It has been quite a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for the Sutton Coldfield-born keeper who has finally returned and established himself with his parent club after a ten-year spell of going out on loan from Accrington to Doncaster, with a number of other clubs in between. His clean sheet record is second to none, and has been a major factor behind Wolves’ title success.
2. Sam Ricketts - Wolverhampton Wanderers
Versatile defender Sam has made light of the disappointment he felt at leaving Bolton last summer by leading Wolves’ charge back to the Championship. On joining the club, he was immediately made captain by his former Swansea manager Kenny Jackett and has led by example from day one. A Championship play-off winner with Hull in 2008, Sam has 52 Welsh caps to his name.
3. Jake Bidwell - Brentford
A product of the Everton youth system, Jake was named Academy Player of the Year in 2011, the same year he initially joined Brentford on loan. He remained a loan player at Griffin Park for the duration of the 2012-13 season before signing a permanent, three year deal last summer. The 21-year-old shows maturity beyond his years and has played a key role in the Bees’ promotion push.
4. Daniel Batth - Wolverhampton Wanderers
Like teammate Ikeme, Daniel also began his career with Wolves and had spells out on loan – with Colchester, Sheffield United and Wednesday – before returning to Molineux to make his name. He has been an ever-present and consistent performer at the heart of defence and his efforts were rewarded in January when he was given a new contract which runs until 2017.
5. Harry Maguire - Sheffield United
Harry has been a colossus at the back for the Blades, both in terms of stature and ability, and having already skippered the side he is being widely tipped as a permanent captain of the club – and a future England international, having already represented the Under 21s. His aerial ability makes him a dominant force at the back and a danger in the opposition box where his goals have been vital.
6. Adam Forshaw - Brentford
Adam’s career has followed similar lines to teammate Jake Bidwell having started out at Everton – making one Premier League appearance in 2011 – and converting his loan move to Brentford into a permanent deal in May 2012. A free-scoring midfielder, he was recently named League One player of the year at the Football League awards.