A look back at the top 5 goal contributors in the Championship last season
It is very common to see the top-scorers in the top-five leagues of Europe, namely the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Eredivisie making most of the headlines in the post-mortem analysis at the end of each campaign.
The scintillating performances of some underrated stars in the lower divisions do not usually enter the post-season talks and rarely gain enough recognition.
There is a reason why the EFL Championship, despite being the second-tier of English football, is considered as one of the toughest, and probably one of the most exciting leagues outside the top-five leagues of Europe.
Taking into consideration the number of games each team has to play over the course of the season, it is a long and hard slog for everybody involved and the fans would know how difficult it is to survive or secure promotion to the top-flight.
And it was no different last season, as the 2018-19 campaign produced some edge-of-the-seat thrillers, intriguing see-saw promotion battles and of course, some incredible individual performances.
While the campaign ended in promotion ecstasy for the likes of Norwich City, Sheffield United and Aston Villa, it was absolute heartbreak for teams like West Brom, Leeds United and Derby County, who came tantalisingly close to securing a return to the top-flight but failed to get over the line in the final stages.
Let us take a look at some of the top goal contributors in the 2018-19 season of the EFL Championship. Teemu Pukki, obviously, tops the charts but it is surprising to see that Dwight Gayle, who netted 24 goals, misses out on a place in the top-five in terms of overall contributions, although he boasts of a better goal-minute ratio when compared to all the players mentioned below.
1. Teemu Pukki – 38 (29 goals, 9 assists)
Norwich City secured promotion to the Premier League as the outright winners of the second division for the first time since 2003-04, and Temmu Pukki was the name on the fans’ lips at Carrow Road, week in week out.
The Finnish international was the go-to man for the Canaries in front of goal and arguably the most influential striker in the entire division last season as Daniel Farke inspired his team to an awe-inspiring campaign.
The 29-year-old, who made his move to Carrow Road on a free transfer from Danish side Brondby last summer, took the Championship by storm and racked up a career-best tally of 29 goals, virtually propelling Norwich to the Premier League single-handedly.
The former Celtic and Schalke man netted braces against the likes of Millwall, Derby County, Sheffield Wednesday, Ipswich Town and Queens Park Rangers, although his most productive outing came in the 4-0 demolition of Bolton Wanderers away from home back in February where he bagged two goals and an assist.
Pukki bagged six man-of-the-match awards in the Championship last season and one does get the feeling that he will once again be Norwich’s best bet ensure survival in the Premier Leauge.
2. Neal Maupay – 33 (25 goals, 8 assists)
The former Saint-Etienne man enjoyed a remarkable campaign at Griffin Park in the Championship last season and proved himself to be a class above most of his counterparts in the division.
Brentford finished 11th in the table and missed out on a place in the promotion playoffs but the 22-year-old Frenchman strengthened his claims of earning a move to the Premier League this summer.
Brentford were regarded as one of the dark horses to make to it to the playoffs at the start of the season and while the Bees never really looked likely to make it to the top-six, it was Maupay who kept the fans believing for large quarters of the campaign.
The diminutive and versatile striker enhanced his reputation of being one of the most lethal in his position in the second-tier and it won’t be a surprise to see him get an opportunity to ply his trade in the Premier League in the days to come.
Maupay started the season off with a bang, bagging 2 goals and an assist in the 5-1 humiliation of Rotherham United on the opening day, which ultimately proved to be his most productive outing of the campaign.
Other highlights of his campaign include braces against Aston Villa and Wigan Athletic, while the fans at Griffin Park are also likely to remember his incredible display in the 2-0 upset of Leeds United in the penultimate game of the season, where he scored and assisted one apiece.
3. Tammy Abraham – 29 (26 goals, 3 assists)
The Chelsea loanee was Aston Villa’s undisputed promotion hero, as the 21-year-old netted a staggering 26 goals, including an all-important one from the penalty spot in the 2-1 victory over West Brom in the first leg of the playoff semi-finals to propel the Lions back to the Premier League following a three-year exile from the top-flight.
Abraham caught the eye with his poaching instincts, supreme aerial ability and natural finishing. However, the England U-21 star remained in the second-tier for the entire campaign and was one of the key driving forces behind Villa’s much-awaited return to the Premier League.
The 21-year-old’s exemplary feat of netting four goals in the eventful 5-5 draw at home against Nottingham Forest is bound to go into the history books at Villa Park, while the other highlights of his season included braces against the likes of QPR and Ipswich Town.
4. Jay Rodriguez – 28 (22 goals, 6 assists)
The 29-year-old England international might have been outscored by his teammate Dwight Gayle but he edges ahead of the Newcastle United loanee in terms of overall goal contributions, largely due to his tally of 6 assists.
Rodriguez could have chosen to depart West Brom following the club’s relegation from the Premier League at the end of the 2017-18 season but he opted to stay at the Hawthorns and once again proved his worth as a bona-fide goalscorer in English football.
However, his exploits weren’t enough for the club to earn promotion back to the top-flight at the first time of asking.
Rodriguez played a key role and scored a double in the 4-3 victory over Norwich City back in August and also took centre stage in the 7-1 demolition of QPR in the following game, with the 29-year-old registering braces in back-to-back games for the Baggies.
He repeated that feat in the 4-2 victory over Bristol City in September and in the 2-0 win against Wigan Athletic at home on Boxing Day. West Brom will be hoping that he stays put to help them reignite their surge for promotion under Slaven Bilic next term.
5. Billy Sharp – 27 (23 goals, 4 assists)
Sheffield United secured promotion to the Premier League for the first time since 2006-07 and Billy Sharp was very much in the thick of things at Bramall Lane, as manager Chris Wilder managed to extract the best out of an ageing forward line to ensure that the Blades completed a much-awaited return to the top-flight.
Sharp might not be a familiar name in the top-flight but he has always been a prolific goalscorer in the lower echelons of English football. The 33-year-old took his career goal tally up to 238 at the end of this past season.
The fans at Bramall Lane are likely to be ever-grateful to him for his massive contribution in both of Sheffield United’s promotion-winning campaigns in recent times, firstly from League One to the Championship in 2016-17 and then from the Championship to the Premier League now.
The 33-year-old didn’t quite equal his third-tier tally of 30 goals and 8 assists in the 2016-17 campaign but he played a key role, nevertheless.
Sharp bagged a couple of hat-tricks in the 4-2 victory over Wigan and the 3-3 draw against Aston Villa, with braces against Norwich City and Blackburn Rovers (home and away) being some of the other highlights of his truly incredible goalscoring run.
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