Coventry City 5-6 Luton: Championship play-off final combined XI features Leeds, Man City loanees
A fairytale ending to the season awaits Coventry City or Luton Town as the second-tier overachievers meet in the Championship play-off final at Wembley.
Each club have overcome great off-field adversity to reach this stage and as the split of this combined XI proves, there is little separating the sides ahead of the richest game in football.
Four-four-f***ing-two is usually the formation of choice for combined XIs, but seeing as Coventry and Luton play with three at the back, I’ve moved with the times and gone for a 3-5-2 set-up. Anyhow, let’s get down to it…
GK: Ben Wilson (Coventry City)
Wilson was Simon Moore’s back-up in 2021/22 but this season he has gone above and beyond as Mark Robins’ first choice between the sticks.
The 30-year-old made it into the Championship Team of the Season for the 2022/23 campaign and he was as reliable as ever in the play-off semi-finals.
He kept two clean sheets against Michael Carrick’s Middlesborough, who are hardly lacking in firepower with 28-goal Chuba Akpom at their disposal. That’s now 22 clean sheets in 43 games this season for Wilson, which is pretty damned good.
RWB: Cody Drameh (Luton Town)
The task of replacing James Bree in January would not have been easy, but in Leeds United youngster Drameh, Luton recruited a gem who is set for a big future.
For the Hatters, Drameh has shown Leeds what they are missing by slotting seamlessly into Rob Edwards’ set-up at Kenilworth Road.
Drameh will have a huge summer whether Luton go up or not. Leeds will have to stop dilly-dallying with his integration as transfer guru Fabrizio Romano reckons ‘Premier League and European clubs are monitoring his situation closely’.
CB: Tom Lockyer (Luton Town)
Luton challenged Burnley and Sheffield United to have the third-best defence in the Championship this season and this would not be possible without the reliable presence of Lockyer at the back.
The Wales international has been sensational for the Hatters and he’s the glue that holds the rest of the team together.
Luton have a plethora of low-cost sensations scattered through their side. Lockyer – signed on a free transfer from Charlton Athletic in 2020 – is among the best and he’s stepped up to take the leadership mantle from Sonny Bradley with aplomb.
CB: Callum Doyle (Coventry City)
Man City have clinched their third straight Premier League title and you’d be pretty foolish to back against them completing the treble.
Pep Guardiola has an extraordinary team and it is pretty unfair he is also well covered in the youth department, with Doyle one of their brightest young prospects.
The Championship is often the honing ground for Premier League stars of the future and Doyle is primed to make that next step after passing tests at Sunderland and Coventry with flying colours. Between him and Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Man City are potentially well-equipped in defence for many years to come as both players are on track to eventually break through at the Etihad.
CB: Luke McNally (Coventry City)
Coventry benefited from Burnley’s charitable nature in January by taking McNally – who joined the Clarets for £2m from Oxford United last year – on loan for the rest of the season.
The two play-off finalists work on a shoestring and they often have to rely on the loan and free agent market for their signings. But McNally has been as good as any multi-million-pound addition as he’s formed an excellent partnership with Doyle and 36-year-old Kyle McFadzean, who is showing no sign of ageing.
LWB: Alfie Doughty (Luton Town)
It is difficult to pick faults in Luton’s side. They do all of the basics very well and they are – excuse the technical term – a proper team.
Attacking-wise, a lot of their success comes via the flanks and that is where Doughty comes in. Signed from Stoke City last summer, he was on the periphery at the start of this season but he has come into his own since Edwards was appointed as Nathan Jones’ successor.
The 23-year-old has contributed with nine-goal involvements – including an assist in the play-off semi-final second leg vs Sunderland – and he is only going to get better.
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CM: Gustavo Hamer (Coventry City)
Coventry were never going to have much of the ball against Boro and a moment of magic on the counter-attack was required to settle the tie. Luckily for them, they have Hamer and he rose to the occasion to find the net with a stunning finish to send his team to Wembley.
It really is about time we saw Hamer in the Premier League. As fun as it’s been to watch him in the Championship, he deserves to play at a higher level and he may well get that opportunity next season.
His ten goals and ten assists this term really do not tell the whole story, either. Hamer is also a tireless worker and he must be a dream player for Robins to manage.
CM: Marvelous Nakamba (Luton Town)
Marvelous by name and marvellous by nature…
While Coventry recruited McNally in January, Luton raided Aston Villa to sign Nakamba on loan and the defensive midfielder has been a superb addition.
Injuries have impacted the £11m man’s time at Villa Park but Luton pulled off a bit of a coup to get him on loan for the run-in. The Zimbabwe international has managed to get his career back on track during this spell while being a fierce operator in midfield.
CM: Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu (Luton Town)
Luton and Coventry really have been on quite the journey as they have risen through the divisions. The Hatters were in the Conference in 2014 and nine years on they are on the cusp of the Premier League.
Former non-league player Ruddock Mpanzu has been present throughout this stretch and he’s made over 350 appearances for Luton in the process.
The 29-year-old has played a vital role during the run-in and he is still more than justifying his place in the team. There are many reasons why you would want Luton (or Coventry, to be honest) to get promoted and Ruddock Mpanzu becoming a Premier League player is certainly among them.
ST: Carlton Morris (Luton Town)
Luton pushed the boat out last summer and spent £1.7m to sign Morris from Barnsley. They were questioned for using this money to sign the 27-year-old, who had not previously set the world alight in the Championship.
But Luton rarely get transfers wrong and Morris has been another major hit at Kenilworth Road. He has enjoyed his best season to date on a personal level as he has grabbed 20 goals and seven assists for the promotion-chasers.
Morris has always had natural ability and he has now grown into his body to become an all-round striker for Luton and they have reaped the rewards of his progress.
ST: Viktor Gyokeres (Coventry City)
Akpom has somewhat stolen the headlines from other Championship strikers this season but Gyokeres’ achievements have not gone unnoticed.
His 22-goal involvements campaign of 2021/22 has been followed with a season that’s seen him grab 21 goals and 11 assists for Coventry in the league.
There is not much between Coventry and Luton ahead of their date at Wembley. But Gyokeres and Hamer are box-office and if anyone is going to deliver a match-winning moment, they are the most likely candidates.
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