Who are the best 2016/17 SPFL players still without a contract?

Craig Sibbald is out of contract but another club needs to pay to sign him. Picture: Michael Gillen
Craig Sibbald is out of contract but another club needs to pay to sign him. Picture: Michael Gillen
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Ten of the best players still available on the free agent market this summer who featured in the 2016/17 Scottish football season.

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Before we go any further, this writer feels the need to warn you, this is slim pickings. As a result, some of these inclusions may seem a little strange but I’ve tried, where possible, to state a case for the defence.

There was also an attempt to keep this selection as plausible as possible. Therefore, there is no Kolo Toure because nobody would be able to afford him. And there is no Philippe Senderos because nobody would want him.

Josh Meekings

There was a time when Meekings looked like one of the best prospects in the country and, at 24, there’s no reason he shouldn’t at least go some way to fulfilling such potential.

Over the last two sub-par campaigns he’s had to contend with one manager playing him at right back, and another being unable to lead a dance let alone a football team. There’s also been a few injury issues along the way.

Get him into the right situation and it’s likely he will flourish some more. At present he’s training with Dundee and if Meekings is open to a deal with the Dens Park club then they should lock him in a room until he signs.

Considering the trouble the Dens Park side have had at centre-back over the last few years, it would be an incredible turnaround if they could get an in-form Meekings alongside captain Darren O’Dea, with the promising Jack Hendry in reserve.

Good fit for: Dundee, Aberdeen (back-up), Partick Thistle, Ross County, Motherwell

Craig Sibbald

This one comes with a rather large caveat. Sibbald may be out of contract, but because he’s under 23 and a product of the club’s youth system, it would cost a team around £250k to take him off Falkirk’s hands. So far nobody has been prepared to do so and the player has been stuck in football purgatory. After a trial with Luton Town failed to lead to a permanent offer, he came back to Falkirk for his pre-season training before returning to Luton once more for a second trial.

It’s a shame Scottish clubs are priced out of signing him because the Falkirk centre-midfielder is a real talent. He had his best season last term, netting a career high in goals (10) and was easily the best player on the team who ran Hibs closest for the Ladbrokes Championship crown. He’s a technically sound player who can spot a pass and make darting runs around the penalty area.

With Blair Alston having adapted to the top flight fairly comfortably last season it’s easy to see Sibbald, viewed as the brighter prospect of the two at the Falkirk Stadium, doing likewise.

Good fit for: Aberdeen, Hearts and Hibs

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Clint Hill

It’s likely Hill’s stay in Scottish football will end after one solitary season. His wages at Rangers would have been comfortable enough for him to make the switch from England, and it’s doubtful any other side (who’d want him) would be able to offer anywhere near the same.

If he were to stick around and sign with someone else it would depend on three things: he’s willing to take a pay cut, an English club are unwilling to match it, and he values playing at the top level (and maybe sticking it to Pedro Caixinha for not offering him another year) over getting lost in the English football league rat race.

If he decides he likes Scotland because things like sun and decipherable accents are overrated, there are a few teams who could use a veteran presence and his leadership qualities at the back.

Good fit for: Dundee, Partick Thistle

Andraz Struna

He turned down a deal to stay at Hearts so there’s little chance of other clubs in the Scottish top flight being able to afford him, especially with Aberdeen and Hibs set at right-back. Having said that, the longer one stays unemployed, the lower wage demands become. He reportedly left Tynecastle because other British teams were interested. Seeing as it’s now almost August and he’s still without a club, that may not be the case any more. Besides, he talked before about how much he liked Edinburgh and Scotland in general.

Hearts fans will snort at his inclusion because... well, because he wasn’t that good. It is, however, a sentence you could say about anyone in the Hearts team post-January. And when Jamie Walker and Arnaud Djoum aren’t performing, the finger of blame over why a talented team is failing to execute the most basic of football functions begins to fall elsewhere.

Struna is a 25-cap Slovenian international and a worthy attacking full-back who just needs to get over his hesitancy in closing down crosses. Then again, a vampire-esque aversion to that particular aspect of the game has plagued Hearts full-backs for years.

Good fit for: Partick Thistle, Rangers (back-up), Aberdeen (back-up)

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Sean Welsh

Last season Welsh proved he is a decent Premiership player. There was even a period of about two months where he was the best player on a Partick Thistle side which would eventually finish the campaign in the top six. Unfortunately he also proved that he’s almost incapable of going through a single season without suffering a serious injury.

Welsh’s time at Firhill was blighted by injuries and eventually Alan Archibald decided it was time the money spent on his wages was allocated elsewhere. Now he’s at a crossroads, out of contract with a injury-prone tagged slapped across his forehead, scaring off potential suitors.

If a team can look past his blighted past and hope a new environment will lead to a sustained period of health, then they’ll be getting a cultured but hard-working midfielder with a great range of passing and refusal to hide even when things are going badly.

Good fit for: St Johnstone, Kilmarnock, Hamilton

Alex D’Acol

When the player was released, Accies said it was because he wanted to return to his homeland of Brazil. Therefore, it may be a bit of a stretch to suggest he could be tempted to the likes of Maryhill or Dundee. Then again, Accies said exactly the same of Greek defender Giannis Skondras, who promptly performed a u-turn and signed a new deal to stay in South Lanarkshire.

D’Acol rebounded from a horror 2015/16 campaign, where he literally didn’t score a goal, to a strong season last time around. Perfect for Hamilton’s 4-2-3-1 system which relies on the midfielders to break from deep, D’Acol showed himself to be an expert at holding up the ball and bringing others into play.

Good fit for: Kilmarnock, Partick Thistle, St Johnstone

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Kris Commons

This one is no secret. Hibs want Commons. Commons wants to play for Hibs. But the player’s back wants only industrial painkillers. If he can get back to full fitness after recent surgery then he’ll be in green and white this season. If he doesn’t, we may see an enforced early retirement from a player who, until quite recently, was still classed among the best in Scottish football.

Good fit for: Hibs (and many others)

Charlie Telfer

Strange choice, yes, but then Telfer was no worse (arguably better) than Blair Spittal last season and the latter looks set to play a big part in Partick Thistle’s first-team this campaign. Similar to the case made for Andraz Struna, there has been a feeling of ‘maybe he’ll be a good player in a better team’ about a lot of United’s talent over the past couple of seasons.

Telfer is a neat and tidy player who operates in front of the back four. And while he’s yet to do anything of note in the Scottish game, his early potential, which encouraged a tribunal to force Dundee United into paying £200,000 in compensation to Rangers, will ensure he lands at a full-time club.

Whether that club is in Scotland remains to be seen. Last we heard, Mr Telfer was training with Dutch second division side Almere City.

Good fit for: Hamilton Accies, Ross County

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Fraser Fyvie

Another of the neat-and-tidy variety but someone who has proven his worth on a grander stage than Telfer. Ironically enough, United looked set to replace the departed 22-year-old with Fyvie, only for the ex-Hibs and Aberdeen midfielder to go cold on the deal.

There were rumours circling around the grapevine that he was signing for Rangers having been spotted at Ibrox, but that was likely just down to his friendship with Ryan Jack. With Aberdeen also not keen on offering the midfielder a deal, despite him training at Pittodrie, he’ll likely have to look toward the lower half of the Ladbrokes Premiership to find himself a new team if he wants to remain in Scotland.

Good fit for: Kilmarnock, Partick Thistle

Grant Holt

Seven goals in 37 games for a team in the Championship is not a great return, so why would top flight clubs be interested? Especially when the player is 36 years of age.

Well, today there was a story about St Johnstone going after Conor Sammon. Now, this writer didn’t watch Grant Holt an awful lot last season, but comparing his performances in the two Edinburgh derbies to those of Sammon in a Hearts top, I know which player I’d rather have.

Shrewsbury and Carlisle have been linked with his signature in recent days. Given the fact that Alan Archibald knocked back one of those sides, and Holt loves the Edinburgh festival, he may just be persuaded to stick around in Scotland for another year.

Good fit for: St Johnstone, Hamilton