Clubs are busy recruiting players for the coming season but what about those players who could be repositioned or better utilised? Joel Sked looks at six players who should have a more important role this season.
Scott Wright - Aberdeen
Scott Wright started last season as he finished the 2016/2017 campaign, full of confidence, providing Aberdeen with youthful verve. Following an opening day win over Hamilton Academical in which he played the full 90 minutes Derek McInnes spoke of the player’s potential and how he was capable of reaching the level of Niall McGinn and Jonny Hayes.
A few weeks later he scored a terrific long range strike against Thistle at Firhill.
It appeared Aberdeen had a very special talent on their hands, someone who was set to light up the Premiership. Then, strangely, starts were harder to come by for the winger. It only got worse, between February and the end of the season he featured for one minute in the Premiership.
With Niall McGinn and Gary Mackay-Steven as Aberdeen’s wide options and only two forwards in Stevie May and Sam Cosgrove, opportunity has presented itself to Wright. And he has already proved, in spells, that is a more than able player at this level, with the option to play in different roles behind a striker.
Jonny Hayes - Celtic
An injury to Kieran Tierney, on the face of it, would be pretty devastating for Celtic. He’s not only a very, very good player but he is a one-man left-wing in Celtic’s 3-5-2 formation. An athlete and competitor with great influence despite his young age.
Yet, there is little need for Celtic to enter the transfer market for a back-up. Instead, Brendan Rodgers could use his coaching powers to mould Jonny Hayes into a left-back/left wing-back.
The Irishman’s debut campaign with Celtic was ruined by injury, while there are players who, at this moment in time, are ahead of him in the pecking order as a left-winger, namely Scott Sinclair, Lewis Morgan and Michael Johnston.
Hayes has had experience as both a wing-back and left-back while at Aberdeen. He would be a sound replacement for Tierney in domestic games due to their similarities in an attacking sense. It would also allow Rodgers to rest a player who has made 103 appearances in the last two seasons for club and country.
Mickel Miller - Hamilton Academical
No team has had their creativity ripped out of their squad quite as much as Hamilton. Both David Templeton and Ali Crawford have left to continue their careers in England. Over the last three seasons the duo have contributed to 44 goals, whether that be goals or assists.
Enter Mickel Miller. The 22-year-old’s only experience of professional football has been with the Accies after they signed him from non-league in England. The forward was a man in-demand after impressing with goals and assists for Carshalton Athletic. Through Jamie Vardy’s V9 Academy he had a trial with Sheffield Wednesday before being recruited by Martin Canning in January.
After six months of adapting to professional and Scottish football more will be expected of Miller. He will be required to bring his scoring ability and assist-making to the team. He has traits similar to both Crawford and Templeton. He operates behind a focal point, quick, can dribble and is not scared of shooting. He gave a good indication of just that by netting a hat-trick against Berwick Rangers in the Betfred Cup.
Anthony McDonald - Heart of Midlothian
Harry Cochrane was one of the breakout stars of last season’s Ladbrokes Premiership season. There was much written about him. Yet, there is another precocious teenage talent who Hearts fans are just as excited about, Anthony McDonald. He played less than half the minutes of Cochrane and 300 minutes less than the much-maligned Rafal Grzelak who left during the season, but he did enough to impress.
He turned 17 in March and the expectation that both he and Cochrane would be used sparingly after the club went on a substantial recruitment drive. Needing inspiration from the bench against Raith Rovers and Cowdenbeath, Craig Levein turned to McDonald to help turn the game and help Hearts break down the rigid the respective backlines.
This is the precise role McDonald can play therefore becoming an increasingly important player. A look at the Hearts squad sees a team lacking in what you would call natural creativity. A player who can bamboozle defences with a drop of a shoulder and spot a pass few others can even imagine.
Steven Whittaker - Hibernian
There were strong signs last season that Steven Whittaker’s days as a top tier defender were nearing an end. Those fears were all but confirmed last week when the player was badly found wanting in the Europa League qualifiers against limited opposition in Runavik as he formed part of a back three, at one point doing his best impression of an 18-wheeler with 17 flat tyres attempting a U-turn.
It was a contrast to the first-leg victory over the Faroese, with Whittaker strolling through the match as he patrolled from the base of the midfield. It is the position he has looked most comfortable in since returning to the club last summer.
He no longer appears to have the legs to be left to deal with 1v1 situations against wingers or forwards running in behind him. The 34-year-old is still a fine football player. With Scott Allan and Dylan McGeouch having departed and speculation still shrouding John McGinn’s future, Whittaker can offer a steadying presence in the midfield and a different option to Marvin Bartley in terms of building play and protecting the defence.
It would also allow Hibs boss Neil Lennon to think about recruiting more forward thinking midfield players to replace those that have left or could potentially leave.
Gael Bigirimana - Motherwell
Motherwell had a clear identity last season as they reached the Betfred and Scottish Cup finals. They made no apologies for their approach with an energetic and tenacious midfield of Carl McHugh, Allan Campbell and Andy Rose. It meant that Gael Bigirimana was a bit-part player.
In flashes he did show that he is a clearly talented player, someone who should perhaps be utilised more by Well boss Stephen Robinson.
The Steelmen won’t stray far from their direct and aggressive ethos but it was clear throughout the season that they required a more refined plan B. The signing of midfielder Alex Rodriguez suggests Robinson is aware of this.
However, Bigirimana is someone capable of stepping up to the plate, offering tenacity as well as midfield composure. He was one of only two outfield Motherwell players to have a pass completion rate more than 80 per cent in the league. And no one passed the ball more frequently per 90 minutes.