Craig Fowler picks his top 10 of players in Scottish football who’ll be available for free next summer.
10. Marcus Fraser (Centre back/right back - Ross County)
County have looked a lot stronger at the heart of the defence since they jettisoned first Paul Quinn and then Jay McEveley before shifting the unassuming right back over to the centre. Not only has Fraser performed well in the role, bringing a poise and assurance that neither of the aforementioned pair could manage, he’s brought out the best in centre-back partner Andrew Davies. Unflashy but dependable, he’d be a welcomed addition for most sides in the top flight.
9. Steven Anderson (Centre back - St Johnstone)
The St Johnstone stalwart has not enjoyed a productive 2017/18 season thus far, and therefore he snuck on to this list rather than being immediately placed in the top five. In the end it was felt that, at only 31, it was a little premature to assume he was on the slide and that his current form could easily be explained by Saints’ recent struggles. On the greater body of evidence, he remains one of the better centre backs in the league.
8. Liam Henderson (Centre midfielder - Celtic)
I went back and forth on whether to include Henderson or go with Hamilton Accies midfielder Ali Crawford. The case for Crawford was simple: he’s been playing consistently over the past season and a quarter with a vastly underrated midfield unit. Henderson, meanwhile, has largely warmed the bench for Celtic. However, the final decision came down to one question: who would I rather my team sign if both were available? The answer to that was Henderson.
The Hibs cup-winning hero is a terrific footballer, capable of both battling in the centre and making things happen in the final third, and he’s got age on his side. It’s a real shame he’s been limited to the odd appearance at Parkhead. Crawford, while more of a goal threat, goes through long stages where his form drops.
7. Jamie MacDonald (Goalkeeper - Kilmarnock)
Alan Mannus and Scott Bain are also on expiring deals. The latter would appear on most pundits’ lists, but certainly not this one. He makes highlight reels because he does have the ability to pull off spectacular stops. He also has a tendency to concede goals that, frankly, he should be stopping, committing such acts on at least two occasions already this term. Mannus, having won back his place from Zander Clark at St Johnstone has now lost it again after a couple of blunders.
Of the three, it feels that MacDonald has made the fewest mistakes over the past couple of years. He also has the capability of pulling off top class saves, making at least four already this term.
6. Gary Dicker (Defensive midfielder - Kilmarnock)
Had Dicker been fit to start this season, Lee McCulloch may still be the Kilmarnock manager at this moment in time. His calming influence and physical presence at the base of the midfield has been sorely missed and though things appear to be on the up since the arrival of Steve Clarke, Killie could still do with the veteran Irishman returning to bolster what’s been a problem area for the Ayrshire side.
5. Abdul Osman - (Defensive midfielder - Partick Thistle)
Similarly, Thistle can’t wait for the return of their captain, who’s been out through injury since August. The 30-year-old provides his side with a natural ball-winner in midfield. There’s little flashy about the Ghanaian, he just gets on with his job of protecting the defence and protecting it well. There are a few Scottish Premiership sides who could do with someone like that.
4. Jamie Walker (Winger/attacking midfielder - Hearts)
He’s barely kicked a ball in 10 months but we’ve all witnessed what the Hearts playmaker can do when he’s on a good team. Injury problems would be a worry for anyone who wants to take him on, but seeing as he’s stayed fit for most of 2017, without a recurrence of the knee issues which have plagued him for most of this career, you’d think there will be more than a few clubs wishing to take him on at the season’s end.
If he’d continued his form of 2015/16 and the first half of 2016/17 then he’d be No.2 on this list. Seemingly wants to leave Tynecastle at the end of the season and it’s maybe for the best that he gets a chance at a fresh start.
3. Dylan McGeouch (Centre midfielder - Hibs)
On current form he’d be No.2. The Hibs midfielder has been excellent this term and is vital to the manner in which his side’s play, as he and John McGinn both have the ability in the centre of the park to dictate play and tempo, while also causing problems in the final third.
Crucially, he’s stayed injury free so far this term (touch wood). Were it not for a constant stream of niggles and knocks over the previous two campaigns, you’d have to believe he’d already be considered one of the best midfielders in the country. Deservedly, it’s a reality most observers are beginning to wake up to.
2. Kenny McLean (Centre midfielder - Aberdeen)
He’s not been as effective at the beginning of this campaign as he was throughout much of the last one, but a terrific showing against Ross County last weekend hints at the recent Scotland call-up getting back to his best. Capable of playing at both the base and tip of a midfield three, McLean combines vision with excellent passing ability. When he plays with a sense of urgency there are few players better in the league.
He’s made it fairly clear he wants to leave Pittodrie at the end of this campaign. Rangers are said to be keen, but whether he’s the type of player required to take them to the next level remains to be seen.
1. Louis Moult (Striker - Motherwell)
Arguably the best striker in the league outside Celtic Park, Moult has continued to develop throughout his Motherwell tenure and is now much more than a player who can merely score goals. He can link with team-mates, run the channels, battle it out with physical centre-backs and score screamers from distance.
He’s another who’s expected to move on at the end of the campaign, but if his recent form continues then it’s hard to imagine anyone but Celtic or Rangers having the clout to offer him a pre-contract that he’d accept.
• Thanks to the excellent Narey’s Toe Poker for compiling the expiring contracts list