have too many flair players, which means Murphy has more work to do to create goalscoring opportunities for himself. The fact that he is the Championship’s top scorer speaks volumes for his all-round ability.

Manager – Ronnie Moore – Hartlepool United

It had to be. Ronnie Moore has quite simply worked miracles to keep Hartlepool United in the Football League. When he took over, the club was in utter disarray. Supporters were angry with chairman Ken Hodcroft, the team only had two fit strikers, and by the beginning of January, Pool were 10 points adrift of safety after defeat at Wycombe. Since then, Moore has re-organized his side, who have conceded just 25 goals in 2015, thanks largely to the arrival of centre-back David Mirfin from Scunthorpe. Hartlepool’s form in the second half of the season, sustained over a year, would have seen them finish comfortably in the play-off places, which shows the impact Moore has had. Eddie Howe and Steve Cotterill deserve a mention for the work they have done at Bournemouth and Bristol City respectively, but Ronnie Moore has done an excellent job in incredibly challenging circumstances.

moore

Ronnie Moore