Hibernian striker Leigh Griffiths collected his third award of the season after being named Clydesdale Bank Premier League Player of the Year, while Stuart McCall was named Manager of the Year for guiding Motherwell to the runner’s-up spot behind Celtic.
The two award winners posed side by side at last night’s ceremony in Glasgow, but McCall was quick to admit that he hopes Griffiths is in the losing side when Hibs take on Celtic in the William Hill Scottish Cup final at Hampden on 26 May. Motherwell’s second-placed finish in the SPL has brought with it a Europa League place, but which qualifying round McCall’s side will enter, and therefore which date they will return to pre-season, will be determined by Hibs’ result against the SPL champions at Hampden in a fortnight’s time.
If Pat Fenlon’s side take the cup back to Leith for the first time in 111 years, they will enter the third qualifying round which starts on 1 August.
If Hibs lose they will enter the second qualifying round on 18 July and Motherwell will enter the third qualifying round. “We have a rough idea when we will go back,” said McCall, speaking before the awards dinner at the Hilton Hotel in Glasgow.
“Obviously when we go into Europe depends on the cup final result. If Celtic manage to beat Hibs we will go in a bit later. So it’s possibly the first time I have ever been cheering Celtic on at a cup final. But we are all looking forward to Europe.”
Griffiths and his goal threat are key to Hibs’ hopes of upsetting Celtic, and a winner’s medal would be the icing on the cake of a stunning season for the on-loan Wolves forward.
Griffiths, who is likely to be called up for Gordon Strachan’s Scotland squad to face Croatia in a World Cup qualifier next month, scored his 28th goal of the campaign with a stunning free-kick in Sunday’s Edinburgh derby victory over Hearts and adds his latest award to the Hibs club prize and PFA Scotland Young Player of the Year trophy he has already collected.
The award for the top player aged 21 and under went
to Victor Wanyama, 21, after the Kenyan midfielder played a key role in Celtic’s second successive title win.
SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster paid tribute to the winners, and praised clubs for the role they have played in an exciting campaign for the league – the last campaign being played under the sponsorship of the Clydesdale Bank.
“With one round of fixtures left to play, we have almost reached the end of what has been a captivating season,” said Doncaster. “We have witnessed several high-scoring matches as well as some of the most spectacular goals scored in the SPL to date.
“The Clydesdale Bank Premier League Awards presents us with an opportunity to showcase all the best bits from the top tier of Scottish football, and recognise the good work of our clubs both on and off the pitch. After six action-packed seasons, this weekend will see the final fixture round of SPL matches under the Clydesdale Bank banner. I would like to place on record our sincere appreciation to Clydesdale Bank for all the support they have given to the SPL over the last six years.”
McCall meanwhile had news of impending transfer activity at Motherwell. Acknowledging that keeper Darren Randolph is set to leave the Fir Park club with Birmingham favourites for his signature, he confirmed his interest in St Mirren’s No 1, Craig Samson.
“The boy Samson is on our radar but I will leave that to Gordon Marshall [goalkeeping coach], that is his specialist subject,” he said.
“We have played against Samson but Marsh knows him from his Kilmarnock days and he is one we are looking to talk to. But whoever comes in will have a challenge to get the number one shirt because we have a lot of faith in Lee Hollis.”
McCall described Motherwell’s second-place finish behind Celtic as “incredible” and praised his players for helping him to win his award. He said: “It was documented at the beginning of the season that we had lost three or four players and Aberdeen, Hearts and Dundee United and other sides were tipped for second spot,” he said. “We weren’t mentioned and rightly so. Top six was our aim and to finish second with a game to go and beating last season’s points tally is a tribute to the players.
“It is down to the players and the staff. I have been very fortunate and they have made my life easier. But the players have been outstanding.”
Other awards saw the goal of the season chosen, and
St Mirren midfielder Graham Carey’s long-range strike against Hearts at St Mirren Park on 27 February came out on top.
Save of the season, meanwhile, went to Celtic’s Fraser Forster, when keeper denied Dundee’s Gary Harkins on 24 February.
Kilmarnock winger Chris Johnston was named Clydesdale Bank Under-20 League Player of the Season after the 18-year-old’s raft of good performances led to promotion to the Ayrshire side’s first team. Dundee United, whose DISC Target Project is run together with the local council, youth workers and the police, to combat the high level of anti-social behaviour in the community, won the award for the Best Community Initiative.
For the fifth successive season, Motherwell won the award for best media relations.