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: Steve Cooper (Swansea City)
Swansea City manager Steve Cooper has been named the Sky Bet Championship Manager of the Month for January.
A difficult-looking run of fixtures, including meetings with promotion rivals Watford and Brentford, was navigated with ease by Cooper whose ability to adapt his side’s style helped accumulate 10 points from four unbeaten games.
Danny Wilson chairs the Sky Bet Manager of the Month judging panel.
He said: “Steve’s team had a ten point return in January, scoring eight goals in the process.
“Gaining four points against promotion rivals Watford and Brentford left the club hot on the heels of league leaders Norwich.”
Sky Sports’ EFL pundit Don Goodman said: “January looked a tricky month on paper for the Swans, but Steve Cooper’s side rose to the task admirably. While balancing an impressive-looking FA Cup run, they picked up 10 points from a possible twelve in the league, despite a couple of tricky looking away games against Barnsley & Rotherham.
“Swansea are set to be right in the mix for automatic promotion to the Premier League if they can maintain this consistency, and if they do, they’ll reflect on the month of January as being very significant.”
Sky Bet EFL trader Ivor Davies said: “Steve Cooper’s Swansea are now odds on at 10/11 from 11/4 at the start of the year to gain promotion to the Premier League after his side won four and drew the other in January to take them up to third place in the table; just two points off top with a game in hand.
“Sky Bet currently rate them as third favourites to go up behind Brentford and Norwich and we have been slowly increasing the Swans rating each week since they embarked on this current ten game unbeaten run.
“After a productive transfer window with Cooper bringing in top quality players like Conor Hourihane we expect them to be right in the mix for promotion at the end of this season.
“Swansea are 9/2 to go up as Champions, from 18/1 before a ball was kicked.”
Sky Bet League One: Grant McCann (Hull City)
Hull City manager Grant McCann has been named the Sky Bet League One Manager of the Month for January.
No League One team accumulated more points in January, with 14 from their seven games. McCann managed his squad superbly, keeping his players fresh and hungry, never more so than in the stunning 4-0 win at Portsmouth.
McCann said: “It’s pleasing but this award is not about me, it’s about the collective. It’s about the team, it’s about the squad, it’s about the staff. We’ve made a real conscious effort this year that everything is about us.
“There’s no ‘I’, we’re all in this together. We talk about the ‘surrender the me for the we’ and that’s what we’re about. This year, it’s all about us.
“I’m pleased for everyone that we’ve been recognised for the 14 points from the seven games in January. It was a good turn of form from the new year that has put us in a good position.”
Danny Wilson chairs the Sky Bet Manager of the Month judging panel.
He said: “What a fantastic run in January for Hull. Grant has instilled that winning mentality in his players and accumulated 14 points from seven games, resulting in the club sitting joint top of League One.”
Sky Sports’ EFL pundit Don Goodman said: “It was important after a very disappointing December in which they won just one of their five matches, that Hull bounced back in January, as the competition at the top of League One is fierce.
“McCann clearly has his players in the right frame of mind, and big wins over promotion rivals like Portsmouth, Charlton & Accrington can only boost confidence and belief in their quest for promotion back to the Championship.”
Sky Bet EFL trader Ivor Davies said: “Grant McCann’s Hull produced some eye-catching displays in recent weeks and Sky Bet now rate them as the best team in League One and as short as 2/1 to win the title, from 4/1 at the start of the month.
“After being in freefall at the back of last season which ultimately led to their relegation from the Championship, McCann has steadied the ship, despite last weekend’s 1-0 shock defeat to Burton.
“Sky Bet see this as just a slight blip, and as their odds-on price (1/2) indicates, we are expecting them to go straight back up to the Championship at the first time of asking.”
Sky Bet League Two: Mark Bonner (Cambridge United)
Cambridge United manager Mark Bonner has been named the Sky Bet League Two Manager of the Month for January.
A stellar start to the season was followed by an early winter swoon, which makes his team’s January renaissance all the more remarkable, collecting 14 points from six unbeaten games as they moved back to the top of League Two.
Bonner said: "It’s a privilege to receive this award on behalf of the team after a tough and challenging, but ultimately rewarding month in January.
“Off the back of a disappointing December, and in amongst the testing conditions bought about by Covid and the weather, we have shown a resilience and grit in many of the performances to come out on the right side of the results.
"We hope that the lessons learned and the results gained strengthen our belief and confidence as we eat into the second half of the season.
“The challenges ahead are big ones, but we are enjoying competing to remain in the top half of the table, and remain motivated to continue fighting to stay there.
"This particular award is testament to the committed and skilled team behind the team, and to the players themselves for some excellent performances.”
Danny Wilson chairs the Sky Bet Manager of the Month judging panel.
He said: “Unbeaten in January and gathering 14 points leaves Mark and his team in pole position going into February.”
Sky Sports’ EFL pundit Don Goodman said: “Cambridge were the darlings of League Two after their blistering start to the season, but there were considerable worries when having lost only two all season, they proceeded to lose five of seven in December.
“Mark Bonner kept the faith though, and his team pulled through for him in January in remarkable fashion. Nobody could keep the pace during an unbeaten six-game stretch, and it has led to Cambridge once again sitting atop the table.”
Sky Bet EFL trader Ivor Davies said: “Mark Bonner wins his second manager of the month award of the season after guiding his Cambridge team to four wins and two draws in January as they continue to defy the odds and sit top of League Two with over half of the campaign completed.
“The U’s currently sit three points clear at the top and are an 8/1 shot for the title (50/1 before a ball was kicked) but there are as many as eight teams that would class themselves as in the title running and League Two really is a fascinating puzzle that looks like going down to the wire.
“The job that Bonner and his coaching staff have done at The Abbey has massively exceeded all expectations and Cambridge are in with a genuine chance of promotion now at 11/8 from 9/1 at the start of the season.”
PLAYER OF THE MONTH
Sky Bet Championship: Matt Crooks (Rotherham United)
Rotherham United midfielder Matt Crooks has been named the Sky Bet Championship Player of the Month for January.
Not always the easiest on the eye, Crooks’ technique is under-appreciated, witness his low volley against Middlesbrough, one of three January goals he scored bursting from midfield to mark the anniversary of his friend Jordan Sinnott’s untimely death.
Crooks said: “I’m obviously delighted to win the individual award. I know it sounds a bit cliché’ but I’d like to thank the staff and all of the lads for putting together a good set of results and performances that have allowed me to produce the form that I have over the last month or so.
“The lads as a collective have been brilliant, so credit must go to them too.
“Obviously the award is for the month of January, a year on from Sin’s [Jordan Sinnott’s] passing. I’d like to think he’s looking down on me and has given me some luck for the month and something for us all to smile about.
“We have the charity set up in his memory which we’re continuing to put a lot of work into away from football. If anyone would like to take a look or make a small donation that would be wonderful and would be greatly appreciated by all of us.
“The website is www.js25.co.uk – we’re just getting started but if anyone would like to support us, you’d be more than welcome.”
Sky Sports’ EFL pundit Don Goodman said: “He might not be the most well-known player in the Sky Bet Championship but there’s simply no doubting the effectiveness of Rotherham’s Matt Crooks who having made his way from the lower leagues is now flourishing at Championship level.
“There are fewer better sights in football than an attacking midfielder charging through the defensive ranks on his way to the scoresheet, and Crooks made a habit of this in January, striking three times in a great personal run for the Millers.”
Sky Bet EFL trader Ivor Davies said: “Rotherham midfielder Matt Crooks scored three goals in January to take his tally to five league goals for the season.
“Crooks starred in a Rotherham side that won two, drew one and lost one last month to take them one point clear of the relegation zone.
“Rotherham were one of the favourites for relegation at the start of the season at 2/1, but are currently priced at 4/1 to go straight back down to League One.
“If Crooks continues his good form through the rest of the season, Millers fans can be hopeful that it will go some way to snapping the yo-yo club reputation they have by staying in the division.”
Sky Bet League One: Matthew Lund (Rochdale)
Rochdale midfielder Matthew Lund has been named the Sky Bet League One Player of the Month for January.
No player typifies Rochdale’s all-action approach better than Lund, combining creativity and passing ability with energy and coolness in front of goal, and constantly bursting forward to score four goals and add three assists.
Rochdale manager Brian Barry-Murphy said: “It’s fantastic recognition for Matthew, who has been amazing for us all season. Without even realising it, he has become a mentor and a great influence on all of the squad. He has become a real senior figure in our squad and someone who the players look up to and admire, and rely on for leadership.
“He has always been a really dangerous player attacking-wise for us, but he has taken it to the next level this season. He’d be the first one to acknowledge that the players have been doing everything in their power to provide him with the ammunition he needs, but there has been nobody better at getting into the box from midfield and forward areas this season. We’re very privileged and very happy to have him at our club.”
Lund said: “Personally, and for the squad, it’s a positive thing for us all. I’m glad I’ve got the recognition for January because I thought it was a good month for me. Having scored a few goals I thought I might be in contention to win it, so it’s obviously nice to be recognised and for people to see what we’re doing at Rochdale.
“I’m full of confidence - I always go into games thinking I can score goals. This year it has probably paid off a little bit more and the chances seem to be going in a lot more, which I’m pleased about from a personal aspect. It’s something that I always look to do in games, get close to goal and try to get as many as I can for the season. They’re coming a little bit faster than they usually do, so I’m quite happy with that.”
Sky Sports’ EFL pundit Don Goodman said: “If it’s goals you want, then Rochdale are the team to follow, as they can’t stop scoring at one end but can’t keep the ball out of their own net at the other! A remarkable 35 goals found the net in seven Rochdale games and of the 17 they scored, Matty Lund was involved in plenty.
“A quartet of goals and three assists is a sensational return for a player who resides in the midfield area and he’s more than deserving of this award.”
Sky Bet EFL trader Ivor Davies said: “Matty Lund was outstanding during January in a struggling Rochdale side that won just one game in seven.
“The midfielder scored four goals and assisted three others as Rochdale finished the month just two points above the relegation zone.
“Lund is Dale’s top scorer so far with ten goals and currently sits in eighth place in the scorer charts (six off Luke Jephcott at the top) and is priced at 100/1 to win the Golden Boot.”
Sky Bet League Two: Wes Hoolahan (Cambridge United)
Cambridge United winger Wes Hoolahan has been named the Sky Bet League Two Player of the Month for January.
It is such a pity that League Two fans are missing out on seeing Hoolahan’s silky smooth skills first hand. The 38-year-old danced his way around and through defences in January, contributing two goals and two assists as Cambridge went top.
Hoolahan said: "It's been a great month. We won so many games and went through January unbeaten, so it really has been a positive month. It's certainly been nice to get the assists and a couple of goals to go with it. I'm delighted to win this award, but I couldn't have done it without any of the other lads.
"It's going really well, I'm hoping we can continue this journey and pick up plenty more points along the way.”
Sky Sports’ EFL pundit Don Goodman said: “He just keeps on going! He may be 38, but Wes Hoolahan has produced magical moments throughout his career and the magic hasn’t stopped yet.
“What a coup it was when Cambridge secured his signature and his opponents in League Two certainly all know it.
“The former Premier League midfielder was instrumental to Cambridge’s rise back up the league in January, knocking in two goals of his own and creating two more for his teammates.”
Sky Bet EFL trader Ivor Davies said: “At the age of 38 the evergreen Wes Hoolahan is still pulling the strings in the heart of Cambridge’s midfield as he helped his side win four and draw two in January to send the U’s to the top of League Two.
“The former Republic of Ireland international was in peak form during January scoring two and assisting two more.
“He completed the full ninety minutes in five out of six games and it would be no surprise if he were to lead Cambridge to promotion, at the relatively short price of 11/8 from 9/1 at the start of the season.”