Goalkeeper: Marek Rodak (Fulham) Scott Parker acknowledged it was a brave call but the Slovakian, who joined the club at 16, has flourished since being made No 1 in October. Rodak, who previously excelled on loan at Rotherham, made a string of impressive saves en route to promotion, notably against Cardiff in the play-off semi-final. No first-choice goalkeeper finished with a better clean sheet ratio.
Right-back: Luke Ayling (Leeds) There is a reason Marcelo Bielsa regards him as his de facto vice-captain. The full-back has developed into a leader and proved an integral part of Leeds’ success. His marauding runs have earned him cult-hero status, as has that March thunderbolt at Elland Road. The frightening thing is he practised it in training 24 hours earlier.
Centre-back: Ben White (Leeds) The signing of the season? No player made more interceptions (116) than the Brighton loanee, who looked at home in the league’s meanest defence from the opening-day victory at Bristol City. He is lean, has a wonderful passing palette and, as proved by his thumping volley on the final day, his technique is superb. White glides through games and seems destined to have a fine career.
Centre-back: Ethan Pinnock (Brentford) A calm operator at the heart of the league’s second-best defence, he came within 90 minutes of a third promotion in four seasons. Together with Pontus Jansson, Pinnock, who was in the seventh tier in 2016, has solidified a previously susceptible Brentford backline. He made our League One team of the season last year.
Left-back: Rico Henry (Brentford) Perhaps the most unheralded member of a slick machine, Henry’s pace and crossing proved a constant threat. He was ever-present in the league after being bogged down by injuries since leaving Walsall in 2016. His athleticism was pivotal to countless attacks as Brentford went close to a fairytale promotion.
Central midfield: Kalvin Phillips (Leeds) Arguably the division’s most complete midfielder, Phillips has earned the right to test himself on the biggest stage and doing so for his boyhood club will be even more satisfying. AHe is the bridge between defence and attack and has developed into one of Bielsa’s most trusted players. Named in our team of the season for successive years, Phillips was also close to an England call-up in March.
Attacking midfield: Eberechi Eze (QPR) Fewer players are easier on the eye than Eze, a captivating No 10 who enjoyed his best season, scoring 14 goals and contributing eight assists for a team who finished in mid-table. If Eze does move as expected, he went out with a bang with a sumptuous goal at West Brom, one of a clutch of clubs keen to land him.
Attacking midfield: Matheus Pereira (West Brom) Pereira made West Brom flow in the final third, providing a league-high 17 assists and scoring eight goals. It explains why Sporting Lisbon, his parent club, once inserted a €60m buyout clause. That the Brazilian was the most-fouled player in the league (115 times) speaks volumes for how defenders struggled to get to grips with his trickery. West Brom triggered a clause to activate a £8.25m permanent transfer in June.
Right wing: Pablo Hernández (Leeds) The man they call ‘El Mago’, the magician, enjoyed another splendid season. Bielsa used him sparingly after the restart but what a lasting impression he made. Hernández’s guile and maturity were welcome off the bench, for he is a master in end-product. The Spaniard makes Leeds tick and was influential in helping them win their final six matches.
Striker: Ollie Watkins (Brentford) Aleksandar Mitrovic is extremely unlucky to miss out but Watkins has evolved into one of the most sought-after strikers in the country after a prolific season. He has relished the responsibility of leading the line following the departure of Neal Maupay and it is only a matter of time before Watkins joins him in the top flight. He is lightning quick, deceptively strong and his work rate, typified in the play-off triumph over Swansea, should not be overlooked. He missed only 12 minutes of league action.
Left wing: Saïd Benrahma (Brentford) Perhaps the player of the season, despite failing to showcase his quality when it mattered most at Wembley. Benrahma’s tricks and flicks have lit up the division for successive seasons but he has developed into a more rounded player, improving the defensive side of his game. Last season he was impressive, this campaign breathtaking, scoring 17 goals and providing eight assists. Bryan Mbeumo, one-third of Brentford’s fabled ‘BMW’ attack, also deserves credit after an outstanding debut season.
Manager: Marcelo Bielsa Guided Leeds back to the big time after exorcising the ghosts of the previous season, eking out every last drop from a modest squad and making a mockery of players’ supposed ceilings, with Liam Cooper, Mateusz Klich and Patrick Bamford key pillars in a title-winning season. Gerhard Struber, who took charge of Barnsley when they were rock bottom with nine points from 16 matches, worked wonders to avoid relegation, albeit after benefiting from Wigan being deducted 12 points, while Nathan Jones performed miracles after returning to Luton in May.
Daniel Iversen (Rotherham); Fankaty Dabo (Coventry), Anthony Stewart (Wycombe), Rob Dickie (Oxford), Joe Jacobson (Wycombe); Liam Walsh (Coventry), Dan Barlaser (Rotherham), Cameron Brannagan (Oxford); James Henry (Oxford), Ivan Toney (Peterborough), Ronan Curtis (Portsmouth)
Player of the season: Ivan Toney The striker enjoyed another prolific campaign, scoring 24 goals in 35 matches, taking his tally to 40 goals across two seasons, prompting interest from Celtic, Rangers and Brentford. Peterborough are determined to hold out for a League One record of about £12m.
Manager: Gareth Ainsworth (Wycombe) Steered Wycombe into the Championship against all odds, six years on from surviving relegation to non-league on goal difference; an extraordinary triumph achieved on scant resources and with a squad full of freebies. In the buildup to their play-off final victory at Wembley, their sports scientist and analyst played in XI v XI training games to make up the numbers.
Alex Palmer (Plymouth); Perry Ng (Crewe), Ben Tozer (Cheltenham), Charlie Goode (Northampton), Harry Pickering (Crewe); Nicky Adams (Northampton), Jonny Smith (Oldham), George Cooper (Plymouth); Randell Williams (Exeter), Eoin Doyle (Swindon), Charlie Kirk (Crewe)
Player of the season: Eoin Doyle Nicknamed the ‘Ginger Pelé’, a return of 25 goals in 28 matches goes some way to explaining the moniker. The Dubliner fuelled Swindon’s promotion push but the bad news for League Two defences is that he signed for relegated Bolton last month.
Manager: Richie Wellens (Swindon) The former midfielder led Swindon to the title with a swashbuckling style that has restored fans’ faith. A former Manchester United trainee under Sir Alex Ferguson, Wellens – whose son, Charlie, signed a professional contract at Old Trafford in May – can lean on his former mentor if required. “I did ring Sir Alex up when I first got the job,” he said.