12 stars Premiership clubs must keep in January

The new deal given to Leigh Griffiths will help Celtic hold on to him in January. Picture: Neil Hanna

The new deal given to Leigh Griffiths will help Celtic hold on to him in January. Picture: Neil Hanna

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There’s nothing worse than losing a beloved player, unless such a transfer happens in January. Here’s one player that each Premiership team must hold on to beyond the upcoming window

ABERDEEN

Jonny Hayes

The natural winger can operate on either flank, in the centre of midfield or at left back and has been in terrific form of late after a stop-start beginning to the campaign. His versatility makes him such a valuable member of McInnes’ side, while his pace and quickness help drive Aberdeen forward.

Hayes didn’t make much of an impact over the first five years of his career down south, and at 28 with a contract that still has two years to expire, he’s not likely to court many serious suitors.

Chances of keeping him past January: 90 per cent

READ MORE - Rumour Mill: Celtic target Ivan Mocinic | Leigh Griffiths back for Hearts | Shay Logan to stay at Dons

CELTIC

Leigh Griffiths

Transfer chatter has circled around team-mate Nir Bitton rather than the in-form striker, and the likelihood that Celtic will lose the player decreased more so after he signed a new deal keeping at the club until 2021.

Some of his exploits in Europe, notably against Malmo and Fenerbahce at Celtic Park, will pique the interest of EPL clubs, though having been allowed to rejoin Celtic by League One Wolves only two seasons ago, it’s difficult to imagine a team paying the kind of money required to release him from that bumper new deal.

Chances: 85 per cent

READ MORE - Andrew Smith: Griffiths has chance to be Celtic legend

DUNDEE

Greg Stewart

The Dens Park management staff believe Stewart is the next Diego Maradona, or so it seems. Hartley’s idea for achieving football success is to let the attacker play anywhere he wants on a football field. While there’s no doubt he’s Dundee’s most potent match-winner, his skills don’t quite justify such a level of freedom, and his drifting between left and right wings, and in behind the strikers, has led to some lopsided team shapes in recent weeks.

It’s also meant a downturn in Stewart’s performances when compared with his Player of the Year nominee form of last season. Although, this could be a blessing in disguise for the club, who’ll have more chance of holding on to their most valuable player in January as a result, even if Rangers are supposedly sniffing about.

Chances: 70 per cent

DUNDEE UNITED

Billy Mckay

This could be viewed as a wasted selection since he’s on loan to the end of the season and, unless Wigan have the ability to recall the player, which would be a completely bonkers stipulation for United to have agreed to, then he’ll be staying at Tannadice regardless of whomever wants to sign him.

The reason he is included in this list is because there are no other players in the United squad who the fans would care about leaving.

Chances: 99 per cent

HAMILTON

Ali Crawford

The midfielder has enjoyed an even greater rise than his employers over the past two-and-a-half seasons. Crawford was thought to be a squad player on the Accies side expected to battle in the second tier mid-table in manager Alex Neil’s first full season. Now he’s their most valuable player in the top flight.

With a contract running until 2018, and at the age of 25, it’s hard to imagine an offer coming in that will satisfy Accies. Then again, it was hard to imagine Norwich paying £1 million for Tony Andreu.

Chances: 80 per cent

HEARTS

Osman Sow

Neither player nor club seemed particularly confident that a new deal would be agreed any time soon when quizzed about the subject last week, meaning Sow could be signed on a pre-contract by another club in January.

It is thought the striker is waiting to see what other offers come in before negotiating with Hearts. Having failed to make an impact in England as recently as 18 months ago – and while Sow has been great for the club since joining, he’s hardly blown Scottish football away – he may be disappointed with his value on the open market.

Chances: 60 per cent

READ MORE - Osman Sow in no rush for new deal at Hearts

INVERNESS CT

Ryan Christie

The youngster’s loan deal from Celtic expires in January and it remains to be seen whether the Highland club can convince his new parent club to let him stay a little longer.

A knee injury suffered in early November meant Christie joined the Scottish champions earlier than expected, but the set-back may help Inverness hold on to him until the end of the season.

With so many options at attacking midfielder, Ronny Deila would do well to let the youngster play some first-team games to get back up to speed. It could have a detrimental impact on his confidence and development if he tried to return from injury in that crowded Celtic squad.

Chances: 30 per cent

KILMARNOCK

Greg Kiltie

At 18 years old, he’s already one of the better players in a struggling Rugby Park outfit, and certainly the player in the squad with the most upside.

The club are set to see his contract expire on December 31, which with Scott Robinson, Kevin McHattie and Kris Boyd all sit on three year deals, is a shockingly poor piece of business. He’s rejected multiple attempts to get him signed to a new deal, so it looks highly likely Killie will pay for their mistakes.

The only chance he will stay is if no-one is willing to pay the compensation fee due to Kilmarnock. But as it’s only likely to be worth around £100k, it shouldn’t stop an English lower league club from taking a punt if other Scottish teams don’t fancy it.

Chances: 10 per cent

MOTHERWELL

Louis Moult

The one ray of light during the dark days of Ian Baraclough’s reign has now been able to shine bright under Mark McGhee. Motherwell fans love his energy, determination and the fact he scores almost every week.

He signed a three-year deal this summer so, chances are, he’s going nowhere for a while. However, he never got a chance as a youngster in England, so he isn’t tainted by failure, and scored regularly in the Conference. Having shown he can repeat those goalscoring exploits at a higher level, there may be a English League One or Championship club willing to tempt Motherwell with a bid.

Chances: 85 per cent

PARTICK THISTLE

Kris Doolan

Jags fans must shudder to think where their club would be were it not for their beloved striker, which makes it all the more baffling that Alan Archibald preferred Mathias Pogba to him for a stretch of games earlier this season.

His contract will run out in the summer, but Partick Thistle’s low profile can be an advantage in such situations, as stand-out players drop under the radar. Doolan’s age, 29, will also put off some as other clubs only tend to pillage Scottish football when there’s young talent to be snatched.
Even if Doolan fancies a change of scenery, it’s difficult to imagine another team stumping up cash to buy him in January, and even less likely that Thistle would accept it.

Chances: 75 per cent

ROSS COUNTY

Jackson Irvine

While the midfielder’s form has dropped in recent weeks - it’s looked increasingly obvious that he and Martin Woods struggle to fit together in the centre of the park - there’s no doubt he’s County most valuable asset.

Irvine’s age, physical attributes and a rapid development over the past 18 months make him a desirable target for other clubs. However, there have been no links just yet.

Chances: 85 per cent

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ST JOHNSTONE

Michael O’Halloran

Few players are as valuable to their squad as O’Halloran is to St Johnstone. His pace not only stretches opposing teams, it also opens up space for his fellow attackers, with Steven MacLean and Graham Cummins both enjoying excellent seasons.

His contract runs out in the summer of 2017, so unless Saints can get a positive response to whether the speedster is open to a new deal, this will be the time to cash in on their asset should they wish to earn maximum profit. Celtic are also said to be keen.

Chances: 65 per cent

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