Dick Campbell (Arbroath)
When Dick Campbell took charge of the Red Lichties in March 2016, they were a mid-table side in League Two. Fast forward to the present day and they sit in third place in the cinch Championship table, six points better off than Raith Rovers, who currently occupy fifth place and the closest challengers to break into the play-off positions. Surely he couldn’t lead a part-time club into the top flight of Scottish football, could he?
Campbell is an old-school manager. While it’s a term becoming increasing backhanded in the compliment stakes, it can remain a real strength at part-time level. Getting players in for training just twice a week, and in the evening after they’ve completed a full day of work elsewhere, there isn’t the type of work too long on shapes or tactical minutiae. So he typically sets up his side in a variation of 4-4-2 and will sub on at least one winger around the hour-mark.
The simplicity is aided by Campbell’s character. He may be famous for having a short-temper and ability to turn the air blue at the drop of a hat, but ex-players have routinely said they would run through brick walls for him. It’s this, along with consistent shrewd dealings in the transfer market, which has Arbroath’s fairytale rise still going five years later.
Scott Allan (Hibs)
The playmaker almost exited Easter Road on transfer deadline day as the club sought to get a deal for St Mirren’s Jamie McGrath done before the window closed. With that attempt unsuccessful, it ultimately left Allan (along with team-mate Drey Wright; another makeweight in the offer) in a state of limbo. Was he just biding his time until January when another exit would be on the cards? That seemed the case, but it may no longer be.
He completely changed the game after coming off the bench on Saturday with Hibs trailing 1-0 to the Buddies at the break. Drifting in from the left flank and routinely finding pockets of space in the final third, his creative influence spurred on a revival from the home side, with them quickly reversing the one-goal deficit into a 2-1 lead. Though his side ultimately failed to secure three points thanks to Joe Shaughnessy’s late header, Allan showed that he’s still got more than enough left to contribute to the squad going forward, while it must have been a nice feeling to outperform McGrath on the day.
Liam Boyce (Hearts)
The former Ross County striker, who is still a very popular figure in the Highlands, showed respect on two fronts during Hearts’ 2-2 draw at Dingwall on Saturday. Firstly, he opted for the now-standard practice of not celebrating against an old club after opening the scoring. Then, after the full-time whistle, he gifted his strip to the son of a die-hard County supporter and Boyce enthusiast who had sadly passed away in the time since the forward had last played at Victoria Park.
Stephen Glass (Aberdeen)
The decision to bring in the relatively inexperienced former Dons player as the permanent successor to Derek McInnes looked fairly positive earlier in the campaign. Aberdeen were winning matches with an attacking brand of football, something fans had yearned for in the dour final years of the previous incumbent’s tenure, and had a decent chance of making it to the group stages of the Europa Conference League after dispatching Hacken and Breidablik in convincing fashion.
Seven matches later, starting with a Premier Sports Cup exit to Raith Rovers, they’re still searching for that elusive next victory. St Johnstone’s 1-0 win at Pittodrie ramped up the pressure on Glass, who was always going to be fighting an uphill battle for acceptance among fans who were concerned with the tunnel-vision approach taken by chairman Dave Cormack in appointing the Atlanta United coach. A raft of signings were made this summer, mostly rather impressive ones, but Glass doesn’t appear to know how best to utilise the talented squad. He’d better figure it out, and quickly, because while he’s Cormack’s guy, the owner isn’t going to remain patient if the third-highest spenders in the league continue to flounder.
James McCarthy (Celtic)
The Irish international and former Everton star was given his first start for his boyhood favourites in the 1-0 defeat to Livingston. It did not go well. He didn't register a single shot assist during the game and knocked the ball directly out of the park on three occasions before being substituted with 20 minutes remaining. He had started the contest reasonably well enough, looking to implement some one-touch passing in order to instil some urgency, but ultimately his performance was characterised by unadventurous play as he increasingly settled for square or backwards passes, which wasn't what Celtic required as the game wore on.
To make matters worse, reports out of The Athletic on Monday stated the 30-year-old (signed to a four-year deal this summer) was not someone particularly wanted by either Ange Postecoglou or the scouting department, which hints at transfer interference from the increasingly unpopular majority shareholder Dermot Desmond. And, to top it off, the same report said McCarthy was struggling to match the intensity required in his new manager's training sessions.
Jack Simpson (Rangers)
The January signing from Bournemouth is running out of chances to show the Ibrox support, and manager Steven Gerrard, that he’s got what it takes to thrive at a club with such demands. Though he hasn’t had too many opportunities since his arrival, just 10 appearances in total, he’s yet to look comfortable at the heart of the Rangers defence.
Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Motherwell was an alarming example. The 24-year-old was all over the place for an early Tony Watt chance, while it’s difficult to comprehend how he thought his Mannequin Challenge impression was supposed to stop Mark O’Hara from setting up the equaliser.