Craig Fowler casts his eye over some of the more interesting expiring contracts in the Scottish Premiership ahead of the January transfer window...
Honourable mentions: Scott Allan was on the original list but missed the final cut. He was great at Hibs in the second half of last season, but that’s his only consistent run of form in the top flight in his entire career. Glen Kamara was superb for Dundee last term but has gone missing on this occasion. Though that could be down to him angling for a move, you still have respect the extent of the drop off when compiling a top 10. Chris Cadden has the most physical talent of just about anyone on this list, it’s just a shame he’s endure a poor 2018. Cammy Kerr always wears his heart on his sleeve and shows great commitment to the cause, though his ceiling is probably significantly lower the other players here. And Lee Wallace would’ve made the list if we could guarantee that the current version of the full-back was the exact same player as 18 months ago. He’s only played twice since sustaining that groin injury and is in his 30s.
10. Tony Watt (St Johnstone)
The former Celtic striker, along with Stevie May at Aberdeen, has shown this season that you don’t necessarily need to score goals to be an effective front-man, as he finally ended a barren four-month spell with the winner at St Mirren recently. Contrary to the falsely labelled bad-boy persona that he’s carried, Watt works his backside off for the team and his combination of strength and close control make him a highly effective target man.
9. Arnaud Djoum (Hearts)
He no longer attacks the opposition by regularly going beyond the strikers, a feature of his game that made him one of the league’s stand-out attacking midfielders just a couple of seasons ago, but he remains a valuable part of the Hearts team. His poise and technique enable him to be a calming presence, while he’s deceptively good in the air for such a laid-back character.
8. Michael Smith (Hearts)
He can play anywhere across the back-line or at wing-back and always gives a 7/10 performance. He doesn’t do spectacular, but his reliability is rare in a league full of mercurial talents.
7. Craig Halkett (Livingston)
He’s the biggest star and the leader of a Livingston team that has defied all expectations to remain competitive in the hunt for a top six place this season.
6. Graeme Shinnie (Aberdeen)
It’s not been his best season in an Aberdeen shirt but Shinnie still brings a tremendous amount of energy and tenacity to the centre of the park, while still being one of the better options in the league at left-back if his manager, whether that remains Derek McInnes or he decides to move on, wants to use him in his former position.
5. Gary Mackay-Steven (Aberdeen)
It will be interesting to see what GMS does at this juncture of his career. At 28 years old he’ll be hoping for a decent pay day on what could be his final long-term contract, but even though he’s been the most consistent attacking threat on the team that finished second in the Ladbrokes Premiership last term, and may do so again this season, his failed stint with Celtic and lack of Scotland exposure would limit the amount of teams interested.
4. Jordan Jones (Kilmarnock)
He’s not as much of a goalscorer as Mackay-Steven but he terrifies defenders on a more consistent basis with his enthusiasm for direct running. He’s completely embarrassed a couple of full-backs this season.
3. Efe Ambrose (Hibs)
Everyone may be hyping up Ryan Porteous at the moment, but Hibs’ most impressive centre-back over the course of this season (and last) has been Efe Ambrose. The Nigerian has always had the ability, but towards the end of his Celtic tenure it was clear that prior mistakes had knocked his confidence and he needed a fresh start. He found that at Easter Road and hasn’t looked back since.
2. Scott Brown (Celtic)
He’s not had a great season and Celtic look a more dynamic team without him in the side. He suffered one of the worst performances, maybe the worst of the last two-and-a-half years on Saturday, leading many fans to wonder if he’s done. However, everyone said the same during Ronny Deila’s tenure and it would be foolish to write him off so quickly, seeing as he’s the reigning Player of the Year. He’d still be a regular starter, and one of the best players, for any other midfield in the country.
1. Dedryck Boyata (Celtic)
His natural talent is such that he doesn’t necessarily have to do anything extraordinary to keep his place as the best centre-back in Scottish football, he just has to avoid silly mistakes, which he’s done this season.
His passing, once the second major weak point of his game, has improved significantly also.