2014 has been another showcase year for League One. Stunning matches, stunning goals, and of course some controversy. Throughout the season I have putting together the Team of the Week for League One, but who were the stand out players in 2014? Based only on players who are currently playing in League One, we have narrowed it down to what we believe to be the best League One XI of 2014, and of course, not all of you will agree.
Goalkeeper: Mark Howard – Sheffield United
In a team that has lacked goals this season, it is important that they have a reliable, safe pair of hands behind them. This is what Mark Howard has provided since Nigel Clough took over as manager. His numerous clean sheets helped propel United from relegation candidates, to play-off hopefuls within a few months last season, and he has continued that form into this season.
In total, Howard has kept 18 clean sheets in 2014, and that looks like a stat that is only set to increase, as The Blades chase a route back to the Championship.
Defence: Aiden Flint – Bristol City
A man who has been a near ever-present in this season’s Team of the Week simply could not miss out on a spot in this XI. The 25-year-old has helped his side 12 clean sheets in 2014, with seven of them coming in this season’s campaign. Along the way he has also helped himself to eight goals this year, with five of them already arriving this season.
As the pressure mounts on The Robins from those closing in behind them, Flint could well be the difference between an automatic promotion spot, or settling for the play-offs.
Defence: Rory McArdle – Bradford City
McArdle has been an ever-present in a Bradford team that have snuck their way up the League One table in 2014. Throughout the twelve months, he has helped city to an impressive 15 clean sheets. But he is not all about the defending, he has also fired in 6 goals of his own.
Having scored in the League Two play-off final, the 27-year-old has become a firm fans’ favourite. He will be keen to ensure he keeps up this image as Bradford chase the Championship dream which has remained out of reach for too long.
Defence: Nathan Byrne – Swindon Town
He may be a defender on paper, but it is Byrne’s attacking traits which have really caught the eye this season. It is rare in a full-back to have both lightning speed, and quality. Usually a compromise has to be reached between the footballing gods and only one is chosen. But there is no doubting either trait when it comes to the Swindon Town man.
His rapid feet have been a burden to his fellow defenders all season, and his quality on the ball is clear to see. The 22-year-old has racked up nine assists this season, making him not only Town’s top provider, but the League’s. He can finish as well, contributing three goals so far this season.
Midfield: Marcus Maddison – Peterborough United
Maddison has been seen as the only real shining light from Peterborough United’s season, but he hasn’t shone, he has dazzled! The former Gateshead winger has arguably the best left-foot and is probably the best free-kick taker in the division. His powerful side foot, not dissimilar to Gareth Bale, has brought about three goals already from the dead ball including two near identical strikes, one against Oldham and an even better one against Barnsley.
Three other goals have followed in the league. A stunner against Port Vale, a cheeky finish versus Crawley, and a fortuitous ‘lob’ at Chesterfield. If The Posh are going to get their season back on track, the presence of this man will be key.
Midfield: Dele Alli – Milton Keynes Dons
The 18-year-old has been the stand-out player in a very impressive and ruthless Dons side this season. He is their joint top-scorer alongside Benik Afobe. This takes his tally to 14 for the entire year: not bad for a midfielder. He has also managed to assist the most goals this campaign for MK, teeing up three goals.
Alli is one of many impressive recruits from the Milton Keynes Academy, along with the likes of Daniel Powell and George Baldock. The sharks will no doubt be circling in January, and you feel that it is imperative that MK hang on to players like Alli if they are going to reach the Championship.
Midfield: Conor Hourihane – Barnsley
Along with Alli, Hourihane is the highest scoring midfielder in League One with ten goals. But it is the manner of his goals which make the 23-year-old stand out from the crowd. Screamer, followed by screamer, followed by screamer. The man seemed to be able to score from anywhere!
Also like Alli, the Barnsley man has the most goals and the most assists for his club. Ten goals and five assists point to a man of massive importance to Barnsley as they look to climb the table. The Tykes snatched Hourihane for a bargain £200,000 in the summer, but they may have to cash in on a man who will no doubt be attracting the attention of the clubs above them.
Midfield: Yasser Kasim – Swindon Town
The Iraqi midfielder has played a pivotal role in Swindon Town’s surge up the table this campaign. His quick feet and ability to keep the ball under pressure means he can bring others into play with ease. Mark Cooper has brought a style of sexy football to the club, and Kasim is the metronome at the heart of it.
IF there is one action to sum up just how well his season has gone so far, it would be his outrageous double nutmeg versus Port Vale, and a stunning finish in the same game.
Midfield: Mathew Done – Rochdale
Rochdale’s impressive start to life in League One has been largely down to the form of winger Mathew Done. He is both Dale’s top scorer and top assist maker, with ten goals and six assists.
The 26-year-old has shown especially good awareness of those around him, not least forward Ian Henderson who done has assisted, and been assisted by, on countless occasions.
At the moment, Rochdale are flirting with a play-off spot. If they are to penetrate the top six, they will need Mr. Done to keep up his outstanding work.
Forward: Eoin Doyle – Chesterfield
It would have quite frankly been impossible to leave out the ginger phenomenon that is Chesterfield striker Eoin Doyle. He is the league’s top scorer by a comfortable three goals, and has been for nearly the whole season.
The most impressive part of Doyle’s 2014 was undoubtedly his consecutive hat-tricks against Scunthorpe and then again against Preston North End, just a few days later.
Unsurprisingly, many Championship clubs are understood to have a firm interest in the red haired striker, and Chesterfield will do well to hold onto him until the end of the season.
Forward: Joe Garner – Preston North End
There is little doubt in my mind that throughout 2014, and from the players I could choose from, Preston’s Joe Garner ha been the best striker in League One. It is his consistency more than anything that is impressive. He very rarely has a slump in form, and a continuous stream of goals is what you get from the 26-year-old.
Without question the stand-out moment for Garner in 2014 was his wonder goals against Rotherham in the League One Play-Offs. He took a long punt forward on his chest. Immaculate control. Flicked it over the outstretched leg of the Millers defender, and smashed a looping volley into the top-corner, sending Deepdale delirious.
I hate to end on a down note, but like many of the players in this list there is a definite possibility that Garner could be on his way out of Deepdale soon. But, with the Lillywhites pushing for promotion, I feel it is unlikely he will leave until the end of the season.