Who Should Really Pick Up The Championship Manager Of The Season Award? – Opinion

The English Football League have revealed their shortlists for the 2024 EFL Awards and there are some big names not included in the Championship Manager of the Season category.

We are fast approaching award season and while there is still a lot of football to play, group chats far and wide are starting to build teams of the season, picking winners of individual honours and crowning managers of the season. The Championship manager of the season race is perhaps one of the hardest to call with so many bosses excelling in the second tier.

The 2023 award was won by Burnley’s Vincent Kompany after he led the Clarets to an incredible 101-point title-winning campaign, while the 2022 award was picked up by current Charlton Athletic boss Nathan Jones as he led Luton Town to an unlikely play-off finish, giving the Hatters the perfect platform to earn promotion a year later under Rob Edwards.

The Championship has yet again provided countless magical moments in the 2023/24 campaign and with just a month until the end, there are a few coaches who are putting their names just a peg above the rest when it comes to their achievements throughout the season. The three nominees are unquestionably some of the more obvious names but several managers will feel hard done by not being put up for the award.

Honourable Mentions:

Mark Robins – Coventry City

Now in his eighth year at the club across two spells, Mark Robins is already held in the highest regard by Coventry City supporters, but to bounce back from play-off final defeat in the way that they have is testament to the 54-year-old’s leadership.

Robins orchestrated a purple patch across the crucial Christmas period, losing just once in December and going unbeaten in January. Sitting just three points behind sixth-placed Norwich City with seven matches to play is quite the feat already but if they manage to make the play-offs, backing a Mark Robins team to go all the way would not be a foolish thing to do. Nevertheless, given there’s a major chance they could still miss out, he probably just misses out on the nominees list he made last year.

Enzo Maresca – Leicester City

A month ago, Enzo Maresca would have been a shoo-in to be a nominee as his Leicester City team sat comfortably top of the table and well on their way back to the Premier League. However, two wins in seven since mid-February have seen them dragged back into the dogfight. Their victory over Norwich on Easter Monday did put it back in their hands and with three favourable fixtures to come, the Foxes could have it wrapped up soon enough.

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Maresca, though, perhaps deserves more credit than he is receiving for how he has steadied the ship through a difficult period for the club off the pitch. They have been charged by the Premier League for alleged breaches of profit and sustainability rules but the Italian has continuously emphasised his focus is on the field and has a real chance of being the man with a Championship winners medal around his neck in a few weeks’ time and for that, he deserves praise.

Marti Cifuentes – Queens Park Rangers

In August, there would have been very few English football fans who knew the name Marti Cifuentes but after taking over at Loftus Road in late October, he has saved the West London club from the depths of the table. The 41-year-old had spent most of his coaching career in Scandinavia before his move to the capital but now is very well thought of in the English game, and rightfully so.

When he took over at Queens Park Rangers, Cifuentes discovered an ageing squad that looked devoid of confidence and was suffering in the relegation zone. He has had to be patient for his ideas to bring results but seems to have finally cracked the code, winning five of their last eight to rise six points above the drop zone. In fact, since Cifuentes’ arrival, QPR are in ninth in the form table so could be forgiven for being disappointed at not being nominated for the job he has done.

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The Nominees:

Kieran McKenna – Ipswich Town

The current undoubted favourite for the Championship Manager of the Season, Kieran McKenna, is on his way to pulling off a miracle for Ipswich Town. The Northern Irishman is in his first job in management and could well have two promotions on his CV in just two and a half seasons. Sitting top of the table with six games to play was beyond the wildest dreams of supporters at the start of the season but the Premier League is now well within their grasp.

Links to the Manchester United job prove his quality as a coach and at just 37, he has a huge future in the game. His ingenuity with fullbacks that are key to their attack has brought him a lot of admirers but his focus will be on winning back-to-back promotions for Ipswich and that would surely bring him a Manager of the Season award.

Liam Rosenior – Hull City

The surprise name in the top three nominees, Liam Rosenior, has transformed the fortunes of Hull City after a rather uninspiring 15th-placed finish in 2022/23. Now, though, the 39-year-old has his team in with a shout of making the play-offs.

Clever loan signings have allowed The Tigers to keep grinding out results and stay in the race. If he were to get in the top six and win at Wembley, it would be the story of the season, although Ipswich may have a thing or two to say yet. The outside chance of that happening is probably why he has made the final shortlist for the award. Although a recent home loss to Stoke City halted their progress and they seem to have hit a bad run at just the wrong time. It is possible to turn it around but their current form is why some fans may be a bit perplexed as to why Rosenior has been nominated.

Daniel Farke – Leeds United

The Leeds United job is one of the most pressurised in England, and other than Marcelo Bielsa, no one has managed to truly succeed at Elland Road in quite a long time. However, Daniel Farke looks to be well on his way to doing so and getting the Whites back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.

Helped by a talented squad, the former Norwich boss knows what it takes to top the Championship, having done it twice in East Anglia. He has managed the pressure on him well and has been a calming figure as they have slowly clawed their way into the top two. With Leicester’s patchy form and Ipswich’s inexperience, it could well be the German who tops the table by early May and walks away with as the Manager of the Season.

Who will scoop the award?

As most polls will tell you, McKenna is the clear favourite to be crowned the best boss of the campaign but with their youth and inexperience, there is still time for Ipswich Town to fall just short.

That is what it would likely take to topple the former Manchester United assistant but as discussed, there are two others waiting in the wings to win the award. Farke and Rosenior will still believe their teams can achieve their respective goals and if they were to do so, especially at the expense of the Tractor Boys, their claims to clinch the award will only become stronger.

Whatever happens in the final six or seven games in this Championship season, it has once again proven why it is the greatest second division in world football and how it can be the perfect place for managers to show their quality as some of the best in the game.


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