While the likes of Moussa Dembele, Scott Sinclair, Stuart Armstrong and Kieran Tierney are likely to clean up at the player of the season awards, the contribution of some of the more experienced Ladbrokes Premiership players shouldn’t be ignored.
It seems like everywhere you look there’s a player in his 30s starring for his club. So much so that there were a few harshly omitted from this list, such as Andrew Davies (32 - Ross County), Aaron Hughes (37 - Hearts) and Massimo Donati (36 - Hamilton).
Even after cutting those players, it was still necessary to disqualify anyone who turned 30 during the season in order to cut this list down to a manageable dozen. This included Kris Doolan (Partick Thistle), Danny Swanson (St Johnstone) and Mikael Lustig (Celtic). Then there’s the SIX players in Aberdeen’s starting XI (Joe Lewis, Shay Logan, Andy Considine, Mark Reynolds, Jonny Hayes and Niall McGinn) who’re all approaching their 30th birthday.
It’s fair to say that, in the current climate of the Ladbrokes Premiership, it’s no longer a case of a player peaking when he’s 26/27.
And while many onlookers will start panicking over the ramifications this golden-oldie generation for future young talents trying to break through, we’ve decided to take a more positive view and celebrate the accomplishments of these veterans.
Here are the top 12 from this campaign, running from oldest to youngest.
Clint Hill (Rangers)
Oh how we all laughed when Mark Warburton decided the best way to fix his defensive issues was to sign a soon-to-be 38-year-old to cover the massive gaps in the Rangers backline. While the unit could hardly be described as watertight, they’ve performed better than expect with Hill, in particular, standing out. Of all the signings Rangers made last summer, he’s undoubtedly the pick of the bunch.
Kenny Miller (Rangers)
Remember season 2014-15? Miller returned to Rangers to help fire the club back into the Ladbrokes Premiership and instead was one of many underachievers on a team that capitulated to Motherwell in the play-off final. It looked like his career was drawing to a close and, though he remained in the squad for the following season, there didn’t seem to be any hope he’d still contribute once the team stepped up to the top flight. Not only has he contributed, he’s been the club’s most consistent attacking player, and is playing his best football since leaving Cardiff City five years ago.
Steven MacLean (St Johnstone)
Different year, same Steven MacLean. The forward continues to be one of the most intelligent players in Scottish football. His link play with the St Johnstone midfield is second to none, and he’s deceptively strong for such a wiry figure. He also continues to be a threat in opposing penalty areas, netting ten goals thus far.
Craig Gordon (Celtic)
It’s been an eventful season for the veteran goalkeeper, who continues to be the country’s finest into his 34th year. First he had to see off a challenge from Dorus de Vries for the role of Celtic’s No.1, then he was linked with a big-money move to Chelsea in January. It didn’t come to fruition but Chelsea’s interest was enough to add a few thousand pounds to his weekly wage packet.
Don Cowie (Hearts)
The former Scotland international underwhelmed in his initial five months after joining from Wigan Athletic last January. But after finally sorting out a long-standing calf injury, his performances have jumped a level or two this season. The midfielder’s energy in the centre of the park is vital in a team that’s often accused of lacking urgency.
Chris Burke (Ross County)
Despite playing in only six games, Burke has been included in this list for two reasons. Firstly, he was excellent in those six games, and if you could stretch his average quality of performance across the full season he’d definitely be Ross County’s best player. Secondly, he’s the only player in contention to make this list who operates exclusively on the flanks. Wingers aren’t supposed to be that good playing well into their 30s, at least without moving into a more central role. It just shows how much talent Burke has and what a shame that this season has been ruined by illness.
Scott McDonald (Motherwell)
The best thing about the Australian is that he hasn’t mellowed at all. He still plays the game with real grit and determination, and continues to mouth off at the referee for 90 minutes. The centre-forward pairing of McDonald and Louis Moult is undoubtedly the strongest part of the struggling Motherwell side, and the 33-year-old will need to dig deep for another seven weeks if they’re going to avoid the drop.
Tomas Cerny (Partick Thistle)
Cerny’s form has been a little up and down this campaign. He initially struggled with an injury, choosing to battle on until he was given sufficient time off to the recover. Since coming back he’s largely been excellent - aside from the recent last minute blunder at Kilmarnock - with Thistle’s defensive record improving exponentially with him between the sticks.
Scott Brown (Celtic)
Some players get better with age, others do it with better managers. Following Brown’s disappointing 2015-16 season where it looked like his days as a star for Celtic at home and on the continent were coming to an end, he’s rebounded in a big way under the tutelage of Brendan Rodgers. Not to be too harsh on the Northern Irishman’s predecessor Ronny Deila, it’s definitely helped that Brown took time off from Scotland duty in the summer (eventually retiring - for a bit) and finally got himself fully fit again. He’s been Celtic’s fourth best player this season which, even though it may not sound like much of one, is actually a big compliment.
Darian MacKinnon (Hamilton)
It’s safe to say that this current term, where MacKinnon is favourite to be named the club’s player of the year, is his finest season yet. It’s been an incredible journey for the midfield enforcer, who spent his entire career until he was 26 playing in junior football. Although, he’s unlikely to enjoy any personal accolades if Hamilton suffer relegation, so he’ll have to continue his fine form for the duration if Accies are to avoid the drop.
Steven Anderson (St Johnstone)
If a ‘Most Underrated Player in Scottish Football’ award existed, Steven Anderson would have won it five seasons running between 2012 and 2016. Even though his performances have remained dependable as always, this actually feels like the first season he wouldn’t receive such recognition, as the mainstream are finally coming around to the idea that the 31-year-old is a really good centre-back.
Gary Dicker (Kilmarnock)
After a shaky start to the campaign - presumably caused by the introduction of about 90 new team-mates - Dicker’s form settled down in the autumn and he’s been the club’s most consistent player since. He’s excelled both in the centre of the park, his natural position, and at centre-back, where he and Celtic loanee Kristoffer Ajer made an unusual yet effective pairing.