Award season is firmly heating up with player and young player of the year nominations likely to be announced within the next couple of weeks.
Anthony Andreu (Dundee United)
He’s a high profile name on the second biggest club in the division and he’s had a tremendous season. The Frenchman should be guaranteed at least a nomination and could even walk off with the award. Another advantage he’ll have over other candidates, especially the boys at Hibs, is that he’s undoubtedly the best player on his team. Cammy Bell and William Edjenguélé have been good, but they are firmly in Andreu’s shadow when it comes to personal accolades. Without Andreu’s 16 goals from midfield (ten in the league) there’s no telling how bad United would have been this season.
Jason Cummings (Hibernian)
Cummings has enjoyed a rather strange campaign. He’s spent significant time out of the line-up, sitting on the bench through a lot of October and November, has routinely been challenged by boss Neil Lennon to improve himself, and yet is still the Championship’s leading goalscorer at the time of writing. He’s one of the league’s most recognised figures, and arguably it’s most feared striker. He should be a lock to earn a nomination for the second year running, whether he deserves it or not.
Stephen Dobbie (Queen of the South)
The veteran sits one behind Cummings in the goalscorer charts, but the accusations that are routinely thrown at the Hibs hitman, mainly that he doesn’t do enough outside the penalty area, cannot be levelled at the Queen of the South striker. He’s been his club’s talisman this year and, without him, there’s little doubt they would have been heavily involved in the relegation scrap.
Ross Forbes (Morton)
The playmaker is enjoying what is, arguably, the best season of his 10-year career. He’s netted nine times from midfield, thanks in part to a wicked free-kick delivery, and he’s the club’s main source of creativity. The ex-Motherwell man has also been the star player on a team which has become the feelgood story of the Championship this term as Morton continue their unlikely promotion bid. He’ll get competition from team-mate Tam O’Ware, but he’s in with a strong shout.
Stevie Mallan (St Mirren)
Although he’s bagged nine goals from midfield in all competitions, it took until the turn of the year and the arrival of some decent players around him for Mallan to actually begin playing well. However, when it comes to player of the year voting, it’s better to have a good second half of the season after a mediocre first, than a strong start that fades into oblivion by the time it comes to vote. He’s unlikely to get a nomination unless recency bias plays a big part.
John McGinn (Hibs)
Quick frankly, McGinn is the least deserving candidate of the lot. In terms of Hibs’ best player, he’s arguably fourth behind Darren McGregor, Marvin Bartley and the aforementioned Cummings. He’s just not had a great season. However, this campaign has seen him continually called up to the Scotland squad and he was brilliant in the Scottish Cup replay against Hearts. Neither should count towards a Championship player of the year vote, but you know these type of things stick in the mind.
Darren McGregor (Hibs)
If any Hibs player deserves to win the award, it’s McGregor - the club’s colossus at the back. Comfortable on the ball and physically dominating, he’s everything you need in a central defender at that level. And while Cummings and McGinn have hit peaks and troughs this season, McGregor has remained consistently great throughout. Player of the year awards can often go to the best player on the best team, so McGregor should feel reasonably confident of securing the personal accolade.
Jean-Yves M’voto (Raith Rovers)
His team have been nothing short of horrendous since the autumn so there’s a good chance M’voto will not be recognised come the player of the year nominations, which is a shame because individually he’s enjoyed a terrific first season with the club. Undoubtedly Gary Locke’s best signing (though that’s not all that difficult) M’voto can be counted on to get his sizable head to every single cross, and has been one of the bright spots in a meek season for the Kirkcaldy club.
Thomas O’Ware (Morton)
Morton have the second best defensive record in the division, behind only leaders Hibs, and the fine play of O’Ware is a big reason why. Surprisingly enough, the 24-year-old was a regular target for the boo-boys prior to this campaign; an uneasy relationship owed mostly to Jim Duffy’s penchant for using the playing at the base of midfield. Used almost exclusively at the heart of the defence he has gone from strength to strength, and has even chipped in with an incredible ten goals in all competitions.
Craig Sibbald (Falkirk)
Another who’s enjoying the best year of his career, Sibbald has finally managed to add goals to his game, netting ten in all competitions and helping to fill the void left by Blair Alston’s departure. He’s everything you’re looking for in a creative midfielder at this level. As for player of the year recognition, he’s got an outside chance but may be held back by the stronger-than-the-sum-of-their-parts identity that Falkirk have fostered for themselves over recent years.
Who should be nominated: Anthony Andreu, Darren McGregor, Ross Forbes, Stephen Dobbie
It’s tough to leave out Cummings, seeing as he is the division’s top goalscorer, but it’s just such a strong group of players. Dobbie has been the better player overall of the two, and this writer couldn’t bring himself to leave off any of the other three, particularly Andreu and McGregor.
Who will be nominated: Anthony Andreu, John McGinn, Jason Cummings, Stephen Dobbie
The biggest names will likely appear on the list, while defenders often find themselves standing behind attacking players when it comes to individual recognition. That may be rightfully so, as it’s harder to be a great striker than it is a great defender, but that’s a debate for another time.
• An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Craig Sibbald’s contract runs until 2018. It expires this summer.