The top 10 best players in the 2023/24 Championship - including Sunderland, Hull and QPR stars

Ranking and rating the ten best players in the Championship as EFL action returns for the 2023/24 season.
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Thank god that football is back. Until the Women’s World Cup kicked off we’d had to endure a seven-week desert devoid of any joy or excitement. Well, perhaps not a desert for those of us in England, anyway, it’s barely stopped raining. But now joy is back and the weather doesn’t matter, because the season gets back underway this very weekend.

To celebrate the long-awaited return of EFL football, we’ve decided to give you a run-down of the top ten best players in the Championship, by way of an amuse bouche ahead of the action. We’ve excluded players coming down from the Premier League this season, partly because their qualities are well known to all and partly because most of them will be gone by the beginning of September.

So these are the ten most exciting, talented and eye-catching players who will be strutting their stuff this weekend (and for the next 45 matches to come).

10. Dominic Hyam – Blackburn Rovers

A Scotland international centre-back who made his name at Coventry City before joining Blackburn at the top end of last season – eventually being named their player of the season for his efforts, which included an outrageous close-range scorpion kick goal against Watford.

Despite his substantial six-foot-two frame, Hyam is pretty handy with the ball at his feet and has settled well into the quick-paced passing style of Jon Dahl Tomasson’s team. Still a pretty towering presence at the back, mind you, and one of the best all-round centre-halves in a division stacked at that position.

9. Ben Cabango – Swansea City

Speaking of which… 23-year-old Welshman Cabango has been one of the most talked-about talents in the Championship for a few season now, and he’s increasingly adding maturity to a game which has no shortage of talent.

Swansea’s slow-burn passing style suits Cabango’s technically-gifted game down to the ground and he’s starting to establish himself in the national side as well. Remains to be seen how long Swansea (who neutrals would politely describe as “frequently quite boring”) can keep hold of him.

8. Gustavo Hamer – Coventry City

The Brazilian-born midfielder has become the beating heart of a Coventry side who get closer to a Premier League return with each passing season – although both Burnley and Fulham have been linked with a move for Hamer this summer. Without him, Coventry would likely be half the side.

Hamer remains the standout star man at Coventry City Hamer remains the standout star man at Coventry City
Hamer remains the standout star man at Coventry City

Immensely industrious, capable of setting the tempo for everyone around him and with a knack of scoring seriously good goals at opportune moments, the 26-year-old is certainly his side’s most important player now that striker Viktor Gyökeres has departed for Sporting CP.

7. Jacob Greaves – Hull City

Winner of his club’s Young Player of the Year award for three consecutive seasons, the lanky frame of 22-year-old Jacob Greaves is rapidly becoming a seriously respected sight among Championship strikers.

Not necessarily the most technically-blessed player in the division, but so effective that it barely matters. He’s utterly dominant in the air, rarely misses a tackle and is a pretty impressive figure from set pieces too, netting four times this season. As we said, pretty good division for centre-backs – although it surely won’t be long before the top tier comes calling.

6. Zian Flemming – Millwall

Arriving with precious little fanfare from Fortuna Sittard last summer, Flemming hit 15 goals in his first season in English football and established himself immediately as a fan favourite – and as £1.7m extremely well spent.

Flemming proved to be a goal machine for Millwall last season Flemming proved to be a goal machine for Millwall last season
Flemming proved to be a goal machine for Millwall last season

He’s also just so very… Millwall. In that he has some of the worst passing, dribbling and crossing stats you can ever imagine, but nevertheless manages to hare round the field smashing the ball into the net and generally making a complete nuisance of himself. Perhaps not the prettiest player, but certainly among the most effective

5. Ilias Chair – QPR

The Moroccan international, who was a benchwarmer during his country’s stunning World Cup campaign in Qatar, would probably be higher up this list if it weren’t for his club’s struggles last campaign under Gareth Ainsworth – but you don’t have to cast your mind back too far to remember when Chair was one of the greatest creative forces in the English game.

He’s a brilliant dribbler, a magnificent passer, and knows where the net is – and on song, is an absolute joy to watch. Oh, and let’s get one thing straight ahead of the new season – it’s pronounced Kie-eer. Not like something you sit on. I suspect he’d be grateful if we could correct ourselves on that one.

4. Jack Clarke – Sunderland

Just 22 years of age and coming off the back of one of the greatest breakthrough seasons in recent second tier history, Clarke is a huge prospect for the Black Cats and is already generating substantial interest from the division above.

A versatile forward who can play across the front line, Clarke has tremendous ball skills, a great passing range and a knack for killer quick interchanges down the channels. 20 goal contributions in his first season as a senior regular tells its own story – a story which Sunderland fans will hope has a little while longer to run in the North East.

3. Joël Piroe – Swansea City

We’ve waxed lyrical before about the dangerous Dutch striker, and as it stands it looks like we’ll get to enjoy one more season from him in the Championship before his contract in South Wales runs out.

That’s great news for Swansea fans, who get a third straight season from a 20-goal striker who happens to have a pretty nifty all-round game as well. Genuinely two-footed and with one of the crispest finishes in the game, Piroe doesn’t just score good goals, he scores good-looking goals. And lots of them.

2. Alex Scott – Bristol City

It’s pretty unlikely that Scott will be able to sit on this list for much longer – the Premier League sharks are circling the cage, with Bournemouth reportedly the most likely to take a bite as it stands. But even if his spell in Bristol is brief, he’ll be very fondly remembered indeed for a sublime 2022/23 season.

Incredibly dynamic, a fine dribbler and capable of both turning the ball over with impunity and getting his team up the other end quickly, Scott is pretty close to being the complete central midfielder – apart from the fact that he isn’t really a goalscorer. He is a ceaselessly energetic midfield engine room, however, and we can expect to hear an awful lot more from him over the coming years.

1. Chuba Akpom – Middlesbrough

Who else could it be after a relentlessly brilliant campaign for Boro? His 28 goals almost catapulted the Teeside team all the way from the relegation zone to the Premier League after Michael Carrick took charge at the Riverside, and he deserved every last one of them.

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Nobody would describe Akpom – who was born in London but has declared his intention to play for Nigeria if given the chance – as a particular subtle player, but he’s undeniably effective. He leaves a defender for dead, you pass him the ball, he scores. Repeat ad infinitum. So good at what he does that he’s practically a cheat code for the Championship.