The Northern Echo: Anthony PattersonAnthony Patterson (Image: Ian Horrocks)

Sunderland’s goalkeeper played every minute of every league game, bar the final match of the season. His shot-stopping capabilities have always been excellent, but in the last year or so, he has become a much more dominant and composed figure, with his distribution having improved significantly. With Premier League clubs circling, it is easy to forget that he is still just 24.



The Northern Echo: Kieran TrippierKieran Trippier (Image: PA)

The season has had its challenges for Newcastle’s right-back, with a dip in form towards the end of last year preceding an injury absence in the second half of the campaign. However, the 33-year-old remains the heartbeat of the Magpies team, defending resolutely and sparking attacks with his surging runs down the right. Only Ollie Watkins can better his tally of ten Premier League assists this term.


The Northern Echo: Rav van den BergRav van den Berg (Image: Andrew Varley)

The 19-year-old arrived with a decent reputation when he joined Middlesbrough from PEC Zwolle last summer, with the likes of AC Milan and Borussia Dortmund having been chasing him. Even so, few could have expected him to settle in so seamlessly or produce such consistently impressive performances. He started off at right-back, but quickly settled into his preferred role of centre-half.


The Northern Echo: Fabian ScharFabian Schar (Image: PA)

Newcastle’s Swiss centre-half is in the form of his life even though he is now 32, and has outshone his central-defensive partner, Sven Botman, this season. His positioning is a key part of Newcastle’s defending, and his commitment to the cause has consistently shone through as he has shrugged off a succession of injury issues. Extremely comfortable in possession, his barnstorming breaks out of defence never cease to excite.


The Northern Echo: Dan BurnDan Burn (Image: PA)

Newcastle’s Mr Dependable at the back, Burn has been filling in at centre-half in recent weeks, but has spent most of the season playing at left-back. Yes, he has his limitations, most notably when lining up against speedy wingers. But his leadership qualities have been hugely important this season and he remains a fine defender who can always be relied upon to give his all. His goal against PSG was one of the highlights of the season.



The Northern Echo: Jonny HowsonJonny Howson (Image: Andrew Varley)

The Middlesbrough skipper turns 36 before the end of the month, but he remains as influential as ever, both on and off the field. His performance levels have shown no signs of dipping this season, with his tally of 35 Championship starts underlining just how highly Michael Carrick continues to rate him. As the average age of Boro’s squad has dropped, so his leadership within the dressing room has become more important.


The Northern Echo: Bruno GuimaraesBruno Guimaraes (Image: PA)

The Newcastle midfielder has had an excellent season, dominating the heart of midfield as he has combined defensive discipline and energy with a finely-tuned creative vision and level of technical excellence. He has started all bar one of the Magpies’ league matches, holding things together when his fellow midfielders have been dropping like flies all around him. Holding on to him has to be a key summer priority.


The Northern Echo: JoelintonJoelinton (Image: PA)

Proof of Joelinton’s importance to Newcastle has been illustrated by just how badly he has been missed in the second half of the campaign. The Brazilian sets the tone for the Magpies’ high-pressing, all-action style, tearing around and throwing himself into tackles while also straining every sinew to break into the opposition box. Little wonder Howe freely admits he is one of the first names on his team sheet.



The Northern Echo: Anthony GordonAnthony Gordon (Image: PA)

This has been a stellar season for the 23-year-old, who will surely spend the summer representing England at the Euros. Gordon has started all bar two of Newcastle’s league matches, and has also been involved in every single one of the club’s cup games. He has scored 11 goals in all competitions, and also provided ten Premier League assists, statistics that confirm his status as one of the most potent wide-attacking players in the English top-flight.


The Northern Echo: Jack ClarkeJack Clarke (Image: Ian Horrocks)

Where would Sunderland have been without Clarke? It doesn’t bear thinking about, such has been the importance of the 23-year-old winger this term. There have been countless occasions where it has felt as though Clarke was carrying Sunderland’s entire attacking threat on his own shoulders, darting in from the left-hand side to fire an effort on target. He ended the campaign with 15 league goals, and will almost certainly be the subject of Premier League offers this summer.


The Northern Echo: Alexander IsakAlexander Isak (Image: PA)

If last season was Isak’s settling-in period on Tyneside, then this was the year when the Swedish striker established himself as one of the leading centre-forwards in Europe. Every time he broke clear of opposition defences this season, you felt he was going to score. His tally of 20 Premier League goals is only bettered by Erling Haaland and Cole Palmer, and he has been in especially superb form from Christmas onwards. Holding onto him is surely essential if Newcastle want to kick on again next term.


Matty Young, Trai Hume, Matt Clarke, Dan Neil, Sean Longstaff, Emmanuel Latte Lath, Mani Dieseruvwe



The Northern Echo: Steve WatsonSteve Watson (Image: Andy Futers)

Darlington looked dead and buried when Watson took over on New Year’s Eve, with his side stranded in the relegation zone after Josh Gowling’s ruinous spell in charge. However, from the moment he walked through the door at Blackwell Meadows, the former Newcastle defender transformed Quakers’ fortunes. His first game was a win at King’s Lynn, and he went on to win 13 of his 22 matches in charge, a run that enabled Darlington to surge away from relegation trouble and secure another season in National League North.