Boro's Ayala named among Player of the Season candidates

The defender is up against a number of attacking players, including two from fellow promoted side Burnley

Boro's Ayala named among Player of the Season candidates
Middlesbrough's Dani Ayala is the only defender in the six-player shortlist | Photo: Sky Sports

Middlesbrough defender Daniel Ayala is one of six players to have been nominated for the PFA Fans' Championship Player of the Season Award, as revealed by Sky Sports.

The towering defender has been nominated alonside Burnley's attacking duo Andre Gray and Sam Vokes, as well as Fernando ForestieriAlan Judge and former Boro transfer target Ross McCormack.

The candidates were picked by a panel including the Football Supporters' Federation (FSF) chairman, general manager of the Professional Game Match Officials and a number of pundits including Ian Holloway and Paul Merson.

Ayala cements place as division's best

Ayala, 25, was arguably the key component of a Middlesbrough defence which ended the season with the finest record in England's top four divisions, after previous defensive leaders Tottenham Hotspur conceded five on the final day.

Aitor Karanka's Middlesbrough conceded just 32 goals over the course of the 46-game Championship season, including just seven at home.

The Spaniard, formerly of Liverpool and Norwich City, made 35 appearances over the course of the season and his absence through injury in February and March coincided with Boro's worst spell of form of the season.

Dani Ayala celebrates scoring in Middlesbrough's 3-0 victory over Brighton in December | Photo: Sky Sports
Dani Ayala celebrates scoring in Middlesbrough's 3-0 victory over Brighton in December | Photo: Gazette

Voting for the award closes on Wednesday 18 May at 7pm, with the winner to be announced later that evening at 8pm. 

Forestieri can join Ayala in the Premier League

Many would expect an attacking player such as Gray or Forestieri to take the award, but at time of writing on Tuesday, it was Ayala who found himself in the lead with 40% of the popular vote.

Forestieri of Sheffield Wednesday is the only name from the six-player shortlist whose season is not yet finished, as he helped the Owls to the play-off final at Wembley with a 3-1 aggregate win over Brighton & Hove Albion, who had finished the regular season 15 points and three places better off.

The other finalist is to be decided on Tuesday night though, after their 3-0 victory on SaturdayHull City are firm favourites as they welcome Derby County to the KC Stadium for the second leg.