The votes have been counted and the nominees announced: this year’s SPFA Scottish Championship Player of the Year award winner will be contested between Jason Cummings and John McGinn, both of Hibs, along with Queen of the South striker Stephen Dobbie and Morton midfielder Ross Forbes.
But are those players the most deserving? We look at the other stars who should feel aggrieved not to have been considered among the final four.
Darren McGregor (Hibs)
He’s been the best player on the best team and yet doesn’t even get a nomination? It’s a strange one.
Hibs have by far the meanest defence in the competition - conceding just 24 goals, a full 13 fewer than the second stingiest (Morton) - and he’s been the rock at the heart of it. Despite playing with a rotating cast of centre-back partners due to injury issues, he’s consistently been excellent and held the group together.
Having been forced to play his way up from Arniston Rangers, being released by St Mirren after two knee injuries, and shunted out of Ibrox while still the reigning player of the year, it’s fair to say McGregor is used to being overlooked.
This latest snub won’t knock him off stride or even bother him that much. But he deserved the added recognition.
Anthony Andreu (Dundee United)
How is Tony Andreu not on this list? He’s arguably been the single best player in the Championship this term. To not have him in the top four is incredible.
It would make more sense if, for example, Tam O’Ware had been selected ahead of him. Then you could say, OK, there were just too many good candidates and he has been lost in the shuffle. But it’s hard to see the reasoning that he’s had a worse season than McGinn. The Hibs talisman is a great player, but he’s not had a great campaign.
Though they largely operate in different areas (McGinn all-action; Andreu more focused on attack) they play the same position of centre-midfield. It should have been obvious to voters who the better candidate was.
He’s netted 12 league goals (18 in all competitions) and for so long this season has been the only reliable attacking outlet for a Dundee United side that might still finish second.
Craig Sibbald (Falkirk)
Another centre-midfielder who can feel quite harshly overlooked. Comparing him to McGinn, he’s got double the amount of goals as the Hibs man (ten to five) though McGinn (six) has more assists than the Falkirk star (two).
In Andreu’s case, the goal tally could be inflated by him playing further up the park. However, like McGinn, Sibbald plays a little deeper in the midfield four and has consistently been one of Falkirk’s better players, despite continually being used out of position on the left of a midfield four.
Furthermore, Falkirk are currently second in the league table. With some unfashionable players within their ranks, they’re often looked upon as a strong collective rather than a group of excellent individuals, but Sibbald has been their star man.
Thomas O’Ware (Morton)
The Morton defender can comfort himself with the fact that McGregor never got a nomination and it’s between the two of them, with William Edjenguele at Dundee United also in with a shout, for the best defender in the division this year. It’s always going to be difficult for defenders to get recognition for a great season when there are an abundance of good attacking players in the league.
O’Ware, a defender playing for a more unfashionable side, was always going to be a long-shot, but he’d have hoped his six goals from centre-back (ten in all competitions) would have swayed a few votes. Not to mention the impressive feat of forming a reliable pairing with Gavin Gunning.