With just ten games remaining in this season’s Football League Championship, the hero-worshipped clubs of the Premier League are now circling like vultures, waiting to snare the next unlikely hero from a lower league.
Last season was a stark demonstration of just how much hidden talent exists in the humble setting of the Football League. In just the second season of the club’s current top flight run, a Leicester City side, comprised of many former Championship (and League One) players, won the Premier League.
In addition to an unrivalled spirit of brotherhood, it was consistently devastating displays of ‘Total Football’ from Leicester that vouchsafed the completion of football’s greatest fairytale.
‘Total Football’ is the future
As popularised most famously by the Dutch in 1974, ‘Total Football’ encourages players across the park to fulfil the roles of other team members when required. Unstoppable when used effectively, certain Championship players will be courted by any Premier League club that wants to emulate the Foxes’ grand achievement of 2015/16.
Defenders who can shoot accurately, midfielders who can win duels all day, and strikers that can find a pin from twenty yards – as well as burst the net – are now very much in demand.
Five to watch
These five players in focus have all displayed a willingness to contribute to multiple phases of play in the Championship this season:
- Tommy Smith
Safely lodged in a playoff berth, Huddersfield have exceeded expectations. Even Championship betting experts have been truly stumped, and with nine assists to date, Smith takes a lion’s share of the praise.
He is the joint second-best goal creator in the entire league alongside Fulham’s star midfielder Tom Cairney. However, Smith’s ability to create chances from a much deeper position gives him the edge.
With four goals, Smith is also the third-highest goal scorer for the Yorkshire club this season.
- Lewis Dunk
DEF – Brighton & Hove Albion
Dunk has enjoyed a stellar season, and it seems as though nothing can now stop the Seagulls from finally breaking into the big time.
The Brighton native has been there from the very start of this remarkable journey. After five appearances in Brighton’s (League One) promotion season of 2010/11, he has helped stabilise a defence which has continually improved in the Championship.
- Conor Hourihane
MID – Barnsley/Aston Villa
Hourihane’s statistics are hugely impressive across the board. However, he is the top creator of goals from midfield, with twelve assists so far in 2016/17. Without him, Barnsley would be in deep trouble. His last three appearances for Villa to date have yielded two wins, one goal and one assist.
- Massimo Luongo
MID – QPR
Aided much by his solid build, Luongo has won the most duels of any Championship midfielder in 2016/17. This makes him a perfect fit for any club that wants to effectively use ‘Total Football’.
- Sone Aluko
Aluko is not the league’s top goalscorer – Leeds United’s Chris Wood holds currently holds that accolade. Neither is he the most accurate ball player, with Jonathan Kodjia of Aston Villa firmly on course to be just that.
The Nigerian hotshot does, however, rank in the top three on both lists. After recent struggles in the lower reaches of the Championship, Fulham have shown real signs of improvement this season thanks to Aluko.
Tamhas Woods is the best writer in the entire universe – as long as it is related to football, and preferably themed around his boyhood club (and tormentor in chief) Everton FC.