GK: Kasper Schmeichel
Kasper Schmeichel is undoubtedly one of the best Championship goalkeepers of the past decade. His career got off to a slow start as he struggled for game time at Manchester City and had to move to Notts County, in League Two, to play regularly. Schmeichel did well at Notts and earned himself a transfer to Leeds United.
During the 2010-11 campaign, his debut season in the Championship, the Dane established himself as one of the best ‘keepers in the division and gained plaudits from across the country. Despite this, Leeds weren’t too keen to hold on to Schmeichel and accepted a bid from Leicester City which came as a shock to many fans.
A fantastic 2011-12 season for the Foxes meant that he collected the club’s “Player of the Season” award and received heaps of praise from players, pundits and managers alike. The son of Peter continued to stand out in the Championship and attracted interest from European giants such as AC Milan, Manchester United and AC Milan whilst also establishing himself in the Denmark squad.
Just as he was starting to outgrow the division, Schmeichel gained promotion to the Championship with Leicester as they collected a record haul of 102 points. Since gaining promotion, he’s won the Premier League, played in the Champions League and major international tournaments.
RB: Kieran Trippier
Another Manchester City academy graduate, Trippier failed to break into City’s 1st team squad so had to move on loan to a Championship just like many frustrated Premier League youngsters. He spent around a season-and-a-half at Barnsley and impressed, winning the “Young Player of the Year” and demonstrating his dead ball wizardry.
Trippier signed on loan at Burnley for the 2011/12 season but his loan move was made permanent in January 2012 and he went on to win the club’s “Player of the Year” award. He excelled at Turf Moor and was consequently named in consecutive “Championship Team of the Season” sides.Trippier’s mobility down the flanks, brilliant delivery and set-piece prowess meant that he developed into a terrific modern full back.
He recorded a combined total of 24 assists in his last two Championship seasons which is an applaudable figure considering his position. Since gaining promotion with Burnley, Trippier moved to Tottenham, has scored in a World Cup semi-final and is now playing in La Liga with Atletico Madrid. Not bad for a lad who made his professional debut at Barnsley…
CB: Sol Bamba
Sol Bamba has had a nomadic career that has spanned across six countries but he’s seemed to play his best football in the Championship. The Ivorian centre-back first moved to England to sign for Leicester City, in January 2011, whom he did very well for until being frozen out of the squad by their new manager, Nigel Pearson.
He was likened to Franz Beckenbauer by Sven-Goran Eriksson but then couldn’t get a game under Pearson. Bamba returned to the division in January 2015 as he joined for Leeds United. He quickly adapted to life at Elland Road and was even named club captain after just half a season in Yorkshire.
However, Bamba spoke out against Leeds’ controversial owner, Massimo Cellino, which ultimately contributed to his departure. A month later, Bamba was snapped up by Neil Warnock at Cardiff City and the pair would go on to develop a special relationship. Bamba was ever present in the Bluebirds side that gained promotion in 2017/18 and was unsurprisingly named in the “Championship Team of the Year”.
Relegated after a solitary season in the Premier League, Bamba has had to cope with a long-term injury and a change of manager recently but is still a quality centre-back. The Ivorian Van Dijk isn’t finished yet…
CB: Wes Morgan
Wes Morgan learnt his trade at Nottingham Forest but really made a name for himself at East-Midlands rivals, Leicester City. Morgan spent a long time at Forest and was ever present during their transition from League One to the Championship.
Leicester came knocking for the Jamaica-international and he made the switch for just over £1M, quite a hefty fee considering the year and division. Like at Forest, Morgan quickly found his feet at the King Power Stadium and was named club captain just six months after joining.
The dominant centre back was incredible during the 2013-14 season where Leicester won the league without breaking a sweat. Morgan was a constant within that fantastic Leicester side, only missing one game throughout the season. He’s a traditional centre back who demonstrates immense leadership qualities and has gone on to achieve great things within the game.
His influence within the dressing room is a big reason why he’s still involved with the Foxes’ first team squad despite probably being out of depth quality-wise. Morgan has proven his worth across three divisions and will go down as a Leicester legend.
LB: George Friend
Friend has been a terrific left back in the Championship for the duration of this decade and can consider himself unlucky to have only played one season in the Premier League. Friend burst on to the scene at his hometown club, Exeter City, and was quickly snapped up by Wolves.
The club were in the Premier League at the time so after a plethora of short-term loans, Friend moved permanently to Doncaster Rovers to gain game time. Friend spent two seasons at Donny whilst the club flirted with relegation and were eventually demoted to League One in 2011. Despite suffering the humiliation of relegation, Friend had proved himself to be a skilled full back so earned a £100,000 move to Middlesbrough.
He would go on to play for Boro until the present day and has been one of the most consistent Championship players of the past decade. Friend has cemented himself as a Boro legend, captained the club since 2015 and even spent a season in the Premier League. Since 2010, he has made 316 appearances in the Championship which shows his quality.
DM: Oliver Norwood
Oliver Norwood is an expert in gaining promotion from the Championship, he achieved the feat three times with three seperate clubs this past decade. His first promotion came at Brighton, he was a vital cog in their side as the Seagulls finished 2nd in the 2016-17 season.
Despite making 33 appearances in the previous season, Norwood wasn’t deemed good enough for the Premier League by Chris Hughton and had to drop down to the Championship with Fulham. Yet again, Norwood achieved promotion to the Premier League as he was involved in 8 goals from defensive midfield. Strangely Fulham opted not to purchase Norwood permanently once in the Premier League so joined Sheffield United in the Championship.
He was a key player in Chris Wilder’s side as they finished 2nd in the league and made the 2018/19 “Championship Team of the Year.” After three promotions in three years, Norwood was finally given a chance in the Premier League and has been phenomenal during Sheffield United’s ascend up the table.
He is a classy midfielder who shouldn’t have had to wait so long for his opportunity in the Premier League. Norwood dictates the tempo of games at ease and has an extraordinary passing range. He is comfortably the best holding midfielder the Championship has seen in the past decade and is now thriving in the Premier League.
CM: Pablo Hernandez
Pablo Hernandez’s career has followed a strange path but he has arguably played his best football in the Championship. A nomadic journey has led him to Leeds after time in Spain, UAE, Wales and Qatar. Just when it looked like Hernandez’s career was coming to a slow and steady end, he found a second wind at Elland Road and has lit up the Championship since.
A player of great pedigree, he had had a taste of English football previously, spending a season with Swansea City in the Premier League. On his return to England Hernandez did well and was directly involved in 14 goals as Leeds endured a typically horrendous run of form towards the end of the season to miss out on the Play Offs.
Despite the 2017/18 campaign being fairly mediocre for the Whites, Hernandez continued his fine form and established himself as one of the best playmakers in the division, recording seven goals and nine assists. In the 2018/19 season, under the tutelage of the demanding Marcelo Bielsa, Hernandez got even better, improving his numbers yet again whilst also claiming a spot in the “Championship Team of the Year” and also scooping up Leeds’ various “Player of the Year” awards.
Leeds came agonisingly close to promotion yet again but lost in the Play Off semi-final. Despite being 34-years-old, Hernandez has showed no dip in form recently and is still an important player for Leeds as they lead the promotion charge. He’s only been in the Championship for three full seasons but has proven himself to be one of the most skillful, creative players in the division.
The Spaniard has also shown his versaitility, operating anywhere behind the striker throughout his spell at Leeds. Hernandez is like a fine wine, he gets better with age.
CM: Peter Whittingham
Peter Whittingham was ripping up the Championship well before the decade began but still qualifies for this XI which shows his impressive longevity. In the 2010/11 season he assisted nine goals and got eleven for himself, including “The Football League Goal of the Year” v Barnsley.
Unsurprisingly, he attracted many suitors from the Premier League due to his immaculate form. Whittingham got even better during the 2011/12 campaign, being directly involved in 27 goals. The Cardiff side was built around him and it’s no exaggeration to say that this season was one of the best individual displays the Championship has ever seen.
The midfielder won a plethora of awards following his insane performances and could have easily made the step up to the Premier League. After three consecutive Play Off failures, Whittingham and Cardiff finally reached the Premier League, it was a much deserved reward for the elegant midfielder.
On the Bluebird’s return to the Championship, following relegation from the Premier League, Whittingham still did well in spite of his team’s struggles. He will be remembered as one of the best midfielders in the division’s history and it is surprising that he was unable to spend longer in the Premier League. Whittingham’s record of goals and assists whilst in the Championship is simply stupendous, you have to wonder what he’d have achieved if Cardiff hasn’t been so reluctant to let him move on.
CAM: Adel Taarabt
Adel Taarabt is the most skillful, technically gifted, ingenious player the Championship has ever seen. His career started with so much promise and potential but slowly petered out, Taarabt’s time in the Championship did show that he can be unplayable on his day.
He arrived at Queens Park Rangers after failing to make the grade at Tottenham Hotspur and quickly made a name for himself. After a fairly slow start to life in west London, Taarabt tore the Championship apart during the 2010/11 season.
He terrorised defences across the country and managed to grab 19 goals and 21 assists. Having such a high number of both goals and assists is almost unheard of and shows how phenomenal he was. Taarabt was on a different level to every other player in the Championship, firing QPR to promotion and being directly involved in well over half of their goals.
His highlight reel from that season was stupendous as he embarrassed pretty much every defender in the division. Looking back at that campaign, it’s puzzling to see how Taarabt never really kicked on and fulfilled his potential. Raheem Sterling admitted that whilst he was a youth player at QPR, the Moroccan was his idol and it is clear to see why, Taarabt was a wizard. For the 2010/11 season alone, he deserves to be in the Championship XI of the decade.
CF: Jordan Rhodes
After proving himself in League One with Huddersfield Town, Jordan Rhodes made the move up to the Championship at the beginning of the decade and hit the ground running. Rhodes had a terrific debut season at Blackburn Rovers, scoring 26 goals, he was already on his way to repaying the £8M fee that Rovers splashed out for him.
In the 2013/14 season he carried on in the same vein, bagging 25 goals, 15 of which came before the new year. Somehow, Rhodes carried on scoring for fun in the 2014/15 campaign as he got another 21 goals for Rovers. At this point, he had scored 72 goals in three seasons which is a seriously impressive record. Rhodes moved to Middlesbrough to have a better chance of promotion but struggled to find game time and didn’t rediscover his golden touch in front of goal.
After Boro’s promotion, he went on to Sheffield Wednesday and then Norwich. Despite not being as prolific towards the end of the decade, Rhodes was the top scorer in the Championship from 2010-2020 by some way and it was disappointing to see him not spend longer in the Championship.
CF: Billy Sharp
Billy Sharp has scored goals on a regular basis in the Championship for the duration of this past decade. Sharp scored 25 goals in two seasons for Doncaster Rovers, he also did well for Southampton and Nottingham Forest.
However, it was until he joined his hometown club, Sheffield United, that he really starting scoring again. His goals helped fire the Blades into the Championship and then subsequently into the Premier League. He scored 36 times in two seasons as Chris Wilder’s side returned to the promised land.
As well as being a terrific goal scorer, Sharp is a leader and an icon at Bramall Lane. His emotional celebration after dedicating a goal to his late son touched the hearts of millions and his pivotal role in Sheffield United’s promotion was to be admired. The bullish striker has grafted throughout his whole career at a number of different clubs in several divisions and is now reaping the rewards. Sharp is living the dream of many football fans right now, he’s playing in the Premier League for his boyhood club.
GK: Darren Randolph
Randolph has proven himself to be one of the best ‘keepers in the Championship for a number of seasons. The Irish shot stopper has impressed for Birmingham and Middlesbrough whilst also spending a while in the Premier League with West Ham United.
CB: Lewis Dunk
Dunk was ever present for Brighton for most of the past decade and was a rock at the back during the Seagull’s promotion campaign. Since winning promotion, Dunk has established himself as a Premier League-quality centre back and has won a cap for England.
LB: Ian Harte
An old school left back, Harte impressed for Reading and Bournemouth in the Championship. The Irish defender also has an impressive goal scoring record considering his position.
CM: Ruben Neves
Neves was outstanding during Wolves’ promotion season, scoring screamers for fun. He was a crucial cog in a formidable Wolves side and has since gone on to establish himself as one of the best defensive midfielders in the Premier League.
RW: Wilfried Zaha
Instrumental in Crystal Palace’s promotion, Zaha stunned the Championship with his tricky dribbling and impressive skill set. He was “Man of the Match” in Palace’s play off final victory in 2013 and is now a legend at Selhurst Park.
LW: Anthony Knockaert
Knockaert has won promotion twice this decade, with Leicester and Brighton. He was particularly impressive in the 2016/17 season when Brighton finished second. Knockaert is now back in the Championship plying his trade for Fulham where he hopes to get another team promoted.
CF: Troy Deeney
Deeney is a legend at Watford and has scored 77 goals in the Championship for the Hornets. The talismanic striker has proved himself at multiple levels across the EFL, even scoring goals in the Premier League.
By: Thomas Owen
Photo: Gabriel Fraga