Craig Fowler picks a select XI of Ladbrokes Premiership players who’ve performed above and beyond what as been expected of them - with back-ups thrown in as well
These are not players who were necessarily bad prior to this season. There are plenty who were considered to be good players, I just didn’t expect them to perform as well as they have done.
You’ll also notice there are back-ups for each position. Again, these are guys who might be better than the player picked for the team, it’s just that I didn’t find their ascent quite as surprising.
Got it? Good. Let’s get to the team.
GK – Jamie MacDonald (Kilmarnock)
While it was easy (and fun) to rip on Gary Locke for continually signing ex-Hearts players, this always looked like a solid acquisition. Solid - not one of the signings of the season so far. McDonald has been outstanding, arguably the best goalkeeper, form-wise, in the league to this point.
Falkirk fans weren’t overly enamoured with his play last year, which was odd considering his form for Hearts the previous season at a higher level. It’s perhaps a wrinkle of McDonald’s game that his strengths, mainly shot-stopping, become more prominent when he’s keeping goal for teams that struggle. Regardless, he’s put that behind him to save Kilmarnock from many a hiding.
Deputy: Scott Fox (Ross County)
DR – Callum Paterson (Hearts)
Paterson has not long turned 21, so it perhaps isn’t surprising he’s made the leap from the good to the very good this season. I’ll readily admit he’s the most tenuous selection in this team because, quite frankly, there wasn’t another choice better suited.
If I decide to do another team at the end of the season, or even halfway through, and Motherwell’s Josh Law keeps up his current form (he’s been man of the match in the past three games) then he’ll get the nod instead, but I can’t ignore months of sub-par play.
Another reason Paterson gets the inclusion is because, at present, he’s a strong Young Player of the Year candidate. I certainly didn’t see that happening. His crossing, a major flaw up until this summer, has improved immensely, while his decision making and positioning are improving all the time, as is to be expected.
Deputy: Josh Law (Motherwell)
DC – Lucas Tagliapietra (Hamilton Accies)
Big Lucas played all of three games after being signed mid-season by Hamilton last term, but he showed enough to Martin Canning that the Hamilton boss was encouraged to sign him on a one-year extension. Now we can all see why.
This guy is a monster. He can dominate attackers like few other centre backs in the league, both with his height and those intimidatingly broad shoulders. He’s even chipped in with a few goals as his size makes him a problem at the opposite end.
Deputy: Kieran Kennedy (Motherwell)
DC – Igor Rossi (Hearts)
He wasn’t even supposed to play.
Signed to a one-year deal to provide depth and cover, it was expected Rossi would play second fiddle to Alim Ozturk and Blazej Augustyn, start the odd game at left-back as a less attack-minded option, make a complete fool of himself in a match because he wasn’t getting enough match time, and that would be him. Instead, he’s been Hearts most consistent performer to this point and has played in every single match.
Deputy: Paul Quinn (Aberdeen)
DL – Kieran Tierney (Celtic)
Ok, he’s only played a few games, though you can’t help but feel excited about his future prospects, even from such a small sample size. While the rest of his team-mates were shrinking into their shells against Molde, Tierney showed the heart of a lion; continually fighting, charging at the opposing defence, and refusing to give up on what became an increasingly apparent lost cause.
Right now he looks better than Emilio Izaguirre. Whatever you think of Izaguirre – likely not that much – you wouldn’t have expected that.
Deputy: Ricky Foster (Ross County)
MR – Dougie Imrie (Hamilton Accies)
The attacking nuisance is enjoying an Indian summer back at Accies. This is arguably his most impressive season in the top flight as Accies battle for a top six spot rather than scrap for relegation, as everyone expected.
Part of the reason Accies were expected to struggle was because, with two strikers whose strength is to play with their back to goal, there appeared to be a lack of firepower in the team. Only Ali Crawford looked capable of growing into a consistent threat in the supporting triumvirate.
While the signing of Gramoz Kurtaj, a man previously without a Wikipedia page, certainly helped, it’s been Imrie who’s stepped up the most to take the burden off Crawford.
Deputy: James Forrest (Celtic)
MC – Scott Fraser (Dundee United)
Over the course of this depressingly dismal season for United, Fraser has been the only, I repeat, the ONLY positive aspect.
Fraser returned from a season long loan at Airdrie and didn’t have to wait long for his chance, starting against Motherwell in the second game of the season. He’s played most matches since, encouraging hope among the crowd with his quick feet and rampaging running style which often looks threatening to opponents.
It’s just a shame about the rest of the team.
Deputy: Grant Gillespie (Hamilton Accies)
MC – Tom Rogic (Celtic)
Who would have thought, after 14 games, that the Australian would be outperforming reigning Player’s Player of the Year Stefan Johansen? Very few, you’d think, but that’s the world we find ourselves in.
It’s redundant to say he’s got all the tools to succeed at a higher level – because Celtic don’t sign players unless they have said skills. However, he’s finally learning to put those abilities to use on the park.
Before he seemed to drift through games, a complete afterthought. Now he’s using his skill and quick feet to his advantage around the penalty area - sometimes to devastating effect.
Deputy: Murray Davidson (St Johnstone)
ML – Greg Kiltie (Kilmarnock)
Ignored for the most part by Allan Johnston, the youngster finally began to find regular playing time under Gary Locke at the end of last season. Strangely, Locke ignored him in the opening two games of the season, which included a gubbing off Dundee on opening day.
Kiltie was inserted into the starting XI for the 2-2 draw with Celtic, and Kilmarnock – with the exception of the 4-0 loss to Ross County, where Kiltie didn’t play – haven’t looked back since.
He was always viewed upon as a youngster with great potential, getting his first taste of first-team football in the 2012/13 season, but now he’s an integral part of the attacking threesome behind Josh Magennis, and he’s chipped in with a few assists as well.
Scott Robinson, Kris Boyd and Stevie Smith are all on three-year deals. Kiltie is out of contract in January. Oh Kilmarnock. What have you done?
Deputy: Ali Crawford (Hamilton Accies)
FC – Josh Magennis (Kilmarnock)
Magennis would likely have made such a team had one been penned about last season. Often derided by opposing fans, the former goalkeeper has improved as an outfield player each and every year during his Scottish football career.
This campaign he’s taken things to a new level. Instead of being a chaos factor who bangs and blunders his way into opportunities (which he then misses) he’s become a much more intelligent footballer on the park. He’s now knows exactly when to use his strength, backing into defenders and linking well with team-mates. He’s also found composure in front of goal.
Deputy: Louis Moult (Motherwell)
FC – Graham Cummins (St Johnstone)
The only new signing to make this team. Cummins was a regular goalscorer in Ireland and then struggled in England. These two facts set off warning alarms all over the place when St Johnstone signed him, since strikers who excel in the League of Ireland, and nowhere else, tend to fall flat in Scotland.
Rather than become another dud, Cummins has been a revelation. Six goals in 16 appearances is decent enough, but it’s his assist total that’s really caught the eye. He’s got eight of them. Eight! We’re only in November.
Aside from the statistics, Saints fans have been impressed with his overall play, and he’s looked comfortable performing in a two with either Steven MacLean or Michael O’Halloran, or own his own as a lone striker.
Deputy: Miles Storey (Inverness CT)