Player Of The Season: Do You Agree With Our Reporter’s Picks?
Written by RockSport Radio on April 10, 2018
As the Scottish football season enters it’s closing stages, thoughts often turn towards who has been the league’s player of the season…
Our reporter Euan Robertson runs the rule over his picks.
Most supporters views are prejudiced by their intense blind loyalty to a player who dons the shirt of the club that they adore. Pundits are routinely ridiculed for their suggestions and accused of bias due to affiliations to certain clubs.
Unlike previous seasons, it is difficult to highlight a clear frontrunner for this season’s prestigious award. Reigning champions Celtic have cruised towards a seventh consecutive title without reaching the heights of the previous undefeated campaign. The challenge of eclipsing the feats of 2016/17 has proven to be an insurmountable task for Brendan Rodgers’ men but some of his players have still enjoyed fantastic seasons.
After the bewildering reign of Pedro Caxinha, Rangers season seemed to be rejuvenated under the guidance of Graeme Murty until his deficiencies as a manger were brutally exposed during a damaging defeat at home to the ten men of Celtic. Nevertheless, a number of Gers players have enjoyed a profitable season under the tutelage of Murty and will be involved in this discussion.
Hibernian’s season has been handicapped by their failure to find a goalscorer but Neil Lennon has done a brilliant job to have the Edinburgh side challenging for second place in their first season back in the top flight. Despite speculation surrounding their manager, Aberdeen continue to impress although their inability to lay a glove on Celtic will be a disappointment to their fans.
Craig Levein has brought a pragmatism to Hearts and while they may not always entertain, progress has been made under his tutelage and many a good side has been built from the back. Steve Clarke is unquestionably the manager of the season and his transformation of Kilmarnock has resulted in a couple of his players being included in this team.
As a suffering Partick Thistle fan, it would be impossible to include any of their players in this team of the season. Lined up in a 4-3-3 formation, below are the players who’ve made the cut……
John McLaughlin – The Hearts goalkeeper has enjoyed a breakthrough season at the tender age of 30. Since arriving from English Championship side Burton Albion in the summer, McLaughlin has kept a remarkable 15 clean sheets in 32 appearances in all competitions. He contributed to Hearts’ club record eight-game run without conceding a goal and was deservedly rewarded with an International call-up. Like most goalkeepers, McLaughlin has had some howlers this season, notably in a crucial Scottish Cup tie against Motherwell, but he justifiably takes his place in the sticks for this team.
Trevor Carson- Continuing the theme of 30 year old goalkeepers enjoying a standout season is the Motherwell goalkeeper. His performances may have slipped under the radar of many this season but not that of Brendan Rodgers, who tried to sign the Northern Irishman in January after an injury Craig Gordon. Carson is level with McLaughlin on 15 clean sheets in all competitions and he made his international debut last month after impressing NI manager Michael O’Neill.
James Tavernier- ‘Tav’ has really pushed on this season, especially since Pedro Caxinha’s departure, and he now wears the armband in Lee Wallace’s absence. The Englishman is often derided for a perceived lack of defensive nous and while he is still susceptible to switching off at the back post, there has been an overall improvement in this area. Tavernier’s threat going forward has never been questioned, he is the best crosser in the league and he has recorded some impressive numbers this season with seven goals and eight assists in the league alone.
Richard Tait – Letting a two goal lead slip to Rangers las weekend after a brilliant opening 45 minutes will have disappointed anyone connected with Motherwell. However once the dust had settled, to feel disappointed after recording consecutive draws against the Old Firm shows how far Stephen Robinson has taken the Steelmen this season. An integral part of Motherwell’s season has been the consistent performances of full-back Tait, his comfortability on either side has seen him touted for an international call-up by Robinson.
Christophe Berra- Without question the outstanding centre-back in Scottish football this season. Like teammate McLaughlin, has been an integral part of a resolute Hearts defence that has broken records. Almost unbeatable in the air, strong as an ox and, most importantly for the Jambos, a real leader who has abetted John Souttar’s considerable development. Despite entering the twilight of his career at 33 and having an unfashionable habit of playing the ball long, Berra should be a cornerstone of Alex McLeish’s Scotland squad and has a rightful claim to be a contender for player of the season.
Christophe Berra in his Ipswich Town days
Scott McKenna- Berra’s partner at centre-back in the team of season, Scott McKenna, is at the other end of the spectrum in terms of his career. The 6ft 2 defender only forced his way into the first team in September but has been a revelation for Derek McInnes ever since. His performances have led to a new long-term contract and an international debut against Costa Rica less than a year after he was turning out for Ayr United in the Scottish Championship.
Cedric Kipre – The fact the French born centre-back is in talks to extend his contract for a second time since his arrival in the summer for Leicester City is testament to his importance to Motherwell. Kipre is a strong, imposing figure and his performances have shown why he was so highly rated coming through the ranks at PSG. Kipre suffered heartache after getting dismissed in the League Cup final against Celtic in November but he has bounced back admirably to receive an international call-up for the Ivory Coast.
Keiran Tierney- Many will argue that Tierney hasn’t reached the heights of last season but that doesn’t negate the fact the 20 year-old has been the outstanding left back in the league. Tierney remains an integral part of a Celtic side on course for an unprecedented second consecutive treble. Lightning quick and capable of rampaging runs down the left, Tierney is developing leadership skills under the guidance of captain Scott Brown and finds himself the hot favourite to lead his country under Alex McLeish on a permanent basis.
Greg Taylor – In January, the 19-year old full back topped a list for most minutes played for a teenager in the UK under former manager Lee Clark. However, it’s since Steve Clarke’s arrival that Taylor has really pushed on and started to earn rave reviews as Kilmarnock have embarked on a stunning run of form. Released as a youngster by Rangers, Taylor came to the spotlight last season with a horrendous tackle on Joey Barton which earned him a deserved red card.
An ever-present in the league this season, Taylor has forged a brilliant relationship with Jordan Jones down the left-flank and has been generating interest from bigger clubs down south.
Dylan McGeough – It was an arduous task to pick between McGeough and his midfield partner John McGinn, but the ex-Celtic midfielder just edges it due to the consistency of his performances. Unfortunately, there is a superfluity of stats in football which help those who seldom actually watch 90 minutes justify their unfounded opinions and McGeough would fall victim to these individuals. 38 games in all competitions have resulted in zero goals and only two assists but he orchestrates play intelligently with his admirable composure when in possession. People who base their opinions upon stat obsessed twitter accounts may not agree with his inclusion but McGeough has enjoyed a fantastic season and will hope to make his international debut during the summer friendlies.
Scott Brown – Love him or hate him, Brown is the outstanding midfielder in the league and has ruled supreme in Scottish football for years. Despite entering his 33rd year, Brown remains the dominant force in the champions midfield, driving his teammates forward and to defeat Celtic a team must eliminate the influence of their captain. His retirement from international duty will help prolong his club career and although his antics often incite controversy, it’s worth noting that Brown has been on the receiving end of some shocking challenges this season. Brendan Rogers, or whoever inherits the managers job at Celtic, will curse the day Brown retires because he remains an outstanding leader of men and his consistent performances this season deserve recognition.
Scott Brown: It’s Testimonial year for Broony
Youssaf Mulumbu – It might seem absurd to include a player with only 13 appearances in the league but Mulumbu’s impact at Kilmarnock has been exceptional since his arrival as a free-agent in November.Since he joined only Aberdeen have defeated Kilmarnock and the Congolese internationalist has produced dominant performances, with the highlights being an imperious display against Rangers and a winning goal against Celtic. Mulumbu is out of contract in the summer and unlikely to extend his stay but Kilmarnock fans should enjoy him while they can. Arguably the signing of the season.
John McGinn – Viewed as Hibernian’s most important player, McGinn has been guilty of a slight inconstancy in his performances this season. Imperious in numerous big games, particularly a 2-2 draw away to Celtic, the 23 year-old midfielder has contributed five goals and four assists this term and his performances have resulted in manager Neil Lennon saying he is worth at least £5 million. Whether his manager’s valuation is fanciful or not,McGinn will have an important decision to make in the summer when weighing up whether a move to a bigger club will impact his playing time and subsequently his Scotland aspirations.
Oliver Nitcham – These lists are usually overtly controversial to entice a reaction so perhaps Nitcham’s inclusion will inadvertently facilitate this. The fact he is an Under-21 internationalist for France and arrived from Manchester City should indicate the ability Nitcham clearly possesses. Arguably the most naturally talented player in the league, Nitcham is a rolls-royce midfielder player with a profound capacity to retain possession, particularly under pressure. The Frenchman needs to add consistency to his game to reach another level next season but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Nitcham win the player of the year award for 2018/19.
Daniel Candeias – The Portuguese winger seems to have finally found home after a career that has spawned nine loan spells across five different countries. The 30 year-old was in danger of being judged as guilty by association for his links with former manager Pedro Caxinha but he has fought hard and endeared himself to the Rangers support. Candeias leads the league in assists with nine and has scored five goals whilst protecting James Tavernier with his brilliant desire to provide defensive cover for the marauding right-back.
James Forrest – For a player who looked destined to leave Parkhead two years ago, Forrest has banished his injury issues and become an indispensable player for Celtic. Patrick Roberts, Scott Sinclair and Charley Musonda are all bigger names, on bigger salaries, but it’s Forrest who Rodgers relies on and trusts. The 26 year-old winger’s end product has drastically improved this term and that is evident in his 16 goals and 8 assists across all competitions.
Josh Windass- Windass remains an enigmatic figure at Rangers and is often a scapegoat for supporters who routinely accuse him of going missing when the going gets tough. Whether those accusations are warranted or not, the Englishman has been on fire since the turn of the year especially against the bigger teams he is accused of not turning up against. With just the single goal in 2016/17, the 24 year-old has proceeded to net 17 goals this term including important strikes against Hibs,Hearts and the recent opener against Celtic.
Jordan Jones – The Northern Irishman has enjoyed a breakthrough season which led to numerous bids from Rangers in January. Quick and nimble, Jones is capable of bamboozling defenders with skill and his final ball has improved as the season has progressed. Still only 23, Jones’ return of 4 league goals is slightly disappointed considering the talent he possess but he has still enjoyed an impressive season which will leave Kilmarnock fans praying he stays with them next season.
Kris Boyd – The veteran striker has rolled back the years and banged in 15 league goals to propel Kilmarnock into the top six. Boyd is indebted to manager Steve Clarke for his incredible transformation this season where he’s currently top goalscorer in the Ladbrokes Premiership and remains on track to win the award for the fifth time in his career. The 34 year old has never been blessed with blistering pace or a chiselled physique, a point of abuse for fans across the country which he happily responds in jest to when he puts the ball in their net, but the striker deserves more respect than he gets. Boyd is a natural born goalscorer and holds the record for SPL record with 167 goals. A record that will stand for a long, long time.
Kris Boyd: Killie goal machine.
Alfredo Morelos – Morelos arrived from Finnish outfit HJK Helsinki last summer and has lit up the league with his performances for Rangers ever since. It shouldn’t be underestimated how difficult it can be for a player to adjust to a new country and Morelos has acclimatised brilliantly for someone who remains only 21 years old. The Colombian marksman has grabbed 14 league goals but he offers much more than goals with his ability to hold up the ball and terrorise defenders with his appetite for a physical battle. Since links with a multi-million pound move to China in January and a horrific miss against Celtic, Morelos’ stock seems to have fallen amongst some sections of the Rangers support. While Jason Cummings is a better finisher, Morelos remains a better all-round player and he will be integral to Rangers hopes of beating their fierce rivals in the Scottish Cup semi-final on Sunday.
EUAN ROBERTSON FOR ROCK SPORT RADIO