Improvement is so commonplace within football. Whether it comes down to a new club, a new style of play or a general increase in performances, the potential to build upon your footballing expertise is almost always there.
That has been no different in England’s second tier.
Across the 2020-21 Championship season, many individuals have came on leaps and bounds, providing a stark contrast to former fortunes.
In this article, I will be offering my analysis of the five chiefs of improvement this season.
By all accounts, it has been a bleak campaign at the Kirklees Stadium. A startling run of just two wins and eight losses in thirteen matches has left Huddersfield dangerously close to the drop zone, sitting five points clear of 22nd-placed Sheffield Wednesday at the time of writing.
In spite of this, a rare ambience of buoyancy has arose surrounding the emergence of Josh Koroma.
After an eleven-goal haul for National League winners Leyton Orient in the 2018/19 campaign, Koroma was brought to West Yorkshire for an undisclosed fee.
The move did not yield success initially. A peripheral figure during his first six months at the club, the youthful attacker was loaned out to fellow Yorkshire outfit Rotherham United in January.
Again, Koroma failed to make an impact, making just five appearances for the Millers as they returned to the Championship.
As a result, the masses were left flummoxed when Koroma swiftly established himself as one of the division’s most impressive performers.
Electrifying, skilful and extremely productive in the final third, an impressive tally of six goals and a further two assists has earmarked the 22-year old as the centrepiece of Carlos Coberan’s Huddersfield side.
Detrimentally however, Koroma has been sidelined since early December, suffering a hamstring injury in the Terriers’ 2-0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday.
It really illustrates the imperative influence of the London native that Huddersfield were positioned twelfth in the league at the time of his injury, separated from the playoffs by merely four points.
Therefore, it will come as a real boost that Koroma is nearing a return to fitness, with a return date scheduled for the beginning of next month.
If Huddersfield are to avoid spiralling into the disconcerting inferno of a Championship relegation dogfight, it is crucial that their star forward is re-firing on all fronts upon his return.
For Cardiff City, the current campaign has presented an air of turbulence. Only a few weeks ago, the Bluebirds were hovering at the lower-end of mid table mediocrity before enjoying a resurgent run that has suddenly propelled them to seventh place, illuminating hopes of a late playoff bid.
However, a figure of profound consistency in the Welsh Capital has been Sheyi Ojo.
Recruited from Premier League champions Liverpool on a season-long loan prior to the start of the season, the move was not met with a great deal of animation in South Wales.
Truthfully, Ojo had not really sculpted a profile of menace in the second-tier, with previous loan spells to Wigan, Wolves and Fulham lacking a desirable output. Similarly, temporary stints at Rangers and across the English Channel with Reims proved to be far from encouraging.
But in the Welsh Capital, Ojo has embraced a new lease of life and is undoubtedly chalking up the finest performances of his career to date.
Featuring in all but two of Cardiff’s Championship affairs, Ojo has found the back of the net five times, accompanied by a creative contribution of six assists.
Currently, only Kieffer Moore has registered more goal involvements than the 23-year old, a thorough illustration of how impressive Ojo has been.
And such form has lead for a hankering from the Cardiff City faithful for their club to make the deal permanent in the summer.
This longing is very easy to justify.
Capable of playing out wide or as a supporting striker, Ojo injects a new dimension in the Bluebirds’ attack, offering versatility, spacial awareness, inventiveness and exquisite ball control as components of his footballing weaponry.
Still, there is an abundance of time for the former England youth International to undergo further improvement too. Whether that is at the Cardiff City Stadium is a matter that can only be decided by time.
Duncan Watmore’s recent trajectory is a narrative of genuine resurrection.
Released by Sunderland at the end of last season after seven years of injury-marred service at the Stadium Of Light, Watmore’s future seemed to entail dim-lit destiny.
After all, the injury-prone forward had been unable to rekindle his career in League One, racking up only four goals and assists over two years in the third tier.
Naturally then , it came as a real surprise when Watmore returned to the North East, penning a short-term contract with playoff hopefuls Middlesbrough.
For all the pessimism and apathy that surrounded the move, Watmore made an instant impact on the River Tees.
A barnstorming return of five goals and an assist in his opening eight matches was rewarded with a two and a half year contract , something which must evoke a sense of anguish amongst Sunderland supporters who witnessed Watmore’s stark deterioration before joining their local foes.
Although Watmore’s productivity has decelerated as of late, it would be bizarre to dismiss the immense improvement from the 26-year old wide man.
If the former Manchester United academy player can recapture his scintillating form, Middlesbrough’s aspirations of sealing a place in the top six will be handed a sizeable advantage.
The second Cardiff City feature on this list, Kieffer Moore’s impact in South Wales has been nothing short of phenomenal.
There was a rightful degree of excitement upon Moore’s summer arrival to the Cardiff City Stadium due to his exploits on the International front and a ten-goal season for Wigan Athletic- though you can bet your last penny that no one anticipated such breathtaking displays from the 28-year old.
According to WhoScored, the Torquay-born Welsh International is the highest-ranked player in the division, achieving an average score of 7.66 to deny the likes of Emi Buendia and Ivan Toney a place at the summit.
This speaks volumes of just how successful the towering forward has proved to be.
In my opinion, you cannot find a more well-rounded striker across the division. Kieffer Moore is a man of many, many strengths and no detectable flaws.
He can do everything you could possibly ask of a centre forward at this level. Boasting an imposing 6’5 frame, Moore is a physical colossus both on the ground and in the air, winning the most aerial duels per game with an outstanding 11.1.
Despite the notion surrounding monumentally-built attackers, Cardiff’s crown jewel possesses a sweet first touch and is more than capable with the ball at his feet. Surprisingly, Moore is also fairly quick in and out of possession, coupled with a willingness to get involved as often as possible by dropping deep and moving around the pitch.
Most importantly though, Moore scores goals- and a lot of them to be precise.
As of present, the adored forward averages a goal every other game, finding the back of the net thirteen times in twenty-six outings.
With sixteen matches still to be played, Moore is well on course to become the first Cardiff player to hit the illusive twenty-goal mark since Peter Whittingham all the way back in the 2009/10 season.
Owning respectable goal returns across a variety of levels in the English football pyramid, Moore was never a bad player. But his astronomical improvement to become one of the Championship’s elite performers makes his inclusion here a worthy one.
Over the last few years, Derby County have been blessed with talented young full backs. Max Lowe and Jayden Bogle made a lasting impression in the East Midlands before going on to play Premier League football, and prospect Lee Buchanan is doing a great job of continuing the current.
At the tender age of nineteen, Buchanan has seamlessly slotted into Championship football, becoming a mainstay in Wayne Rooney’s ascending Derby side.
Speaking to Derbyshire Live, Rooney said “Lee Buchanan has got a really bright future and I am sure he will play for England within the next couple of years.
“He is getting better every game. The small side of the game he needs to improve, he is improving on massively.”
This comes as a testament of the quality Buchanan already holds in his youthful clutches and the awe-striking potential for the future.
Still in his formative years, the Mansfield-born defender is already extremely well equipped. Renowned for his prowess when contesting aerial duels, Buchanan also racks up nearly two tackles per game and 0.7 successful dribbles to boot, the latter being the fourth-highest at Pride Park.
And although the County academy graduate primarily plies his trade in the left-back role, he has occasionally played slightly further up the pitch as a wing-back.
Last term, Buchanan’s first team action was scarce, only making five appearances as the Rams finished tenth in the league. So perhaps, it is astounding how quickly the teenage starlet has embedded into the rigours of Championship football.
Excitingly, it really is indicative of how far Buchanan could progress if he continues to flourish at Derby.
featured image credit sky sports