When it came time to select a Player of the Year winner from last season’s Kilmarnock squad there was no shortage of candidates.
Kris Boyd was the top goalscorer in the Scottish Premiership, the rampaging Stephen O’Donnell had become one of the league’s best two-way full-backs, Jordan Jones terrorised defenders with his elusive wing play, goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald had arguably the best campaign of his career and, though he only played about half of season’s worth of games, it was clear Youssouf Mulumbu was head and shoulders above most midfielders in the league.
Yet when it came time for the fans to cast their vote, they opted for an unheralded midfielder with a limited attacking arsenal: Alan Power.
It topped off a stunning turnaround for the Irish midfielder who, in the opening quarter of the campaign, looked far more likely to feature in the annual Worst Signings of the Season list on blog site Narey’s Toepoker than receiving an individual accolade from his own club.
Having played the majority of his career in the Conference Premier, there were initial warning signs that Lee McCulloch’s signing wouldn’t have the ability required to improve the Kilmarnock team. These signs then started flashing neon red when, against rivals Ayr United in the League Cup, Power put in a dismal display, closely followed by another in the next game against Clyde.
It wasn’t long before he was viewed as damaged goods by the manager that signed him, and Power mostly sat on the bench during McCulloch’s brief tenure. When the former Rangers captain left the club, Power was given a reprieve - not initially by Steve Clarke, incidentally, but by academy director Paul McDonald in his sole match in charge - and he hasn’t looked back since.
There existed a lengthy period where he was Killie’s most consistent performer. In that sense it perhaps shouldn’t be viewed as much of a shock that the supporters rewarded him for his play. And if things continue in the vein they’ve been going this season, it’d be difficult for any of his team-mates to wrestle the award away from him.
The leading Kilmarnock fans’ forum, Killie Kickback, runs a poll following every fixture to anoint a man of the match. In the last five games, Power has finished third, third, second, first and first. In the latter two he commanded over 75 per cent of the vote. In nine league games he’s yet to finish outside of the top five.
He’s one of the unsung heroes of the top flight. Even though Kilmarnock fans have been waxing lyrical about him for around a year now, very few pundits speak his name when going through the strengths of the Rugby Park side. That can be attributed to his unassuming style, which keeps him in the shadow of some of the more fashionable talents in the squad.
What he does do, he does incredibly well. This season he’s formed a dynamic relationship with Aaron Tshibola in the centre of the team’s 4-4-2 formation. They operate like an old-school partnership in the area. One is more defensively focused, the other granted greater license to attack, while both are hard working and tactically disciplined, as you would expect from anyone in a Steve Clarke team.
Power’s advanced analytical numbers from the 2018/19 Ladbrokes Premiership all point to his defensive contribution. He’s in the top five for recoveries (chasing back to pressure an attacker), 12th in defensive duels, 16th in total interceptions and 18th for fouls committed. He’s only touched the ball twice in the opposing penalty area and his 14 dribble/one-v-one attempts ranks him below Hibs centre-back Efe Ambrose.
Despite this he still makes a significant impact on his team going forward. He’s the gameplan attendant: where he’s moving the football and how he’s doing so represents a strong indicator of Kilmarnock’s plan. He leads the league in through balls attempted, most of which came from deep areas in the 2-0 victory over Aberdeen as the visitors looked to exploit the Dons’ high line. Then in other games, against St Mirren last Saturday, for example, he continually looked to funnel the ball down the wings with O’Donnell and Greg Taylor motoring forward from full-back.
He may not have the silkiest touch or continental finesse, but he moves the ball quickly, accurately and effectively. And when he doesn’t have it he hunts it down with a hunger that’s up there with the best of them.
If you didn’t pay much attention to Alan Power before now, perhaps it’s time to start.