Left-back, left wing, centre-midfield. Who cares? Wherever you play Callum McGregor you know he will play well. In an article on Scotsman.com he was once referred to as the “John O’Shea” of Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic season, meaning he was the spare part who you could always call on to do a job. Tactically switched on and eager to run himself ragged, he will always be a reliable option. However, 12 months on it would seem we sold the Scottish international short. As evidenced by his keeping Scott Sinclair (No 47) out of the side down the stretch, he has the tools to be a truly dominant attacker at this level – and maybe even higher too.
The best goalkeeper in the league this season. He makes very few mistakes and bales his team out constantly. But more than that, he is just such a presence in the goals. Helped by his lanky frame and awesome wingspan, he not only fills the goalmouth but the six-yard box as well. If theres a cross hung in the air there is a real expectation – an assurance – than McLaughlin will come and collect it. Unless clubs in the Championship drop the ball by failing to lure him back down south, he will be a huge void for Hearts to fill this summer.
The crossing king. Candeias led all players in the top flight with 235 deliveries from wide areas, which contributed to his league-leading ten assists. His creativity is just half the story, though. A willingness to get back and defend at the other end has endeared him to the Ibrox faithful, with many selecting him as their player of the year. It is also very likely that his presence played a huge part in the improvement of James Tavernier (No 13) this year.
The left-back made history this season by becoming the first player to three-peat as PFA Scotland’s Young Player of the Year. Considering he will only be 21 when the next campaign starts, he could well win it for a fourth year running. After all, who in their right mind would back against him? He has the talent to take it up another level or two in Scottish football, especially after a campaign in which he wasn’t quite the destructive attacking force he was the previous season. There exists a universe in which Tierney is both the best defender and attacker in this country; a terrifying thought for the other 11 clubs.
Here is a quick rundown of McGinn’s statistical highlights from this season: ninth in defensive duels, second in shots from outside the box, second for long passes attempted, first in through passes, and first in passes to the final third. He has also been fouled the most and dished out the third most fouls. Yes, it is fair to say that the Hibernian talisman inposes himself upon proceedings. He has ingenuity, is dynamic, energetic, tenacious and just bloody great fun to watch. Any doubt that he had what it took to thrive in the top flight was blown out of the water by the end of August.
Among Ladbrokes Premiership centre-backs, Berra was sixth in interceptions, first in aerial duels, seventh in percentage of headers won and joint first in shots blocked. The advanced statistics back up what we saw on the park: he was a one-man barrier at times. Hearts were a defensive-minded side, of that there is no question, but without their captain and star player it would have been a house of cards which crumbled under the inconsistent play of Aaron Hughes and inexperience of John Souttar. Over the course of the campaign Berra only suffered a slight dip in form between February and April, and that can be attributed to an ankle injury which required pain-killing injections.
The remarkable improvement in a few of Kilmarnock’s squad under Steve Clarke can be explained away by rising fitness levels or acclimatising to the Scottish top flight. The example which truly demonstrates the Kilmarnock manager’s remarkable abilities in individual player progression is his 34-year-old striker. Prior to Clarke’s arrival, Boyd’s full title could easily have been “The Shambling Corpse of Kris Boyd” in a football context. Boyd himself admitted he felt “done” at top-flight level. Not only has he since gone on to score 23 goals in all competitions, and become top scorer in the Premiership, he has reverted to the bullying presence he was in attack during his last spell with the club.
For the second season in succession the winger improved tremendously under Brendan Rodgers. This time he added regular goalscoring to his game as he found the back of the net 17 times in all competitions.
As good as John McGinn was – and as you’ve read already, he was ridiculously good – Dylan McGeouch was even better. His importance was there on display in the last derby match at Tynecastle. Without McGeouch in the midfield for the first hour, Hibs lacked the composure to take control of the game. The occasion got to them and they lacked the discipline in possession that McGeouch provides. He always manages to keep his head while all those around him are losing theirs. He makes opposing players look foolish as he casually turns away from their adrenaline-fuelled advances and always seems to pick the correct ball. Simply, a joy to watch.
The fulcrum of the champions and treble winners. Celtic play the best football in the country and the majority of it goes through Brown. He dictates the tempo and funnels the attack, coordinating the troops to attack the area of the opposition at its weakest. It is advisable to stop Brown in order to stop Celtic, though it is easier said than done. Few have been successful. He taps into his sixth sense, one which anticipates danger coming even when it’s creeping up quietly from behind. Then he’s away again, striding into the open space and giving the ball to a more talented attacker to inflict damage. Speaking of which, the other side are often rendered powerless in their attempts to do likewise to Brendan Rodgers’ side, as they often find his second in command blocking the route to goal. This is not anything new. We’ve seen Brown do this before, though not at the levels he produced this season. He was the clear choice for Player of the Year and the obvious No 1 on this list.