THIS article starts with a small disclaimer.
These are not the only players I believe clubs should or will sign to new deals. This is just a selection of the best. The players that each team will find hardest to replace.
Following the same line of thinking, it also does not mean (because I’ve picked one Celtic player and three St Johnstone players, for example) that I’m saying some clubs have better out of contract players than others.
There were some teams where ‘nobody’ would have been an acceptable answer, but in the interest of fairness everyone in the top flight was included.
In the interest of brevity I limited it to a maximum of three from each team.
Aberdeen – Shay Logan
The right back has been a constant source of speculation as he reportedly wishes to return down south. As a result his form has suffered, but there was enough from his initial 12 months at Pittodrie to suggest Aberdeen will want him to stick around if he’s happy and focused on the task at hand.
He’s stated his openness with regard to either scenario, which may not be exactly what Dons fans want to hear. After all, footballer’s normally toe the party line regardless of how genuine they are being, but at least he’s being honest.
Celtic – James Forrest
Every other player the Celtic support would wish to see hang around for another crack at a Champions League adventure is already under contract.
Forrest is the only star performer, both at home and in European - where he’s arguably been one of the few who could hold his head high over the course of a disastrous campaign - with time ticking on his deal.
He says he wants to stay. As a young player, with potential, Celtic will want to keep him. He’s enjoyed his best season since his breakout year. So, for all those reasons, expect a new deal to be done shortly.
Dundee – Kevin Thomson
Thomson signed after leaving Hibs prior to Dundee’s debut season back in the top flight. While the move has been largely positive, he’s suffered through injury problems over the past year and a bit, and isn’t getting any younger.
That being said, Dundee look a shell of a team when he isn’t in the side. Thomson really makes the midfield tick and has grown to be the team’s talisman. He also provides some much needed veteran leadership.
Dundee United – Ryan McGowan
McGowan can cover at three different positions and was someone the Tannadice faithful initially took a liking to after his January move. There have been questions over his form recently, but then there always would be with the team sitting bottom of the table with two league wins all season.
McGowan was a strong performer in a Hearts team that finished fifth and his athleticism would be a great contribution to the team if Mixu Paatelainen can add some talent elsewhere.
Hamilton – Michael McGovern, Lucas Tagliapietra & Ziggy Gordon
Getting McGovern to sign must be top of Hamilton’s off-field ‘to do’ list. Northern Ireland’s No.1 is among the top three goalkeepers in Scotland, which will make an extension agreement no easy task.
The signing of Lucas to a contract extension at the tail end of last season after he’d only played twice was a real gamble from Martin Canning, but one that has certainly paid off. The towering Brazilian/Italian has made them a stronger defensive unit. While Gordon is one of the better two-way full-backs in the country.
Hearts – Osman Sow, Igor Rossi & Arnaud Djoum
With his pace, quick feet, eye for goal and relative youth, Sow may be the most prized Scottish football attacker outside of Glasgow.
In a defence full of flaky talents, Rossi has been a much needed rock for Robbie Neilson’s squad, and it’s no surprise the team’s worst defensive performances this season have either come in his absence or when he was stationed at left-back.
Hearts expect to tie up a new deal for Djoum soon. The Belgian is the only centre midfielder in the Hearts squad who’s a regular threat in the opposing third.
Inverness CT – Ross Draper & David Raven
Inverness’ continuity going into last season was one of the biggest reasons why they had such a successful campaign. Likewise, the lack of it from January until now is why they’ve struggled.
Ryan Christie will already be departing, so with a big void to fill on the creative front, John Hughes should be looking to tie up two of his more dependable performers.
Kilmarnock – Greg Kiltie, Craig Slater & Rory McKenzie
Serious questions will rightly be asked of Kilmarnock’s transfer policy if these three youngsters are allowed to walk while Kris Boyd is contracted through 2018.
All three have been instrumental in Kilmarnock’s turnaround following the early season embarrassments suffered at the hands of Dundee and Ross County.
Kiltie and McKenzie, along with summer signing Kallum Higginbotham, provide energy, dynamism and creativity in the supporting triumvirate behind Josh Magennis, while Slater’s inclusion in the first team, as one half of the double pivot, has made Kilmarnock’s passing game much more efficient and effective.
Rather oddly, and concerningly, Kiltie is only tied up until the end of December.
Motherwell – Keith Lasley
Saturday’s loss to Inverness CT showed that while Motherwell may be a more organised and disciplined side under Mark McGhee, they still lack quality in a number of areas. The new boss will need to strengthen in January and next summer.
He may still look to jettison Lasley, who’ll be 37 in September, but the long time captain, nicknamed Mr Motherwell, is exactly the sort of dressing room personality you want when a new shipment of unfamiliar club mates arrive.
Besides, he’s shown enough this campaign, despite their struggles, to merit another go with a better supporting cast.
Partick Thistle – Abdul Osman & Stuart Bannigan
Osman was Thistle’s best player last campaign, and while he’s not quite kept up those high levels, he certainly has to be considered for the honour so far this season.
Bannigan has yet to develop into the superstar Thistle fans hoped he’d become after initially breaking into the side, though there’s no doubt he’s one of the more reliable performers in the Jags’ midfield.
Ross County – Jamie Reckord
One of the more unheralded players on this list.
For those who don’t know, Reckord has been solid for County since turning up in the Highlands last November as a player desperate for a chance at first team football. Not particularly eye catching going forward or in defence, he just does a strong job at both.
Won the battle with Ricky Foster for the left-back spot this season.
St Johnstone – Graham Cummins, Steven Anderson & Steven MacLean
Cummins has been a revelation since joining in the summer, firing himself to near the top of the goalscorer charts and conjuring a healthy number of assists also.
Benefiting from the Irishman’s creativity has been his strike partner Steven MacLean. The cup final hero may be getting on in years (he’s 33) and he may be injury prone, but he’s shown enough already this season to justify at least a one-year extension.
Steven Anderson has been Mr Reliable for the past five years at McDiarmid Park and the club’s defensive struggles when he missed the start of the season through injury shows they’re not ready to move on yet.
Hibernian – Dominique Malonga & Paul Hanlon
Is there a more polarising player in Scottish football than Malonga?
Even within his own support there are those who dub him a ‘wage thief’ for his languid, and misunderstood, style. Such criticism is far too harsh and fails to recognise his strengths.
While his laid back style can be frustrating, his ability to ghost into space keeps the attack flowing. And though he can miss sitters from time to time, his goalscoring record since signing for the club has been excellent.
Hanlon, a defender who’s always required confidence, appears to be thriving on a winning team in the second tier and will be a better player when Hibs return to the top flight than the one who was relegated with them*.
*He did miss the majority of the Terry Butcher-led capitulation through injury.
Rangers – Dean Shiels
Kenny Miller is the only regular starter at Ibrox whose contract is winding down, but with his 36th birthday fast approaching and a likely step up in level facing the club next season, they may decline to make another offer.
Of the squad players, both Shiels and Nicky Law have excelled at the top flight level before, each earning player of the year nominations from their time at Kilmarnock and Motherwell, respectively.
Both have also played their part this season, too. And while Law may have more years ahead of him – he’s 27 while Shiels is 30 – the fans appreciate the tigerish quality in Shiels’ play.
Fewer players work harder than the Northern Irishman and that could be the difference if it comes down to a toss up between keeping one of the two.