With awards season just around the corner and, we look ahead to which players will most likely receive a nomination for PFA Scotland’s Player of the Year award.
Callum McGregor (Celtic)
The single biggest damning indictment of Alex McLeish’s tenure as Scotland boss could well be how poor McGregor has sometimes looked in a Scotland jersey, especially against the likes of Kazakhstan. Because for Celtic he’s just plain magic. Having enjoyed a meteoric rise over the last couple of seasons, he somehow managed to take it up a notch further this campaign, especially when filling in for an injured Scott Brown and performing the defensive midfield role better than his captain. His excellence in an unfamiliar role shouldn’t come as a surprise, though. Any position he’s asked to play he does so with astonishing assurance. If he were a goalkeeper, he’d almost certainly clear his lines, claim crosses and shot-stop better than half of the keepers in the league. One of the most marvelling sights of the season was watching McGregor being forced to play left-back in the Old Firm game before New Year and still managing to be the best player in green and white. He’s one of his side’s top three performers in pretty much every game and, for this writer, is the best player in the country right now.
James Forrest (Celtic)
Forrest has netted 20 goals this season and will run his team-mate, and one other contender, very close for this award. Unlike McGregor, Forrest doesn’t quite possess the same sort of consistency. But what can you expect? The guy is a winger. What he has done has hit the headlines a little more, thanks to the four goals he netted in one match against St Johnstone, his incredible run of five consecutive Scotland goals which helped salvage the near-wreckage that was the Nations League campaign, and the winner in Sunday’s Old Firm clash at Parkhead.
THE WHO THE HELL KNOWS
Alfredo Morelos (Rangers)
On the back of his fifth red card of the season, public opinion is very much against the Colombian. Undoubtedly he can do great things on a football field and has carried the Rangers attack for the better part of this season, but it’s overshadowed by his baffling inability to ‘keep the heid’ at any given moment. The voting process begins next week, with Morelos only halfway through the four-game ban he’s likely to receive for his elbow on Scott Brown. He won’t get the chance to give his fellow professionals one last reminder of why he should be seriously considered for the Player of the Year based on his football ability. Instead, they’ll be focused on the negatives, regardless of whether Rangers perform or struggle without him. Then again, it is quite rare for the league’s leading goalscorer to miss out on a nomination, so don’t be too surprised if he gets a nod.
Allan McGregor (Rangers)
Recency bias may stop McGregor from getting a nomination, because had the vote been conducted in early December he might have been the favourite to win it. His early season form was tremendous, particularly in Europe. I’m still in awe of how he managed to concede four goals in one match as Rangers lost to Spartak Moscow and still end the contest as easily the best player on the park. Since the turn of the year, though, he hasn’t been quite as impressive. There haven’t been as many eye-catching stops and he’s made a couple of costly errors too. The lack of another stand-out contender will likely see him make the final four, though.
Craig Halkett (Livingston)
Livingston have been one of the feel good stories of the Scottish Premiership season and, should their peers wish to reward them, don’t be too surprised if their best player is rewarded with a nomination. Halkett is not only Livingston’s leader, he’s also their stand-out in most matches. He’s a centre-back who passes both the eye test and the analytics test and is still only 23. All of this makes me so delighted (and bemused) that he’s reportedly signing for Hearts. Thank you Craig, but why? You can do so much better.
Ryan Christie (Celtic)
Christie’s ascent this season mirrors that of Stuart Armstrong two years ago, and he got a nomination despite barely kicking a ball before November. It likely won’t happen again this time, though, as Christie has suffered with injury issues since the turn of the year and doesn’t have the momentum of Armstrong going into award season.
James Tavernier (Rangers)
Speaking of stuttering momentum, the Rangers captain has picked the worst time to have his poorest run of the campaign if he wants to be rewarded for what is otherwise a strong season overall. While the majority of his goals have been penalties (insert SFA joke here) he’s still an incredible force on the attacking end and, though not the best of defenders, has at least improved enough of that side of his game to no longer be a complete liability. His misplaced pass which led to Celtic’s winner in the Old Firm game likely killed his chances, though.
Alan Power (Kilmarnock)
He’s probably the most consistent player in the league and Kilmarnock fans love him so much it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise to see an Alan Power statue unveiled outside Rugby Park before the start of next season. But he plays an unheralded position on a provincial club, so the chances of him getting nominated are slim.
Peter Haring (Hearts)
Had Hearts kept up anything close to their early-season form then Haring would be a strong contender. Instead, his continued good performances in the centre of the park have been largely overlooked due to the funk of those playing around him. Still, his transformation from third-choice centre-back to midfield supremo, where he’s a ravenous eater of second balls, remains a great story.
THE LONG SHOTS
Odsonne Edouard (Celtic)
He’s got 19 goals himself in all competitions, but aside from a month’s spell between early October and early November, he’s struggled to build any momentum. That’s down to injury struggles, which contributed to a spell where he was backing up Oliver Burke after the latter signing in January. He is Celtic’s top goalscorer, though, which will always count for something.
Sam Cosgrove (Aberdeen)
He’s scored once in the last six weeks and only netted twice before mid-December, yet Cosgrove has 18 goals. Though he did receive media coverage for his run of 15 goals in 14 games, it still feels like more should have been made about it, especially as he had only one career goal before this season. If he picks up that sort of form again in the next three games, including the Scottish Cup semi-final, then he could sneak onto the shortlist. Otherwise, his latest dry spell will stop him from being properly considered, which will be a blow to his Ballon d’Or hopes.
Steven Naismith (Hearts)
Had he been fit for the entire season then he would have taken spot in the nominations. With perhaps the exception of Alfredo Morelos, there is no player in Scotland this season who’s been more important to their side as Naismith has to the Tynecastle club. However, missing four months and being injured while the votes are cast will stop him from being recognised for his importance.
Greg Stewart (Aberdeen)
Had he decided to stay at Kilmarnock where he was playing arguably the best football of his career under Steve Clarke then he could easily have earned a nomination. Instead he chose to leave and join Aberdeen, where he’s once again looked like the Greg Stewart from last season. Why Greg? Why? In fairness, if Steven Gerrard is reportedly unaware of his guff form since January, then perhaps the voters may be to.