The battle for promotion continues in the Championship, with Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion firmly in the driving seat, but not quite out of sight – with the likes of Leeds United snapping at their heels.
But those three clubs face a more personal battle to go alongside the promotion tussle, with Magpies hitman Dwight Gayle, fleet-footed Seagulls winger Anthony Knockaert and Leeds’ prolific marksman Chris Wood making the three-man shortlist.
Here’s what the Ladbrokes News team make of the three contenders…
Dwight Gayle (Newcastle United)
Consistency had always been the issue for Gayle before this season. On his day, the Walthamstow-born forward could be a nightmare for defenders. But in the five seasons between leaving Non-League Bishop’s Stortford and joining the Magpies, he failed to top 13 goals in a season.
This term, the 27-year-old seems to have put all that inconsistency behind him, with 21 goals in 25 Championship outings.
However, while his finishing has been lethal at times, the experienced striker has scored in gluts – and benefited enormously from the service of players like Matt Ritchie and Jonjo Shelvey.
At his best, the Newcastle ace has been the equal of any player in this division – as hat-tricks against Norwich City and Birmingham City will attest. But with just one goal in his last six games, we reckon he’s just not doing it quite often enough to merit the award.
Anthony Knockaert (Brighton & Hove Albion)
Another who’s graduated from the ranks of hugely-talented-but-unpredictable to one of the division’s leading lights, the French winger has shone this term, chalking up 13 goals and eight assists to date.
And there’s no doubt he’s a big-game player, netting crucial winners against fellow promotion hopefuls Huddersfield Town and Sheffield Wednesday (twice) during the campaign.
The driving force behind the Seagulls’ impressive promotion push this term, in many other years he’d be a shoo-in for the award. But he faces very stiff competition from the next man…
Chris Wood (Leeds United)
The New Zealander has scored 46 per cent of the Whites’ goals in the Championship this season. And with 24 goals and counting, he could well become the first Whites player to hit 30+ league goals in a season since the legendary John Charles.
An absolute talisman for Garry Monk’s men, he netted twice in last weekend’s victory over Brighton, meaning the 25-year-old has now scored against 18 of the 23 opposition sides he’s faced this term.
Having also added a few crucial assists to his tally, there’s little more he could have done to earn the adoration of the Elland Road faithful this season. And having contributed some of the campaign’s finest goals – including that overhead kick against Fulham – we reckon he’s deserving of the Player of the Year prize.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing