MOTHERWELL striker Michael Higdon, the Scottish Premier League’s top goalscorer this season, was crowned PFA Scotland Player of the Year at the annual awards dinner in Glasgow last night, beating off competition from Hibernian’s Leigh Griffiths, who had the consolation of winning the young player of the year award.
Also on the player of the year shortlist were Andrew Shinnie of Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Aberdeen’s Niall McGinn, who scored a controversial equaliser from the penalty spot at Dens Park yesterday to relegate Dundee.
When it was first announced, the four-man shortlist was criticised by the Celtic manager Neil Lennon, who described it as “abysmal” that none of his championship-winning squad had been among the final quartet of contenders.
But the outstanding season enjoyed by Englishman Higdon, who has scored 26 league goals this season and helped fire Motherwell into second place and a spot in Europe next season, was recognised by his peers.
Liverpool-born Higdon, 29, who started his career at Crewe before heading north for spells with Falkirk and St Mirren en route to Motherwell, received his award from the former Scotland manager Alex McLeish.
Griffiths, meanwhile, won the young player of the year award thanks to the 27 goals he has scored so far. The boyhood Hibs fan is looking to reach the 30-mark and finish off the season with a William Hill Scottish Cup final win over Celtic at Hampden later in the month.
He said: “I am absolutely delighted. It has capped off a dream season for me. I was very nervous listening to the nominations and when my name got called out my stomach kind of fell out of me but I am delighted to get the award.”
Allan Johnston was named PFA Scotland Manager of the Year. The Queen of the South boss picked up his trophy at the awards dinner in Glasgow’s Hilton Hotel.
Johnston, whose side were runaway Irn-Bru Second Division winners – the first team in Britain to win their league – and who also won the Ramsdens Cup, beat off the challenge of
Inverness manager Terry Butcher, Motherwell’s Stuart McCall and Celtic’s Lennon to land the coveted accolade. Johnston said: “It is unbelievable. I was delighted to be nominated but to win it is a thrill. When you look at the other guys, Neil Lennon and his exploits in the Champions League, it is amazing.”
Earlier in the evening, former Scotland manager Craig Brown was given a rousing ovation as he was presented with a Special Merit award.
The recently retired Brown, 72, who stepped down in recent weeks to allow Derek McInnes to take over from him as manager of Aberdeen, was the last man to guide Scotland to the finals of an international tournament at the World Cup in France in 1998.
Brown, who was also assistant to Andy Roxburgh before he took over as national team manager, was in charge of Scotland between 1993 and 2001, but then returned to club management with Preston North End, Motherwell, then finally Aberdeen.
Rangers defender Lee Wallace, who has played consistently well despite a season of ups and downs for Rangers, was named the Third Division player of the year.
Queen of the South’s Nicky Clark, who is a confirmed transfer target for Rangers next season, was the runaway winner of the Second Division accolade, his 41-goal haul perhaps making him the biggest certainty of the night to land his divisional award. Falkirk striker Lyle Taylor was also recognised for an outstanding season by taking the First Division prize.
PFA Scotland Player of the Year: Michael Higdon (Motherwell)
Manager of the Year: Allan Johnston (Queen of the South)
Young Player of the Year: Leigh Griffiths (Hibernian)
First Division player of the Year:
Lyle Taylor (Falkirk)
Second Division player of the Year:
Nicky Clark (Queen of the South)
Third Division player of the Year:
Lee Wallace (Rangers)
Goal of the season:
Bryan Prunty (Dumbarton)