Steve Bailey: Knockaert deservedly named the Championship's best player
Twitter made for interesting reading on Sunday evening after Anthony Knockaert was named the Championship player of the season at the EFL Awards.
Sky Sports had already given away the winners around an hour before they were actually revealed (but quickly deleted the tweets and story on their site), which led to a number of angry tweets from Leeds fans because their striker Chris Wood did not win the award.
There’s no doubting the fact Wood has had an outstanding season, with 27 goals, and he was rightly on the three-man shortlist with Newcastle forward Dwight Gayle and Knockaert.
It would always be the case that supporters of their own team would feel their player should win the award.
Obviously I’ve seen far more of Knockaert than the other two this season but, to me, he’s been the outstanding player in the division. It’s not just been about the 13 goals and eight assists.
Add in the trickery on the wings, the way he gets fans on the edge of their seat – like Vicente did in the early days of the Amex – and the passion he shows every game.
It’s been a difficult season off the pitch for the Frenchman after the death of his father in November. After missing the game at Bristol City, Knockaert quickly returned to the side and said it was his aim to be promoted for his dad. That could be sealed this Easter weekend.
Knockaert is a hugely-popular member of the Albion squad, which you could tell through all the messages of support before and after the EFL Awards on social media on Sunday.
Leeds and Newcastle fans were not quite so complimentary, though. Some of the tweets made for very interesting reading.
A couple of Newcastle fans said Knockaert hadn’t turned up in the two games against them. The Toon Army beat Albion 2-0 at St James’ Park – when Knockaert hit the bar at 1-0 – and 2-1 with two late strikes at the Amex.
What about the other top-of-the-table games, though? Did Knockaert ‘turn up’?
Well, he scored the winner at home to Huddersfield in September, netted in the 2-2 draw at Reading and also in the 3-0 victory at home to the Royals.
He also hit the Seagulls’ second in the 2-1 victory at Sheffield Wednesday and then struck twice – including the winner with Brighton down to ten men – at home to the Owls.
Those are not the stats of a man who has struggled against top sides. Every player will have quiet games but Knockaert has consistently been a threat and danger for opposition sides and it’s fair to say he would make any team in the Championship a better side by being in it.
It now looks like his talent will grace the Premier League again next season. After a frustrating campaign in the top flight with Leicester in 2014-15, when he made just nine appearances, he will be looking to make more of an impact.
As the Seagulls’ talisman and go-to man, I’m fully confident he will deliver on the big stage and be a shrewd choice for many fantasy football managers.
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