Chief Sports Writer Scott Wilson selects his North-East Team of the Season for the 2020-21 season...



He didn’t make his first league appearance of the season until February, but having replaced Karl Darlow in the Newcastle team, Dubravka quickly set about confirming his status as one of the best goalkeepers in the country.

The Northern Echo:

The Slovakian, who will hope to start for his country at the Euros this summer, produced a string of fine displays in the final three months of the season, with his stand-out save denying Ayoze Perez in the dying seconds of Newcastle’s 4-2 win at Leicester.



Sterry’s career looked to have stalled when he was released from Newcastle last summer, but after a brief spell at South Shields, the 25-year-old full-back has excelled since finding a new home at Hartlepool in December.

Strong and reliable in defence, and bold and adventurous in the opposition’s half, Sterry’s performances have been a key factor in Pools claiming a National League play-off place.


Finally, the debates about McNair’s best position have come to an end. The Northern Irishman has been superb at centre-half this season, whether as part of a conventional back four or in a five-man defence.

The Northern Echo:

With his pinpoint set-piece deliveries adding another string to his bow, it is little wonder that Neil Warnock regards McNair as the best defender in the Championship. No matter what offers are tabled for the 26-year-old this summer, Middlesbrough will not be selling.


Sanderson had to be patient after joining Sunderland on loan from Wolves, with Phil Parkinson only handing him one league start. His fortunes were transformed under Lee Johnson though, and he was a major part of the Black Cats’ improvement in the second half of the campaign.

With a poise and assurance that belied the fact he is still just 21, Sanderson oozed class at the heart of Sunderland’s makeshift defence. It is no coincidence at all that the Wearsiders began shipping goals as soon as he sustained the injury that prematurely halted his season.


This time last summer, Bola’s Middlesbrough career looked as good as over. Having looked out of his depth in the Championship, the full-back hadn’t been that much better in a loan spell with Blackpool back in League One.

However, Warnock saw something in pre-season that he liked, and quickly promoted Bola into Boro’s first team. He has not looked back since. Playing as either an orthodox left-back or as the left of three centre-halves, the 23-year-old has rapidly established himself as a proven Championship performer.



Jonathan Woodgate tried to remodel him as a defender, but Warnock quickly worked out that Howson’s best position was at the base of midfield.

The 33-year-old had his best season in a Boro shirt as he took over the captain’s armband, marshalling things from his defensive-midfield position and putting in a string of accomplished displays that contributed to the Teessiders’ strong defensive record.


When Steve Bruce signed Willock on loan from Arsenal in January, he said he wanted the 21-year-old to increase his side’s goal threat. Four months on, and it is safe to say he delivered on that score.

Willock rewrote Newcastle’s record books as he finished the season by scoring in seven successive Premier League matches. Energetic, athletic and creative, the youngster’s future will be one of the key talking points all summer.


He might be 35 now, but the evergreen McGeady remains one of the most effective wingers in the whole of the Football League, let alone League One. While Lee Johnson was willing to let a host of players go at the end of the season, it is telling that he remains locked in talks with McGeady.

The Northern Echo:

The Irishman finished the season with more assists than any other League One player, with his relationship with Charlie Wyke perhaps the single biggest factor in Sunderland’s surge up the table in the second half of the campaign.



Yes, he missed a big chunk of the campaign because of Covid. Yes, he remains worryingly injury-prone. But in terms of North-East football, Saint-Maximin remains by far the most exciting player in the region.

There were times in the final few months of the season when he was all-but-unplayable, with his searing pace and exhilarating dribbling ability bamboozling the opposition. His best performance came when he left the bench to completely transform April’s 2-1 win at Burnley, and Newcastle need to do all they can to hold on to him this summer.


Prior to this season, it hadn’t really worked out for Wyke at Sunderland. Under Johnson, however, the Teessider rediscovered the form that had previously made him such a potent asset in the third tier. As a result, the Black Cats are struggling to re-sign him amid interest from elsewhere.

Wyke finished the season with 31 goals in all competitions, the vast majority of which were headed finishes from a McGeady cross. He was the second-highest scorer in League One, and absolutely integral to Sunderland’s attacking play.


Like Saint-Maximin, Wilson suffered an injury-hit campaign. And like Saint-Maximin, Newcastle were a completely different proposition when they had their leading scorer in the team. Signed for £20m from Bournemouth last summer, the England international has already proved a snip.

The Northern Echo:

His first season on Tyneside ended with him having scored 12 goals from 25 Premier League appearances. His best performance came in the 2-0 win at Everton, and keeping him fit will be one of Newcastle’s key priorities next season.


Karl Darlow (Newcastle), Dael Fry (Middlesbrough), Denver Hume (Sunderland), Grant Leadbitter (Sunderland), Isaac Hayden (Newcastle), Rhys Oates (Hartlepool), Duncan Watmore (Middlesbrough).