Goalkeeper: Kasper Schmeichel

Spent four years in the Championship towards the start of the decade, notably helping Leicester City to promotion to the Premier League in 2014. Began era with Sven-Göran Eriksson at Notts County, for whom he kept 24 clean sheets en route to the League Two title, before reuniting with Eriksson at Leicester after impressing at Leeds. Did not miss a minute of league action across three seasons in the second tier with Leicester and remains a key pillar in the Premier League, which he won in 2016.

Right-back: Luke Ayling

There is no shortage of contenders for the right-back berth, from Chris Gunter to Kieran Trippier and George Baldock to Bruno, but the versatile Leeds United defender gets the nod. The former Arsenal schoolboy has become an integral part of the Leeds squad since signing from Bristol City three years ago. Won promotion to the Championship with Yeovil Town in 2013 and again two years later with City. A marauding full-back who can also operate at centre-back, Ayling has thrived under Marcelo Bielsa.

Centre-back: Chris Basham

A consistent performer in Sheffield United’s journey from League One to the Premier League and, before that, a reliable holding midfielder for Blackpool in the Championship. Christened “Bashambauer” by Blades supporters because of his roaming runs, the defender, who used to clean Kevin Nolan’s boots at Bolton, has proved one of Chris Wilder’s most trusted allies since joining on a free in 2014. Basham, described by Wilder as “like gold dust”, worked at McDonald’s after being released by Newcastle at 16.

Centre-back: Ben Mee

An ever-present as Burnley won the Championship in 2016 and central to two promotion-winning seasons in three years under Sean Dyche, who named Mee as his captain in August. Forged a formidable defensive partnership with Michael Keane and since with James Tarkowski, both of whom have earned England honours. Mee, 30, celebrated his 300th appearance in a Burnley shirt this month. “Ben, eventually, could become Steve Bruce, in the sense that it’s well documented Steve never played for England,” Dyche said.

Left-back: Enda Stevens

Has not always been plain sailing for the Dubliner, notably during a month’s loan in League Two in 2014-15 with Wilder’s Northampton Town. Stevens played four games – four defeats – but left an impression on Wilder. The full-back found himself in the last-chance saloon – his career in England was ailing – but Portsmouth handed him a lifeline in the fourth tier the following summer and Stevens flourished before joining Sheffield United two years ago. Secured promotion under Wilder in May.

Football League team of the decade.



Football League team of the decade. Illustration: Guardian

Centre midfield: Conor Hourihane

Another player to progress from League Two to the Premier League, though the midfielder had to bide his time. Has excelled in every rung of the Football League, racking up more than 100 league games for Plymouth in the fourth tier before earning a move to Barnsley, whom he captained to promotion to the Championship three years ago. In January 2017 Steve Bruce, then in charge of Aston Villa, came calling. A standout performer en route to Villa’s promotion in May and now a Republic of Ireland mainstay.

Centre midfield: Romaine Sawyers

Earned his stripes in League One with Walsall, missing only six league games across three seasons after being signed by Dean Smith following his release by West Brom, whom he joined aged seven. A versatile midfielder capable of hoovering up danger or unlocking defences as a No 10, Sawyers was reunited with Smith at Brentford, where he became captain last year before returning home to the Hawthorns in the summer. “If you give him time and space, he’ll destroy you,” said the Brentford co-director Phil Giles.

Attacking midfield: Paul Gallagher

A clever player – Gallagher’s brain has long set him apart from the crowd – and a consistent threat, be it on the right flank in the Championship with Leicester or centrally in League One with Preston. Four years ago Gallagher signed for Preston on a permanent basis after securing promotion to the second tier. A set-piece specialist, particularly from 12 yards, in more recent years Gallagher has dictated from deep. The 35-year-old may be approaching the twilight of his career but remains an evergreen performer.

Right wing: James Coppinger

It is an overused word, but Coppinger is a Doncaster Rovers and Football League legend. The winger, who turns 39 in January, has been tormenting full-backs for two decades, let alone one. Coppinger has dazzled defenders in League Two, League One and the Championship and, these days, he is far from merely making up the numbers, having played 51 matches last season. “To still be performing is the biggest thing for me and I still feel really good physically,” Coppinger said.

Striker: Billy Sharp

Not bad for a fat lad from Sheffield. Sharp has played for six teams over the past record-breaking 10 years, notably Doncaster, Southampton and Sheffield United, and everywhere he went it rained goals; he has scored 147 in the Football League since January 2010. A talisman, Sharp has an unerring knack of being in the right place at the right time and got 23 goals for his boyhood club en route to the Premier League last season. “He just knows where the ball is going to drop,” said Andy Crosby, who has played with and coached Sharp.

Left wing: Marc Pugh

A decade that began in League Two with Hereford United culminated in the winger being an integral part of Bournemouth’s Championship title-winning campaign four years ago. Along with Matt Ritchie, Pugh tore into defences for fun as Eddie Howe’s side secured two entertaining promotions in three seasons. The 32-year-old helped revive Hull while on loan last season before joining Queens Park Rangers on a free in the summer but, as far as Bournemouth are concerned, Pugh represents £100,000 well spent.

Manager: Eddie Howe

Howe may have not managed in the Football League since 2015, but his journey in leading Bournemouth from the foot of League Two to the Premier League in six unforgettable years is impossible to ignore. Chris Wilder’s equally remarkable success with Oxford, Northampton and Sheffield United should not go unnoticed, while John Coleman and Gareth Ainsworth, the longest-serving manager in the country, also deserve immense credit for their work at Accrington and Wycombe respectively.

source: theguardian.com

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