The 2021/22 EFL Championship campaign generated storylines up and down the division and was adorned with breakout stars throughout who will no doubt be attracting Premier League interest this summer.
Pre-season promotion favourites Fulham and Bournemouth lived up to the hype as they secured automatic promotion with games to spare, but it was the playoff race that produced the most drama.
Huddersfield and Luton enjoyed playoff finishes against the odds thanks to the incredible work of Carlos Corberan and Nathan Jones respectively, but it was Nottingham Forest who won the hearts of the neutrals.
At the other end of the table, Peterborough were condemned to an immediate return to League One. The Posh were joined in the bottom three by last season's play-off semi-finalists Barnsley, while Derby County came up short in their effort to overturn a 21-point deduction.
With the 2021/22 season now wrapped up, it's time to take a look at the standout players throughout the EFL Championship.
GK: Lee Nicholls, Huddersfield Town
Nottingham Forest's Brice Samba stole the headlines during the play-offs following his heroic penalty shoot-out display against Sheffield United, but it was Huddersfield's Lee Nicholls who impressed most throughout the season.
The 29-year-old had been out of favour at MK Dons before joining the Terriers in the summer but became a vital cog in Carlos Corberan's side. His impressive distribution and game management ability proved priceless as the Yorkshire side claimed a third-place finish and play-off final appearance.
Honourable mentions: Mark Travers (Bournemouth), Daniel Iverson (Preston)
RB: Djed Spence, Nottingham Forest
Few players have seen their stock blossom in the past 12 months as much as Djed Spence. Neil Warnock allowed Spence to leave Middlesbrough on loan last summer with Nottingham Forest snapping him up, and he fast became one of the hottest prospects in the Championship.
Eye-catching FA Cup performances against Arsenal and Leicester City, turned the 21-year-old into something of a household name with Nottingham Forest now set to battle Europe's elite to bring him to the City Ground on a permanent basis.
Honourable mentions: James Bree (Luton Town), Andy Yiadom (Reading)
CB: Joe Worrall, Nottingham Forest
This selection was a close call between Joe Worrall and his Nottingham Forest counterpart Scott McKenna, but the club captain has had an immense influence in the turnaround of the club's fortunes over the past 12 months. Playing on the right of Forest's back three, the 25-year-old has come on leaps and bounds under Steve Cooper and will no doubt attract Premier League interest this summer.
Honourable mentions: Scott McKenna (Nottingham Forest), Levi Colwill (Huddersfield Town)
CB: Kal Naismith, Luton Town
Luton's fairytale run to the playoffs eventually ended with a semi-final defeat to Huddersfield, but Kal Naismith's stock has risen exponentially thanks to his standout performances in the Hatters' backline. The experienced defender's aerial prowess and ability to carry the ball out from the back earned him eight assists from central defence and a place in our team of the season.
Naismith raised eyebrows in May when he confirmed he'll be turning out for Bristol City in the 2022/23 campaign, but the Scottish international will be a welcome influence alongside the talented centre-back options of Tomas Kalas, Robbie Cundy and Rob Atkinson already on the Robins' books.
Honourable mentions: Lloyd Kelly (Bournemouth), Tosin Adarabioyo (Fulham)
LB: Harry Toffolo, Huddersfield Town
Levi Colwill, Sorba Thomas and Lewis O'Brien were often lauded this season, but Harry Toffolo was arguably the most important cog in Carlos Corberan's counter-attacking unit. The left-back had already enjoyed a breakthrough season last year, but pushed his game to the next level in the 2021/22 campaign.
An adept defender but also a serious attacking outlet, Toffolo was ever-present as Corberan toggled between a 4-3-3 and 3-4-3 system, chipping in with six goals and eight assists from a wing-back role. His marauding runs and ability to cross from deep or break into the box and cross from the byline took the creative burden off the electric Sorba Thomas, and helped to guide Huddersfield to a third-place finish.
Honourable mentions: Murray Wallace (Millwall), Jordan Zemura (Bournemouth)
CM: John Swift, Reading
A string of hamstring injuries resigned John Swift to a frustrating 2020/21 campaign as Reading narrowly missed out on the play-offs, but while most of that squad struggled to recapture that form in the 2021/22 season, Swift produced the best season of his career to date. The Royals were facing relegation to League One following a six-point deduction, but the graceful playmaker stepped up his game, scoring 11 goals and registering 13 assists from midfield as Reading narrowly avoided the drop.
An immense start saw him rack up nine goal involvements in the first seven games, topped off by a hat-trick in a 3-3 draw against QPR. While results tailed off for Reading after November, Swift was often the sole creative outlet as the Royals limped to survival.
Honourable mentions: Ryan Yates (Nottingham Forest), Philip Billing (Bournemouth), Matt Crooks (Middlesbrough)
CM: Lewis O'Brien, Huddersfield Town
In Lewis O'Brien, Huddersfield have a Premier League midfielder playing in the second tier. The Terriers fended off interest from Leeds United to keep hold of the academy graduate last season and Jesse Marsch's side remains interested heading into the summer, and for good reason. O'Brien has all the attributes of a top-level number eight with the ability to recover the ball in his own half, but also to progress the ball forward, either through driving runs from midfield or by playing the simple ball.
What stands out most about O'Brien though is his energy. The 23-year-old midfielder is a pressing machine and his ability to cover both boxes deep into games has made him an indispensable part of Corberan's counter-attacking system.
Honourable mentions: Gustavo Hamer (Coventry City), Flynn Downes (Swansea City), Matt Grimes (Swansea City)
RW: Harry Wilson, Fulham
Fulham made a huge statement of intent last summer when they confirmed a loan-to-buy deal for Liverpool winger Harry Wilson and the Welsh international duly delivered on his promises. Strong loan spells with Derby and Cardiff had cemented Wilson's name among the best wide players in the division, but the 2021/22 season saw his game elevate to new levels.
Wilson outshone Liverpool-bound wonderkid Fabio Carvalho to establish himself as Fulham's main creative outlet, registering ten goals and 19 assists. So impressive was Wilson's creative streak that he finished the regular campaign with six more assists than any other Championship player.
Honourable mentions: Chris Willock (QPR), Isaiah Jones (Middlesbrough)
CAM: Andreas Weimann, Bristol City
Andreas Weimann has been a name on the lips of Championship fans for over a decade, making his second-tier debut on loan at Watford, but 12 years later, aged 30, the Austrian has redefined himself with an incredible season. Bristol City's 2021/22 campaign was riddled with inconsistency and gathering momentum became impossible with Nigel Pearson chopping and changing the starting XI on a weekly basis. Wiemann, however, remained a consistent threat.
Deployed in a deeper role behind the more physical Antoine Semenyo and Chris Martin, Weimann thrived scoring 22 league goals and registering ten assists in a groundbreaking season. The versatile forward's output was all the more impressive when you consider Bristol City's finishing position of 17th, and the constantly changing cast of central midfielders deployed behind him.
LW: Ben Brereton Diaz, Blackburn Rovers
His switch to represent the Chilean national team turned him into a cult hero, but it was his antics in front of goal that earn Ben Brereton Diaz his spot in this team of the season. Heading into the 2021/22 season, Brereton Diaz had never hit double figures, but the versatile forward notched up 22 league goals, most of which came in the first half of the season.
While he was often deployed as the left striker in a 3-4-1-2 system, the 23-year-old scored ten goals in as many starts off the left as Blackburn soared from mid-table dwellers to genuine promotion contenders.
Honourable mentions: Joël Piroe (Swansea City), Sorba Thomas (Huddersfield Town)
ST: Aleksandar Mitrovic, Fulham
Aleksandar Mitrovic's 2021/22 campaign will go down in legend. The prolific Serbian international has been a deadly threat in his previous campaigns at this level, but thanks to the service of Fabio Carvalho and Harry Wilson, he produced a record-breaking 43 league goals, far eclipsing the 31-goal record notched by Ivan Toney just one season prior.
Marco Silva deserves immense credit for optimising the setup at Fulham with Mitrovic thriving off a less-structured approach. Fulham's talisman found himself out of favour under Scott Parker last time the Cottagers were in the Premier League, but the story will be different this time around.
Honourable mentions: Dominic Solanke (Bournemouth), Elijah Adebayo (Luton Town), Brennan Johnson (Nottingham Forest)
For more articles like this, take a look at our Sports page.