Norwich City star following in the footsteps of Gareth Bale and Dele Alli
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City’s rising star Max Aarons is following in the footsteps of international stars including Gareth Bale and Dele Alli on the path to football’s top table.
The speedy right-back became the first Canaries player to be crowned the EFL Young Player of the Season when his name was called out at the glitzy EFL Awards in London on Sunday evening.
He went one better than City’s star of last season, James Maddison, who was nominated but missed out to Fulham ace Ryan Sessegnon a year ago – before going on to shine in the Premier League for Leicester City after a move worth in excess of £20million.
City’s top scorer Teemu Pukki was also on stage at the Grosvenor House Hotel as he became the first Norwich player to claim the event’s top gong, being named Championship Player of the Season.
The EFL Awards were established in 2006 and the player winning the Championship award has been a member of a team which went on to seal promotion on all but three occasions.
However, the Finland international will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Kevin Phillips (West Brom), Sylvan Ebanks-Blake (Wolves), Kevin Nolan (Newcastle), Adel Taarabt (QPR) and Andre Gray (Burnley) in going on to finish his fantastic personal season by winning the title.
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To put Pukki’s 26-goal season – so far – in perspective, Gray scored 25 to fire Burnley to the title in 2016, before signing for Watford a year later for a reported £18million and is only 13 months younger than the Finn, who turned 29 last month.
The powerful striker has been a regular for the Hornets this season, although he has scored only five goals, and helped seal a place in the FA Cup final during Sunday’s 3-2 win over Wolves at Wembley.
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While the winners of that award have had mixed success once in the top flight, the Young Player of the Season winners have gone on to enjoy plenty of success.
Real Madrid and Wales superstar Bale is the headline name, claiming the 2006 crown after his breakthrough Championship season with Southampton, with 11 assists and five goals in 38 games – all before his 18th birthday.
While winning four Champions Leagues may be a rather high bar for Aarons, winning such a prestigious award has the football world at his feet, as a quick look through the other winners demonstrates.
Fabian Delph and Nathaniel Clyne have both gone on to play for England and top Premier League clubs, Wilfried Zaha may not have cut it at Manchester United but is certainly a top-tier star for Crystal Palace.
Former Derby midfielder Will Hughes is alongside Gray at Watford in competing in the top half of the Premier League and preparing for an FA Cup final, while England and Spurs star Dele Alli only won the gong in 2015 and has already played in a World Cup semi-final.
It brings no guarantees, as Sessegnon has found as Fulham slipped to relegation this season, but the 18-year-old is expected to be snapped up by one of the big boys.
Yet all City fans can already see that Aarons has all the attributes to make it at the top level.
• EFL Young Player of the Season winners
2006 – David Nugent (Preston)
2007 – Gareth Bale (Southampton)
2008 – Michael Kightly (Wolves)
2009 – Fabian Delph (Leeds)
2010 – Nathaniel Clyne (C Palace)
2011 – Connor Wickham (Ipswich)
2012 – Wilfried Zaha (C Palace)
2013 – Tom Ince (Blackpool)
2014 – Will Hughes (Derby)
2015 – Dele Alli (MK Dons)
2016 – Lewis Cook (Leeds)
2017 – Ollie Watkins (Exeter)
2018 – Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham)
• Championship Player of the Season winners
2006 – Phil Jagielka (Sheff Utd)**
2007 – Jason Koumas (West Brom)
2008 – Kevin Phillips (West Brom)*
2009 – Sylvan Ebanks-Blake (Wolves)*
2010 – Kevin Nolan (Newcastle)*
2011 – Adel Taarabt (QPR)*
2012 – Rickie Lambert (Southampton)**
2013 – Matej Vydra (Watford)
2014 – Danny Ings (Burnley)**
2015 – Patrick Bamford (Boro)
2016 – Andre Gray (Burnley)*
2017 – Anthony Knockaert (Brighton)**
2018 – Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham)**