Bet Here

EFL pundit Gab Sutton picks his Team of the Season for 2022-23 League One

18+ |

James Trafford

For someone deemed good enough by Pep Guardiola to make the match-day squad for knockout Champions League games and a Manchester Derby in 2020-21, it’s hardly surprising James Trafford has excelled in League One.

The England youth international had a mixed half-season at Accrington Stanley in 2021-22, before moving to Bolton for the second half of that campaign, then extending his loan with Ian Evatt’s side another year.

The 20-year-old has had an outstanding season, bringing agile reflexes and the quality of distribution to be expected from someone who spent part of their youth as an outfielder.

Bolton might have kept Trafford had the won the Play-Offs, but as things are, they may have to say goodbye to the EFL Trophy winner, who’s reportedly agreed personal terms with Burnley – and will either compete for Premier League minutes next season, or get a Championship loan.


Conor Bradley


With talk of Trent Alexander-Arnold moving into midfield, there’s hope for Conor Bradley in terms of a long-term future at Liverpool.

A big statement, perhaps – off the back of one season on loan in League One – but Bradley really has been that impressive for Bolton.

In his first year of senior football, Bradley has managed nine direct goal involvements, and probably could have had more than five assists had Trotters striker Dion Charles been more clinical in front of goal.

Extremely consistent for one so young, Bradley carries a youthful fearlessness, knowing he’ll win his individual tussles before he walks onto the pitch.

Speedy and forward thinking, the 19-year-old gets himself very high on the right flank, either by getting in behind an opposing left-sider with his runs off the ball, or by dribbling himself, and linking up with Kyle Dempsey.

Bradley’s pace allows him to recover his defensive position and stop counter-attacks, while his heart and desire has made him a fan favourite: and possibly a favourite of Jurgen Klopp’s after this summer’s pre-season!


James Wilson


Plymouth Argyle’s successful push for the Championship has not been without disruption, as the injury to crucial goalkeeper Michael Cooper and aerially dominant centre-back Dan Scarr threatened to knock them off course.

Ultimately, the Devonians not only got over the line, they did so registering an incredible 101 points, under pressure from Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday.

More Argyle players could easily have got into this XI in different circumstances, but James Wilson certainly deserves a spot.

Ipswich Player of the Year in 2020-21, Wilson has brought leadership and organisational nous to the coastal outfit, who went from shipping 80 goals in their last season prior to his arrival, to 48 and 47.

Starting the joint-most league games, 37, the 34-year-old has been a pillar of consistency.


Mads Andersen


At different times in his Barnsley career, Mads Andersen has needed guidance in defence, especially from Michael Sollbauer.

The latter’s exit in 2021 was seen as a key factor behind Tarn’s relegation with a whimper in the Championship the following season, as some questioned whether Andersen could function without a more experienced head along side him.

2022-23, though, has become something of a coming of age campaign for the Dane, who has gone from being a talented individual centre-back who needs the right support, to being that general himself.

Quick to the ball, tough in the tackle and strong in the air, the unflappable Tarn stalwart has been a fantastic organiser who does the basics so well, but is also assured in possession and can ping the ball to the flank.

He plays with a smile on his face, for which he’s loved by natives.


Leif Davis


Last season, Ipswich were highly productive down the right-hand side thanks to the work of wing-back Wes Burns, but didn’t have as much of a threat on the left – they became limited when opponents doubled up on their star man and funnelled the ball across to the other side.

This year, Kieran McKenna has flipped from 3-4-2-1 to 4-2-3-1 and the signing of left-back Leif Davis has been a game-changer for the Tractor Boys and if anything, more of their play has gone down the left.

Davis has the stamina to get up and down the pitch at will, the pace to beat opponents one-on-one, and the presence of mind to pull the ball back with precision when he gets into dangerous areas: a range of qualities rarely found all in one League One left-back.

The former Morecambe academy graduate was at times a victim of his own athleticism – because he ‘could’ dominate the flank individualistically, he wasn’t always given the right support.

That changed when Nathan Broadhead came in to run the channel in attack and take some of the weight off Davis, who was then almost unplayable in the last third of the campaign, when Town won an astonishing 13 games in 14 to secure automatic promotion at Sheffield Wednesday’s expense.


Luca Connell


You’d have to go a long, long way to find a better free pickup in League One than Luca Connell.

Then 21, Connell was keen to prove himself in senior football after being released by Celtic, and the Reds took their chance by handing the Liverpool-born Irishman a three-year contract in June – it’s one of the best decisions they’ll make.

Not only does the midfielder possess boundless energy, which makes him ideal for breaking up counter-attacks from the base of midfield, he’s also got a delightful, feather touch, and an astonishing passing range.

For a Tarn side that has great combinations and relationships in wide areas, to have a midfielder who can ping the ball to either flank effortlessly is a massive strength.

Connell might not be captain in name, with Mads Andersen chief commander at present, he’s certainly one in nature: just watch this lad skipper Ireland at a World Cup one day. You can bookmark that one.


George Byers


A surprising choice, perhaps, for someone who only started 19 league games, but the truth is, Byers has been simply that important for Wednesday when he has played.

The Owls have accrued 43 points from 19 games when Byers has started which, if extrapolated over a 46-game season, would have won them the title – even at the expense of Plymouth Argyle, who accrued the highest tally at this level since Wolves in 2013-14.

Unfortunately, the selfless, hardworking midfielder got injured in March, and it coincided with a six-game winless streak that cost them automatic promotion in a season in which the standards were extremely high.

Byers balances ball-retention with creativity superbly, making him the ideal third component in midfield, augmenting the steel of Will Vaulks and the flair of Barry Bannan.

The latter would be hugely unlucky to miss out on this side – perhaps his brilliance at this level is so obvious it’s almost taken for granted – likewise stalwart Liam Palmer, who’s fitness and professionalism has seen him produce a season of astonishing consistency.


Aaron Morley


Whether it’s a deft caress, a neatly lofted diagonal, an effortless studder-roller or a curver with a positive inflection, Aaron Morley’s passing has always been a delight to watch.

In some ways, somebody of his natural ability shouldn’t have been playing in League Two at 22 in 2021-22, but perhaps there was a reason for that.

When at Rochdale, Morley wasn’t so competitive in the periods of games in which he isn’t running the show idealistically: in fact, he even looked lost on occasion, and it would be left to his midfield partner to carry the destructive can.

At Bolton, however, the 23-year-old has become a more complete package, chipping in with on average one tackle per game and 1.2 interceptions.

Not loads – he’s not become a pure ball-winner overnight – but certainly a bigger contribution, and those extra dimensions make a huge difference to his future prospects for playing in the Championship or beyond.


Aaron Collins


It’s been a positive first season back in League One for Bristol Rovers, and Aaron Collins has been key, hitting 16 goals and grabbing 11 assists.

Collins has been capable of scoring all different types of goals – belters from distance or close range poacher’s efforts – highly impressive when considering how selfless he can be as well, being a fine crosser of a ball.

The 25-year-old is highly energetic and proficient on both feet, which allows him to wiggle his way out of tight situations and create something out of nothing, which underlines his confidence to get on the ball regardless of the circumstances.

After winning Player of the Year at the Official EFL Awards, Collins will surely attract Championship suitors.


Conor Chaplin


It speaks volumes for Chaplin’s flexibility that he was the pressing monster Valérien Ismaël needed in Barnsley’s unlikely Championship Play-Off campaign of 2020-21, and the cute #10 Kieran McKenna required in a more balanced Ipswich side in League One this season.

Chaplin can still be a physical out-ball like he was at Oakwell, but it’s his instinctive final third thinking that’s truly unlocked doors, coming back into the team at a time when the Tractor Boys were struggling to break down well-drilled units and feeling something of a mental block in advanced areas.

Not only is the 26-year-old joint-top goalscorer in League One with 26, he’s also been key to his side’s route to creating chances.

In a team superbly coached by McKenna, Chaplin could thrive in the Championship once again in a Town team ready to trouble the second-tier.


Jonson Clarke-Harris


Rickie Lambert was the last player to be League One’s top goalscorer in more than one season, but now the feat has been achieved by Jonson Clarke-Harris.

The Peterborough striker hit 31 in the league when his side won promotion in 2020-21, and repeated the trick this year, though technically he shared the accolade at 26 with Conor Chaplin.

Clarke-Harris has decent hold-up play, too, but his main strengths are his physicality, deadly movement and ruthless finishing, underpinned by a belief that he’s the most likely player to score on the pitch.

The 28-year-old is unlikely to replicate the rise of Ivan Toney at his age, and in an era of football in which pressing has become essential higher up the leagues, JCH’s limitations thereof might stop him from getting a huge move.

That, though, just means Posh could once again benefit from his goalscoring expertise, which would be crucial to their chances of securing a Championship return at the second-attempt.

Manager – Steven Schumacher

Schumacher has unquestionably benefited from being part of an excellent club structure, with chairman Simon Hallett, CEO Andrew Parkinson, Director of Football Neil Dewsnip, and Head of Recruitment Jimmy Dickinson’s work ensuring Argyle are among the smartest-run clubs in the country.

Nonetheless, the decision to appoint internally when Ryan Lowe left for Preston North End in November 2021 – which some questioned at the time – has been vindicated, and then some.

Schumacher has kept the positive, progressive traits the team had under Lowe, whilst making pragmatic tweaks to become a better rounded team.

‘Schuey’s work saw the Devonians hit 80 points last season: the highest tally with which anyone has missed out on the Play-Offs at this level since Hull in 2002-03.

Argyle responded defiantly to that final day heartache against MK Dons to storm to the title this season, amassing a whopping 101 points.

Schumacher had roadblocks in the way – Morgan Whittaker getting recalled from his loan spell, plus Finn Azaz, Michael Cooper and Dan Scarr getting injured at different points – but each time solutions were found.

That speaks volumes for the 39-year-old, who has shown both the ability to plan by developing a playing identity, the ability to adapt when issues threaten to blow things off course, and the willingness to rotate and impact games with substitutions, which has borne fruit with a whopping 41 goals in the last half hour of matches.

Kieran McKenna and Michael Duff have been outstanding, but Schumacher is deservedly Manager of the Year!

Odds are correct at the time of posting

Join the discussion