Who's the best ever Championship striker?

Updated: May 26, 2021

The time has come then…

I, along with most of you readers, am an avid listener of the Second Tier Pod.

Having started writing for the website a few months ago, I have been very careful in not siding with either of the hosts in their heated debates on all things Championship.

Now I find myself with no choice.

Following on from the debate that they had on a recent podcast as to whether or not Ivan

Toney should qualify as the greatest ever Championship striker after only one proper season

in the division, it seemed like a nice enough idea to dive into the topic with both feet (or

“Harlee Dean style”) and choose, once and for all, who could truly take the mantle of best

ever Championship striker.

The Definition

This is what will be the key, how do we decide the topic?

We could say now that Ivan Toney has scored the most Championship goals in one season and move on.

That is certainly

some people’s view, and does make my job easier, so it is possibly the sensible thing for me to settle on.

Something about it nags me though, I feel as though there needs to be an element of

consistency there, judging someone’s ability based purely on one season seems vaguely

questionable and, though I’m certainly not ruling him out, I think it is important that we take a

look at some other options before firmly settling on the best.

Before we get started, here are some honourable mentions: Billy Sharp, Lewis Grabban, Chris Martin, Troy Deeney, Daryl Murphy, Lukas Jutkiewiscz, Charlie Austin, Chris Wood, Adam Armstrong, Rickie Lambert and Jordan Rhodes

The Competitors

Obviously there have been some exceptionally talented Championship strikers, I’ve looked

at metrics such as most goals, most assists and best goalscoring seasons, as well as stealing a few players from the nominees to enter the BBC’s Championship team of the

decade to try and find a definitive answer.

Ivan Toney

What a season it has been for the record-breaker.

31 goals, 10 assists and certainly a new biggest fan in one of the hosts.

The sheer variety of Toney’s goals, his creation for teammates, his pressing and the general

quality of his performances have been made all the more impressive due to it being the

former Peterborough man’s first season in the Championship.

His unbelievable record of 31 goals this season is a testament to both his ability and dedication to his craft.

10 assists show that he is a team player and, though his nine penalties do somewhat take away from the impressiveness of his scoring record.

He is the record-breaker for a reason and will be playing Premier League football next season, regardless of whether Brentford succeed in the Play-Offs.

It is worth noting though that, having only spent one season at this level, it is impossible to really understand whether he would be able to attain such a level consistently.

Particularly if he was in a team that created fewer chances than this ambitious Brentford side do.

Sorry readers, not sold on this one.

David Nugent

From one season in the Championship to countless more.

From the highest goalscoring season to the top goalscorer the league has seen.

Over 400 I think that he is a competitor for this title but there has to be a balance between the numbers of Toney and the consistency of David Nugent.

Glenn Murray

A player with more of a balance between the two extremes, over 150 games in the

Championship with nearly 70 goals.

Considering that some 30 of his appearances were from the substitutes bench, Murray looks good value for the goal every other game statistic that is so important when analysing a striker’s performance and ability.

He was the previous holder of the best goalscoring season, having netted 30 times for

Crystal Palace in the 2012/2013 season and has proven his ability also in his seasons at

Brighton and, somehow, is still proving a handful (even without the same goalscoring record)

at Nottingham Forest.

A championship great? That’s for sure.

The greatest Championship striker ever? I’m not completely convinced.

Ross McCormack

This is a name that goes under the radar because of the way that his Championship career

ended, but when you look at the quality of McCormack’s numbers and performances across

his spell in the second tier, he becomes a surprise frontrunner in this debate.

With around 80 less appearances than David Nugent, the Scottish striker has scored a startling 120 goals at Championship level and is the joint-highest assisting striker to boot.

He sits on 55, level with the aforementioned David Nugent.

To put up the numbers that McCormack has in 4000 fewer minutes, recording a goal

involvement every 142 minutes, is obscene and, much like Nugent, he did it in teams that

were not the frontrunners in the league.

McCormack will be best remembered for a devastating spell at a lacklustre Leeds United, where the diminutive attacker essentially saved his side from relegation on a somewhat consistent basis.

He was also responsible for one of the best moments of final-day drama in Championship

history, when his frankly obscene chipped attempt was fumbled by the Watford goalkeeper Jack Bonham.

That goal sent Hull City to the Premier League and simultaneously ensured that Watford

would face off against Leicester in the Championship playoffs, and if we’re discussing great

Championship moments, THAT Troy Deeney goal, wouldn’t have existed without Ross


Teemu Pukki

If Ivan Toney is here on the back of one season, Teemu Pukki really needs to be.

Yes, Ivan Toney scored 31 goals this year and notched up 10 assists, but only two seasons ago, Pukki scored 29 non-penalty goals and got 10 assists.

I appreciate that the numbers are the key here rather than the underlying facts, but Pukki had a better season two years ago than Toney in front of goal. The fact that the Fin has since been relegated and again got over the 25 goal mark is yet another reason that, for me, anyone labelling Toney as the best ever Championship striker is wrong.

With Pukki we see consistency and selflessness, as we do with Toney, but no penalty goals,

that is the difference and that is why, on this list, Pukki is higher than Toney *AT THE


It could very well change, and I pass no judgement onto those who do label

Toney the best, but here are my top five from the top:

  1. Ross McCormack,

  2. Glenn Murray,

  3. David Nugent,

  4. Teemu Pukki,

  5. Ivan Toney

The players who are in the honourable mentions category may very well be better than some

of the players on this list, but I used a balance of best seasons, longevity and goals scored

to get a decent-enough cross-section of the players available.

By Theo Hewson-Betts | @thewsonbetts

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