Ranked: The top 50 Championship signings of the season
NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - MAY 17: A general view during the Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Semi Final 1st Leg match between Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United at City Ground on May 17, 2022 in Nottingham, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Over the course of the 2021/2022 EFL Championship season, a whopping 278 signings were completed over the duration of the entire season.

With fees ranging from as high as big-spending Fulham's Harry Wilson transfer at £13m, to as low as Luton Town bringing in all 13 of their signings for nothing at all, the transfers completed during the summer and winter windows (and some outside of both) enjoyed varying degrees of success.

With Fulham champions, Bournemouth up just behind them, and Nottingham Forest staring down the barrel of a Wembley clash with Huddersfield Town for the elusive third top flight spot, the second tier season is all but concluded with Derby County, Peterborough and Barnsley saying their goodbyes and dropping down.

But with all but the last few molecules of dust settled around the 24 Championship clubs, which of them have conducted the best business over the course of the last year?

I've completed this list with the help of numerous VAVEL writers, so a huge thank-you to our writers Jack Price, Szymon Gasiorowski, Callum Castel-Nuovo and Callum Moseley for their advice and opinions.

So, without further ado, let's sink our teeth into some signings and undoubtedly upset a lot of people, shall we?

50. Ben Wilmot (Watford > Stoke, perm.)

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Kicking things off over in steady, 14th-placed Stoke City, introducing Ben Wilmot. The former Watford centre-back swapped the Premier League for his former employers old (and now new again) stomping ground in the Championship. Following 35 steady appearances and an absolute screamer scored against Preston, Wilmot does just enough to edge himself onto our list.

49. Ben Sheaf (Arsenal > Coventry, perm.)

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Keeping up with the Ben-trend, in comes Coventry's new midfield maestro at number 49. Combative and creative across his 35 showings, and boasting one of the highest pass accuracies in the league, Sheaf's quality was vital towards steering Coventry to a respectable mid-table finish. 

48. Max Lowe (Sheff Utd > Forest, loan)

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A former Ram, employed by The Blades, and playing for The Reds on loan, Max Lowe's performances for Steve Cooper's side this term have been sensational enough for even the most passionate of Forest fans to forget his roots. If it wasn't for two big injuries holding him back, he would have easily placed much higher in this list.

47. Jimmy Dunne (Burnley > QPR, perm.) 

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Free transfers are always all the more impressive when they turn out as bona fide performers, and QPR will certainly be happy that Jimmy Dunne turned out just like that. A rock at the back as Rangers finished in mid-table, the Irishman is well deserving of a spot on the roster.

46. Andy Carroll (Reading > West Brom, perm.)

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In the time it took to eventually write this article, Carroll has since departed the Baggies after a short stay, but his time there was viewed incredibly well by The Hawthorns faithful after scoring thrice in 15 showings and bringing some much needed stability to a frontline lacking a threat. You can always teach an old dog new tricks.

45. Andraz Sporar (Sporting > Boro, loan)

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The big Slovenian quickly became Chris Wilder's chief line-leader after some impressive performances at the helm of Middlesbrough's team, notching eight goals in his 35 games. Impressive.

44. Andre Gray (Watford > QPR, loan)

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Another Hornet sticking with the second tier, Andre Gray scored an excellent contender for goal of the season with his exquisite skill and volley against Derby County. The fact that he only made 13 starts is what stops him from being higher up, but to score 10 league goals off the back of that easily scrapes him off the bottom.

43. Ryan Wintle (Crewe > Cardiff, free)

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Ryan Wintle's presence in Blackpool's midfield was felt to the extent of him being brought back by his new parent club, Cardiff City, and he repaid that faith with a high volume of steady performances at the heart of the Welsh side, steering them clear of the drop.

42. Daniel Ballard (Arsenal > Millwall, loan)

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With Ben Sheaf further up this list, Arsenal are getting some love for their production line from us, and Daniel Ballard is no different. A rock at the back of the team from The Den and someone who boasts some impressive defensive numbers, Daniel Ballard is well deserving of his spot on the list.

41. Mario Vrancic (Norwich > Stoke, free)

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One that certainly went under the radar this season, Vrancic enjoyed a fruitful spell back in the second division with The Potters. Three goals, five assists and 30 very solid showings with Stoke City. 

40. Sam Field (West Brom > QPR)

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The recruitment at QPR is certainly impressing at the beginning of the list, and rounding off the first ten entries is QPR's man in the middle, Sam Field. He may not be one for the G/A crowd, but his tenacity in the middle of the park is something that the Londoners can capitalise on in seasons to come. 

39. Jon Russell (Chelsea > Huddersfield, perm.)

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A slow burner in his rise to prominence in the Terriers' team, the Chelsea academy graduate dazzled in the second tier after breaking through come the turn of the new year, and kicks off the post-40's in our list in style.

38. Rob Atkinson (Oxford > Bristol, perm)

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A rock at the back across his 34 league appearances, Atkinson was vital in ensuring Bristol City steered clear of any trouble at the wrong end of the table. A steal at just over £1m.

37. Matt Pearson (Luton > Huddersfield, perm.)

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A swap between two teams who did so much with so little this season, Pearson's performances on the right of the Town defence were vital in securing a trip to Wembley for his side. 

36. Flynn Downes (Ipswich > Swansea, perm.)

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Swansea's season may have been disappointing as a whole, but the standard of play from Downes over the course of the campaign was anything but. A tough-tackling midfield who orchestrated the centre of the park for The Swans, Downes is well deserving of a spot on our list.

35. Callum Connolly (Everton > Blackpool, perm)

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Blackpool were largely impressive in their return season to the Championship, and their recruitment went a long way in doing that. Connolly, one of two Evertonians brought in for free, was one of them. What a job he did at the back.

34. Matt Clarke (Brighton > WBA, loan.)

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Matt Clarke has enjoyed a few spells in the Championship now on loan from his Premier League parents, spending the last two seasons with Derby County. His spell in a very disappointing Baggies side was no different.

33. Ravel Morrison (ADO Den Haag > Derby, perm.)

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Derby County may have gone down, and they were barely able to bring anybody in, but Ravel Morrison was one who stood out in The Rams' plight. Incredibly creative and equipped with a work ethic we have rarely seen from him at previous clubs.

32. Ryan Giles (Wolves > Cardiff x Blackburn, loans.)

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Cardiff City were a far, far better side with Giles in it than they were when Blackburn took charge of his loan. With 10 Championship assists to his name this term, the Wolves loanee has dazzled. 

31. George Saville (Boro > Millwall, perm.)

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Millwall may have not made it to the top six in the end, but George Saville is certainly a player who can look fondly upon his performances across the course of the season. Often deployed on the left of the midfield, the former Middlesbrough man was a key part of their push.

30. Steve Cook (Bournemouth > Forest, perm.)

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Forest are staring down the barrel of the top flight for the first time in 30 years, and Cook's arrival in January was so important to The Red's climb up the table, forming a formidable partnership with Joe Worrall and Scott McKenna.

29. Reece Burke (Hull > Luton, perm.)

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Kicking off our top 30 is the former Hammer, Reece Burke. Luton's rise to the play-offs was nothing short of sensational, and with a goal against Chelsea in his books as well, Burke's consistency at the back for The Hatters was vital in the storm of Nathan Jones' men.

28. Phillip Zinckernagel (Watford > Forest, loan.)

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Watford fans were not impressed with the decision to loan out Zinckernagel in the summer, and his showings have revealed why. Aggressive off the ball and effective on it, his pressing and energy has been immense for Steve Cooper and his side.

27. Jamie Paterson (Bristol > Swansea, loan.)

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A Red, then a Robin, then a Ram, now a Swan. Jamie Paterson needed to breath life into his career when he linked up with Russell Martin's team, and he did that and then some with nine goals and nine assists in the league this season.

26. Cameron Archer (Villa > Preston, loan.)

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Preston needed someone to shine to re-invigorate their season, and the Villa man was the one who switched the light on. Eight goals in just half a season stabilised the team to a solid mid-table finish.

25. Michael Obafemi (Southampton > Swansea, loan.)

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Slotting right into the centre of the park is the Irishman who's been dominating at the top of it for Swansea. Obafemi was hardly regarded as a stellar signing when he was brought in thanks to his Premier League numbers, but with twelve goals (and two against Cardiff) there are few people doubting him now.

24. Scott Malone (Derby > Millwall, perm.)

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Bereft of cash and facing the drop, it was inevitable for Derby County's best players to be poached and this acquisition was no different. But after the jeopardy, Malone shone in the rise of Millwall, as they narrowly missed out on the play-offs. 

23. Matt Crooks (Rotherham > Boro, perm.)

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Someone who doesn't seem to get enough credit for his services this season is Middlesbrough's midfield maestro Matt Crooks. With 10 goals under his belt this campaign, Boro narrowly missed out on the top six. 

22. Benik Afobe (Stoke > Millwall, loan.)

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Again, it might have ended up fruitless for The Lions, but their recruitment spat out another fine acquisition with Afobe. Twelve goals at the helm of the side helped massively in the teams top six push.

21. Sam McCallum (Norwich > QPR, loan.)

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He may not have made as many showings as some on this list, but McCallum walked away with The R's young player of the year award with some seriously stellar performances on the left of the defence. Certainly someone that relegated Norwich will be encouraged by.

20. Ian Maatsen (Chelsea > Coventry, loan.)

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When a mid-table Championship sides left-back puts in performances so fine that they prompt shouts of a recall from their top six parents, it usually provides a solid indicator of how their season has gone. Maatsen is no different. What a player.

19. Tom Lees (Sheff Wed > Huddersfield, perm.)

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Some people claimed that a 31-year-old on a free from a relegated team was a bad idea. Those people look silly now. Lees was an absolute juggernaut at the back for Huddersfield, and is well deserving of his spot in our top 20.

18. Neco Williams (Liverpool > Fulham, loan.)

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There's a few January signings in this final stretch of the list, and that goes to show just how much of an impact the right signings can make. Williams is no different. The Wales international slotted straight into an incredibly dominant Fulham side and notched two goals and two assists at the back side of the term.

17. Ryan Christie (Celtic > Bournemouth, perm.)

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Dynamic and explosive on the ball, the Scotsman has been in electrifying form for The Cherries in his 38 appearances, notching eight assists and a further three goals to help his side back into the top flight.

16. Jan Paul Van Hecke (Brighton > Blackburn, loan.)

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Many Rovers fans outlined the leadership ability the young Dutchman showed across his 31 games this year as well as his endearing quality on the ball in the heart of the defence. At just 21 years of age, Brighton have a star on their hands there. 

15. Cody Drameh (Leeds > Cardiff, loan.)

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Cardiff City were staring relegation in the face at one point, but managed to stabilise the team in time, with Drameh's January arrival being a big factor in doing so. Explosive and devastating on the ball and defensively sound, Leeds have uncovered a starlet to utilise in the Premier League, for sure.

14. Phil Jagielka (Sheff Utd > Derby x Stoke, perm.)

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He may be 39 years old, but Jagielka is far from past it. He came into the Derby side as a free agent and put in some age-belying performances at the back. His leadership quality was deeply missed by The Rams, with midfielder Max Bird claiming the moment he left was the moment they knew they were down. 

13. Levi Colwill (Chelsea > Huddersfield, loan.)

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Another Chelsea academy man shining in the second tier, the loaning of Levi Colwill was another excellent capture for The Terriers. Impressive on the ball, Colwill had a dribble success rate of 76%, one of the highest in the league.

12. Keinan Davis (Villa > Forest, loan.)

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When Lewis Grabban got injured in January, the hole he left behind had to be filled. In stepped Keinan Davis (and someone higher up this list). The phrase "lovely feet for a big man" comes to mind in regards to the Villain, with defenders seeming bounce off of him at every turn. He would've moonwalked into our top five if it wasn't for an injury that kept him out until the play-offs.

11. Daniel Iversen (Leicester > Preston, loan.)

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The first goalkeeper on this list, Iversen has been in stellar condition between the posts for Preston this season, and is so unfortunate to miss out on a top 10 spot, after playing in every game this season and conceding an average of just over a goal a game, a fantastic return for the Dane, who earned the player of the year award at Deepdale.

10. Sam Surridge (Stoke > Forest, perm.)

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Here we are then. The moment that you've either been waiting for or more than likely got bored and scrolled straight to.

Kicking off our top 10 is Sam Surridge. Brought in on deadline day in January to fill a gap left by Grabban, Surridge ended up as the first choice striker following the injury to Keinan Davis. Six goals and a hat-trick against Swansea later, Surridge stepped up exactly when he was needed, and helped propel his side into the play-off final.

9. Josh Bowler (Everton > Blackpool, perm.)

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Josh Bowler's name was being circulated all over the Championship for his performances in tangerine this season, and rightly so. Technically sound , he banged in seven goals this season to solidify Blackpool's league position, and made his arrival for free look like blatant daylight robbery. 

8. Lewis Baker (Chelsea > Stoke, free.)

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Chelsea's forgotten man managed to get onto the pitch for one final time before his departure to Staffordshire, and what a gem of an acquisition he ended up being. With eight goals, two assists, and a league-topping pass accuracy of 84%, Baker has been absolutely outstanding at the heart of the Stoke team, and will no doubt be vital again next season. 

7. Viktor Gyokeres (Brighton > Coventry, perm.)

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How this man only set Coventry back £1m absolutely beggars belief. After netting 17 league goals in a fantastic partnership with Matt Godden, the 23-year-old Swede is going to be a must-keep asset in years to come for The Sky Blues, or for someone else soon who need a hitman in their ranks. 

6. Lee Nicholls (MK Dons > Huddersfield, perm.)

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Arise, the best goalkeeper in the league. On a free transfer, this signing is the absolute definition of daylight robbery. Outstanding all year long in the Championship, he has been the first name of the Huddersfield team sheet for some time, and with the form he showed this season, for some more time to come as well. 

5. James Garner (Man Utd > Forest, loan.)

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The sky is surely the limit for our first entrant into the top five.

When Forest fans first learnt that Garner would be returning for a whole year after his hugely successful half-season with The Reds in lockdown, they were only a few steps off of dancing in the streets. He massively repaid that excitement on the pitch.

Forming an excellent midfield partnership with the tough-tackling Ryan Yates, Garner's range of passing and ability in possession has been so important for Forest this year.

4. Joel Piroe (PSV > Swansea, perm.)

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22 goals in the league, 22 years old, £2m spent. Those numbers alone pretty much carry Piroe into the top five of this list. What a season he has had at the helm of the Swansea attack.

Deceptively fast with the touch of a saint, the Dutchman has shone in every area, even though Swansea have not. A must-keep for the Welsh side for years to come.

3. Morgan Gibbs-White (Wolves > Sheff Utd, loan.)

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He may have missed a penalty in his sides shootout bid for Wembley, but Morgan Gibbs-White steps onto our podium with his chest puffed out.

20 G/A this season precedes itself for The Blades, and his explosive dribbling, range of passing and clever movement have left defences falling over themselves all season long.

Surely, then, he is set for a Premier League role with his parent club next season, and if he can perform anything like he has this year, he will absolutely be one to look out for in years to come.

2. Harry Wilson (Liverpool > Fulham loan-to-buy.)

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The league champions are taking a star into the top flight with them, with the acquisition of Harry Wilson. 

He may be setting them back an eye-opening £13m when his move becomes permanent this summer, but with a staggering return of ten goals and 19 assists in the league, he has more than made up for it.

His spells at Derby and Bournemouth were impressive enough, but Wilson took himself to a new level this season, and is hugely deserving of his spot on the podium. But there was only ever one man who could pip him to the top spot...

1. Djed Spence (Boro > Forest, loan.)

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The signing of the season.

Disregarded and tossed out by then-Boro-manager Neil Warnock, Djed Spence has been nothing short of sensational for Nottingham Forest over the course of the season. 

His explosive partnership with Reds starlet Brennan Johnson up the right flank has been arguably the most important aspect of Steve Cooper's team this season, with his ability on the ball being untouchable by many in the league.

With a dribble completion rate of 1.8 per game, Spence ranks among the best dribblers in the league, tagging in with two goals and four assists.

Not only that, but he put in one of the strongest performances that has been seen in a Forest shirt in years to knock out none other than Arsenal in the FA Cup on the way to his side reaching the quarter-finals.

And with his market value rising by over £20m this season, a bona fide star has been put on the radar of many of Europe's top clubs, with Manchester United, Tottenham, Arsenal and Bayern Munich keeping tabs, among others.

For me, there was only one option for the top of the pile, and it had to be Spence.

Do you agree? Let us know! Use our comments section below, or get in touch with us on Twitter @VAVEL @VAVELEFL. Or with me, at @LouisWheeldonNS, if you fancy sending me some threats due to my selections in this list. 

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