Part two in Craig Fowler’s list counting down the SPFL’s best players from the 2017/18 season
40. Alan Power (Kilmarnock)
Kilmarnock looked to have signed a dud when Power took his place in the starting XI for the Betfred Cup opener against rivals Ayr United and then proceeded to be completely outplayed by a bunch of guys two divisions below his supposed standard. When an equally startling performance followed in the next match against Clyde – where he was hooked at half-time with the hosts trailing the League Two side 2-1 – alarm bells were well and truly ringing. Under Lee McCulloch he played five abject games before being binned by the previous boss following the 5-0 hammering suffered at the hands of a youthful Celtic side.
Describing his turnaround under Steve Clarke as “incredible” would be selling it short. There was a period between the new boss arriving and the winter-break stoppage where Power was man of the match almost every single week. Even into the new year, he continued to impress with his battling qualities and humility on the ball. And, for all the praise his team-mates received for Killie’s surge up the league, it was Power who took home the Killie fans’ player of the year award.
39. Craig Halkett (Livingston)
Alan Lithgow (No 49) made the list for his terrific displays at the heart of Livingston’s defence this season, though even he couldn’t compete with his defensive partner. The 22-year-old (a former Rangers youth product) was unbelievable throughout the campaign as the Livingston faithful waxed lyrical about him on a weekly basis, and with good reason. In the Championship stats, Halkett was fifth in interceptions, fifth in defensive duels, fourth in percentage of aerial duels won, and had the ninth most-blocked shots of any defender.
38. Scott Allan (Dundee/Hibs)
Had he spent the entire season with Hibs, playing in that incredible midfield with John McGinn and Dylan McGeouch, he would have been much higher up the list. However, that would be ignoring his time with Dundee, where he failed to set the heather alight in the latter half of 2017 after being hailed as a marquee summer addition. The fact that he didn’t have a specific role in the team didn’t help, to be fair. Dundee weren’t strong enough to play with a luxury No 10, while the attacking players around him lacked the talent to make the most of Allan’s reverse-through-ball predilection. When he played on the left, he was still able to create, but he also conceded possession too easily and wasn’t disciplined enough positionally or defensively. He still had match-winning cameos against Rangers and Hamilton, to name two, so that part of his season wasn’t a total write-off.
37. John Souttar (Hearts)
While playing alongside Christophe Berra undoubtedly helped, we should still congratulate John Souttar on his finest season to date. He made fewer mistakes, bulked up sufficiently in order to battle with bigger strikers, looking more sure of himself in the back four, and continued to be one of the better ball-playing defenders in the country.
36. Stephen Dobbie (Queen of the South)
Twenty-seven goals in all competitions, including four (four!) hat-tricks. Just a typical Dobbie season.
35. Richard Tait (Motherwell)
Having found team-mates with 39.77 per cent of his 171 deliveries from wide areas, the full-back can rightfully call himself the most accurate crosser of the ball in the Ladbrokes Premiership this past season. In addition to being a regular source of creativity in attacking areas, he’s also a fully committed defender. His last-ditch, potentially goal-saving tackle on Scott Sinclair in the 0-0 draw with Celtic at Fir Park was undoubtedly one of the defensive highlights of the season.
34. Ryan Christie (Aberdeen)
The on-loan Celtic playmaker would have featured a lot higher if he could have kept his form pre-February going into the remainder of the campaign. He just seemed to run out of steam and didn’t contribute as much as someone of his talents should have as the games wound down. It was odd, seeing as team-mate Kenny McLean pretty much did the opposite. Imagine if both had sustained their peak periods for the duration. Celtic would have still won the title, but the race would have been a lot more interesting.
33. Cedric Kipre (Motherwell)
One of the more watchable defenders in Scottish football – he just draws attention to himself. This is partly down to his terrific anticipation, as he leads the league’s interceptions table. And, once he gets the ball, he’s just as likely to take it on a wee mazy as he is to find the safest and easiest route. It can sometimes give the Fir Park faithful a collective dose of heart palpitations, but that’s a lot more fun than just knocking it long. He’s also athletic, strong and talented. All in all, it’s no wonder the Motherwell fans love him. Fewer individual errors, which was to be expected given his age and lack of competitive football prior to arriving in Scotland, and he would have cracked the top 10.
32. Lewis Morgan (St Mirren)
The highest-rated lower-league player on this top 50. While St Mirren would eventually become a fully formed side and easily the best team in the second tier as the season went along, there was a time in the campaign when that wasn’t always a given. Back then it always seemed to be Morgan who gave them that little extra edge, that little bit of quality, which saw them through tough opponents. From there confidence boomed and they’ll rightly be full of belief that they can stay up next season without their talisman.
31. Kirk Broadfoot (Kilmarnock)
The former Rangers and Scotland defender would eventually show that his reputation as a joke figure was wholly unmerited, though that wasn’t before he, like most of his team-mates, struggled in the opening couple of months. Once more, a Kilmarnock player was grateful for the Midas touch of Steve Clarke as Broadfoot would go on to enjoy one of the better campaigns of his career at age 33.
LAST SEASON’S TOP 50