The 7 SPFL stars to watch in 2022 - Rangers ace, Celtic signing, Hibs' US international, lower league gems
Nathan Patterson – Rangers
The month of January will no doubt bring with it speculation around the future of Nathan Patterson. The Rangers right-back was the subject of a failed bid from Everton in the summer and the Toffees could well return. The 20-year-old has yet to hold down a role within the team but has featured under Giovanni van Bronckhorst, starting two games. This year will be about making the next step, dislodging James Tavernier. The Rangers captain may not have had his best season so far in a defensive sense but the numbers he puts up are excellent. Patterson’s prominence will only increase if he continues to progress with Scotland where he has put forward his case to be the country’s best at right wing-back.
Yosuke Ideguchi – Celtic
The Parkhead club gave their fans a Hogmanay treat with the announcement of a triple signing from the J-League with Reo Hatate, Daizen Maeda and Ideguchi all signing. It’s the latter who is perhaps most intriguing. Once on the books of Leeds United, plus spells in Germany and Spain, the 15-time Japanese international will add some balance to Ange Postecoglou’s squad. A diminutive terrier who wins the ball back and is an efficient passer when he gets it. He will be able to relieve some of the pressure on Callum McGregor to play and perform all the time, while he will also be able to play alongside the Celtic captain in certain scenarios.
Luke McCowan – Dundee
Coming into the season, James McPake had built a squad with plenty of attacking talent. If you were to analyse the Dundee team when the summer transfer window shut, you would be looking at Jason Cummings, Charlie Adam, Leigh Griffiths and Paul McMullan as the players who would either keep the club away from the relegation zone or pushing towards the top six. That hasn't transpired. Instead, Luke McCowan has been arguably the team’s most dangerous attacker. After a fine season with Ayr United he has adapted well for his first campaign in the top-flight. There is more to come from a player who can play on either flank, take on opponents and get fans off their seat.
Chris Mueller – Hibs
The American has arrived at Hibs after a deal was agreed in the summer and to say there is excitement surrounding the winger amongst the Easter Road faithful is an understatement. Supporters are right to be excited. The 25-year-old US international has had a couple of good seasons for Orlando City in MLS and will provide the team with creativity, athleticism and a goal threat, as well as plenty of personality with the player a published author with his book: ‘Bet On Yourself: How to Build Unshakeable Confidence, Tune Out the Noise, and Rise to the Occasion’. With new boss Shaun Maloney playing a back three there will be interest in where he fits into his plans.
Joel Nouble – Arbroath/Livingston
The 25-year-old has earned cult hero status at Gayfield. That could be upgraded to legend if he helps the part-time Smokies win the Championship title and promotion to the Premiership. His impact after joining on loan from Livi was immediate, on and off the field. There were goals and assists, exciting skills and excellent team play as well as giving back to fans by mingling after games. It was exactly what David Martindale wanted when he signed the big forward in the summer on a two-year-deal with a view to a third as he trains full-time but gets regular game time at a good level. Livi have, at times, struggled for numbers and a bit of quality in the final third. It will be fascinating to see in the Premiership.
Scott Allardice – Inverness CT
Watching the midfielder dominate in the centre for ICT, it is sometimes hard to remember he is still just 23. Assured and authoritative, he is arguably the Highlanders’ most influential midfielder since the heyday of the Ross Draper-Greg Tansey axis. Inverness have progressed since Billy Dodds took over and Allardice provides the team with a solid foundation. No player has passed the ball more in the Championship but it is not the case of just keeping it. He has attempted the most through balls and only team-mate Robbie Deas has played into the final third more. But he doesn't negate his defensive duties and features highly for defensive duels and interceptions. If ICT are to get back to the Premiership it will be built around the play of Allardice.
Liam Brown – Queen's Park
There are players turning out week in, week out in the lower leagues who look like they belong at a higher level. Liam Brown is one of those and it seems only a matter of time before someone makes the move. After a positive start to the season, Queen’s Park have tailed off, resulting in Laurie Ellis losing his job. For Brown, he is a hugely intelligent, technically proficient and versatile footballer. He has been played wide but his best position is centrally to make the most of his vision and comfort on the ball. He nearly scored one of the best goals of the season against Peterhead which has perhaps exemplified his career to date. However, he is still 22 and has time on his side.
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