The winners of the Sky Bet EFL Manager and Player of the Month Awards for January are as follows:
MANAGER OF THE MONTH
Sky Bet Championship: Xisco Munoz (Watford)
Watford manager Xisco Munoz has been named the Sky Bet Championship Manager of the Month for March.
March was moving month for Munoz’s men. They began it embroiled in a three-way fight for the second automatic promotion spot and ended it in style, six points clear of Swansea and Brentford after a perfect five wins and a 12-2 goal differential.
Munoz said: “We enjoy our work and give our maximum. That's important for the group, the players, the staff and the club. The award is for everyone who helps the team.
“Relationships are so important at the training ground. If we are together we have more power. It's amazing when you feel everyone has the same goal and same objective."
Danny Wilson chairs the Sky Bet Manager of the Month judging panel.
He said: “What a great run of results for Watford in March. Five straight wins and 12 goals has propelled Xisco Munoz’s team into second place, with a six point cushion from third placed Swansea in the automatic promotion places.”
Sky Sports’ EFL pundit Don Goodman said: “The Hornets will probably look back at March as a pivotal month as they set themselves apart from the chasing pack in their hunt for automatic promotion.
“When they needed to back up a very decent February, Munoz guided his men to five superb wins on the bounce, putting Watford in prime position for an instant return to the Premier League at the first time of asking.”
Sky Bet EFL trader Ivor Davies said: “The Hornets are now 1/10 from 4/5 at the start of the month to gain promotion straight back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
“Watford were one of the favourites for promotion before the season started at 2/1 but after an indifferent start led to managerial change, Munoz was appointed before the turn of the year and has more than steadied the ship.
“At odds of 1/33, and eight points clear, Norwich look to have the title sewn up, but only Munoz’s Watford at 14/1 could realistically have any sort of chance of catching them now.”
Sky Bet League One: Steve Evans (Gillingham)
Gillingham manager Steve Evans has been named the Sky Bet League One Manager of the Month for March.
His high-energy side didn’t give their opponents a moment’s rest in March, pressing, harrying and playing their way into the play-off places. The 3-0 win at Lincoln was the highlight of a haul of 17 points and 16 goals from eight games.
Evans said: “The award is in recognition of the players really because they have delivered the performances, and some fantastic results along the way.
“It was a period we knew, if we had any hope of getting around the play-offs, we had to get some results. We are a decent side now, full of good players. March was tough, a lot of long journeys and late nights, but well worthwhile.
“The players, and staff, are giving everything to the cause. The boys have been fantastic.”
Danny Wilson chairs the Sky Bet Manager of the Month judging panel.
He said: “The pressure was certainly on Steve Evan’s Gillingham when facing a large number of games in a March but his men responded brilliantly with 17 points gained from their eight fixtures, a brilliant return.”
Sky Sports’ EFL pundit Don Goodman said: “Points at this stage of the season are worth their weight in gold, and Gillingham came out of March with a very decent haul thanks to their frenetic, swash-buckling efforts over the course of the month.
“Steve Evans has his players fighting for every ball, and this mentality led to a mightily impressive 17 points from eight games.”
Sky Bet EFL trader Ivor Davies said: “During a hectic month in League One Steve Evans guided Gillingham to five wins, two draws and one defeat as his side rose from fifteenth place up to sixth during March and at odds of 66/1 have an outside chance of being promoted this season.
“League One is so competitive, but there is no doubting Evans’ managerial ability at this level and he is starting to get the best out of his summer signings like Vadaine Oliver who netted eight goals for him in eight games this month.
“Evans side recorded credible results that included a win against a highly rated Lincoln side and they also took points off league-leaders Hull. In this form Gills fans can be optimistic of a good end to the season and have more than seen off any lingering doubts about relegation.”
Sky Bet League Two: Ian Evatt (Bolton Wanderers)
Bolton Wanderers manager Ian Evatt has been named the Sky Bet League Two Manager of the Month for March.
Remarkably, his side matched its February record in March – five wins, one draw and a 9-3 goal differential from six unbeaten games. That consistent form included crucial wins over promotion rivals Cambridge and Forest Green.
Evatt said: “I’m fortunate enough to be the front for it all but it’s the hard work from everybody that gets you these awards.
“The players, the rest of my staff, the management team and everyone around the club, this is for us all. But I’m sure we’ll swap the three I’ve won already for the big one at the end of the season – that’s the main goal!”
Danny Wilson chairs the Sky Bet Manager of the Month judging panel.
He said: “Managers are always pushing their teams for consistency in their quest for success and Ian Evatt’s Bolton look to have found that with another good month of results.
“Sixteen points from their six games puts them within touching distance of automatic promotion places.”
Sky Sports’ EFL pundit Don Goodman said: “Bolton’s recent run of form has been the very model of consistency, so it’s little wonder that Ian Evatt scoops this award for the second month running.
“His troops extended their unbeaten run until the end of the calendar month, and most impressive of all were their wins over table-toppers Cambridge and a Forest Green side right alongside them in what is proving to be an almighty scrap between plenty of clubs for those top three automatic promotion places.”
Sky Bet EFL trader Ivor Davies said: “Bolton Manager Ian Evatt wins his second award on the bounce and his third overall this season after an incredible turnaround in form since November that saw his Bolton side go from nineteenth place to fourth in the table and just outside of the automatic promotion places on goal difference.
“The Trotters won five and drew the other as they embarked on yet another unbeaten month in March and we saw their odds to gain promotion tumble again from 13/8 at the start of the month into as short as 1/16 after they defeated Forest Green a week ago.
“Sky Bet have Evatt’s side rated as the best in the division now and fully expect them to go on and achieve promotion back to League One at the first time of asking. They are into 12/1 for the title from 33/1 at the start of March.”
PLAYER OF THE MONTH
Sky Bet Championship: Alex Mowatt (Barnsley)
Barnsley midfielder Alex Mowatt has been named the Sky Bet Championship Player of the Month for March.
The captain’s left foot has been a wand of for Barnsley during their superb springtime run. An unstoppable free-kick at QPR was the highlight, but five other goals came from his deliveries into the box at dead balls and in open play.
Barnsley manager Valérien Ismaël said: “A big congratulations to Alex, it’s a great reward for him and also for the team.
“Alex is a big personality at the club and this recognition displays his consistency at this high level.
“He brings big performances, it’s the right choice and he fully deserves to be Sky Bet Championship Player of the Month.”
Mowatt said: “The amount of games we’ve won March and the fact that I was regularly contributing and scoring goals all help, but it’s certainly a team award and a reward for our recent efforts.
“To get this award playing as a midfielder is decent, but I want to kick on and keep scoring and creating chances right up until the end of the season.
Sky Sports’ EFL pundit Don Goodman said: “Barnsley’s run in 2021 has been one of the stories of the season, and key to the Tykes’ success has been their talismanic midfielder.
“Mowatt continues to impress week in week out and is finally fulfilling the potential that everyone saw in him in those early days at Leeds Utd.
“It takes courage to re-build a career when you’ve had to take a step back and Mowatt has displayed that amongst his many other qualities, the stand out of which is that wand of a left foot.”
Sky Bet EFL trader Ivor Davies said: “Barnsley Captain Alex Mowatt was in outstanding form once again during March as he inspired his side to five wins and a draw to lift the Tykes to fifth in the table and firmly in Play-Off contention and as short as 1/5 to finish in the top six.
“This is a far cry from last season as Barnsley only just survived relegation by the skin of their teeth and were expected to be fighting the drop again this time around having been a 4/1 shot to go down before a ball was kicked.
“The club is clearly going in the right direction though both on and off the pitch now and the South Yorkshire outfit are 9/2 to be promoted this season having been 12/1 at the start of the season.”
Sky Bet League One: Vadaine Oliver (Gillingham)
Gillingham striker Vadaine Oliver has been named the Sky Bet League One Player of the Month for March.
March brought a breath-taking eight goals in as many games for a forward who maintained his physicality through a daunting schedule. His angled drive against Ipswich, superb anticipation at Swindon and a towering header against Wigan were the highlights.
Gillingham manager Steve Evans said: “The big man has been excellent all season. There has been a period of four or five weeks where he’s a little bit unplayable. When he’s at his best people can’t deal with him.
“Vadaine lives and breathes it; I love the big fella, I love what he’s about and if a player deserved recognition in our team for being so professional, so humble, and so gifted at times, then it’s Vadaine Oliver.”
Oliver said: “It’s been a great run for myself and the team. On a personal note I am buzzing to win the award.
“My favourite goal has to be my second against Ipswich, cutting in from the side and applying the finish.
“I hadn’t scored for a while and as a striker that gets to you a bit but I sprung on an opportunity at Portsmouth, and from there I just built confidence.”
Sky Sports’ EFL pundit Don Goodman said: “In reality, Steve Evans and Gillingham shouldn’t be anywhere near a Play-Off push given their resources compared to others, but the goals of Vadaine Oliver have gone a long way to giving them a chance of a top six finish.
“To average a goal per game during a calendar month is impressive in itself, but especially during a period which saw Gillingham play eight games in only 29 days.”
Sky Bet EFL trader Ivor Davies said: “Gills striker Vadaine Oliver was in great goal scoring form during March as the forward notched eight goals in as many games to take his tally to fourteen for the season and put him in joint seventh place in the scorer charts.
“The Gills have not lost any league game in which Vadaine has scored in so far this season and with eight league games left and the Kent-based club still chasing a Play-Off spot, Vadaine’s goals will be crucial for Steve Evans side to beat odds of 25/1 to do so.”
Sky Bet League Two: Matt Jay (Exeter City)
Exeter City midfielder Matt Jay has been named the Sky Bet League Two Player of the Month for March.
Five goals and an assist for the central midfielder who has become the fulcrum of Exeter’s attacking play with his vision and energy. He scored a thrilling hat-trick breaking forward against Orient and a stunning free-kick at Scunthorpe.
Exeter City manager Matt Taylor said: “I’m delighted for MJ – it’s deserved recognition for the month, but let’s be honest, he needs recognition for the entire season.
“He’s up there in that group of players vying for Player of the Season and rightly so, his goal return has been fantastic – right place, right time, all action in attack, a real club man and a great person to work with on a daily basis.
“I actually think there’s still more to come from MJ – he’s still learning about how he can affect the game when it’s not always a clean game and there’s no space for him to play in.
“You only have to look at how Tranmere man marked him out of the game, and you don’t often see players get man-marked at our level, and that’s a sign of respect towards what MJ’s done this season.”
Jay said: “Yeah, I’m absolutely delighted. I felt like I had quite a good month in March and it’s nice to be recognised, so I’m very, very pleased.
“It’s been going really well this season, but we’ve only got a few games left so hopefully we can push on as a team and myself, but yeah I’ve had a pretty good season so far and I’m looking forward to finishing it strong.
“The hattrick was probably one of the best moments of my career, up there with this award, so it can sit nicely next to the match ball at home. Everyone deserves the award, but definitely makes it sweeter when you’re up against such great competition.”
Sky Sports’ EFL pundit Don Goodman said: “It wasn’t an ideal month for Exeter as they lost 3 of their 7 games in March, however Matt Jay continued to shine and his five goal haul from midfield were nothing short of outstanding.
“Exeter are by no means out of the fight for promotion and whilst they have Matt Jay in this form, you’d be foolish to rule them out.”
Sky Bet EFL trader Ivor Davies said: “Matt Jay had only scored fourteen goals for Exeter prior to this season but has found the net eighteen times so far this, including another five goals during March to help spear-head the Grecians push for promotion.
“Exeter are invariably one of the favourites for promotion and this season was no different with the Devon club chalked up at 11/4 to finally get out of League Two before a ball was kicked.
“They are still that price now after a couple of bad results in the last couple of weeks having been as short as 11/10 at the start of the month but Jay has still been in good scoring and form and with a bit more luck the Grecians will soon be back in the Play-Off
“Jay is 66/1 to win the top scorer award but Mullin looks to have that sewn up now – the Cambridge striker is ten clear of nearest challenger Vaughan and twelve clear of Jay in third.”