The top 50 players in Scottish football this season (30-21)
30. Don Cowie (Hearts)
He’ll run and he’ll run and he’ll run some more. Cowie dispelled the myth regarding midfielders in their 30s by being just about the most energetic man on the pitch every time he played. If even half of Hearts’ 15 signings during the 2016/17 season played the game with the same gusto as him, then things would have worked out better for the Jambos. He also led the club with nine assists in the league.
29. Carl Tremarco (Inverness CT)
If anyone didn’t deserve to be engulfed in the farce surrounding Inverness CT this season, it was the left-back. Not so long ago he was performing a Bambi-on-ice rendition in the Scottish Cup final, which resulted in a straight red card for a professional foul and national humiliation. Since then, however, he’s been one of the most improved players in the country. Curiously for a full-back not named Callum Paterson, he even managed to become a regular source of goals, netting seven times before injury in April put paid to his season.
28. Clint Hill (Rangers)
Oh how we all laughed. Clint Hill? Really? He’s going to be the man to shore up Rangers’ creaking defence? A soon-to-be 38-year-old? LOL. LOL. LOL. In the end, though, it was the Rangers man who was left smiling. Sure, the Ibrox defence still wasn’t anything to write home about, but if you’re looking to attribute blame, Hill should be at the bottom of the list. After a shaky first couple of starts - being outpaced by Kris Boyd was startling in the extreme - he would settle down and be the kind of leader Rangers badly needed. It was surprising when Pedro Caixinha decided against offering him a new deal, though we now know he had another old guy in mind.
27. Leigh Griffiths (Celtic)
The only reason he’s not a lot higher is because he didn’t play all that often (only 1298 minutes) due to being behind Moussa Dembele in the pecking order. Despite this he still rattled in 12 league goals, enough to make him the seventh highest scorer in the top flight, leading the Premiership with a 108-minutes-per-goal ratio. While Dembele is the better player, and certainly should be preferred in matches on the continent, against rank-and-fodder SPFL sides Griffiths is still perhaps the most effective of the pair. His blend of quickness and power makes him terrifying for any opponent in the country.
26. Niall McGinn (Aberdeen)
A combination of playing at the Euros and Aberdeen starting their season about 45 minutes after the previous one had ended, due to their involvement in the Europa League, meant McGinn began the campaign a little sluggishly. It wouldn’t be until late December that he started to look back to his best. Not coincidentally, Aberdeen improved dramatically around that time, and went on a tear that would eventually propel them to second place in the table. Ten goals and seven assists isn’t a vintage season for the winger, but it’s still a positive note to end his Aberdeen career on.
25. Kris Doolan (Partick Thistle)
Three things are certain in this life: death, taxes, and Kris Doolan scoring at least ten goals in a Scottish football season. He did tease us a little this campaign. His low scoring rate up until late December (only four) put his streak of netting into double figures in serious danger of stopping at six consecutive seasons. We should not have feared, though, as he caught fire in the New Year, finally settling on an impressive 15, his highest tally since Thistle made it back to the top flight.
24. Brian Easton (St Johnstone)
The second best left-back in Scottish football. Comfortable going forward, excellent in defence, and enough stamina to do both over the course of a gruelling 90 minutes, the St Johnstone man has all you can ask for. It was completely barmy that some of the bigger clubs in Scottish football (cough, Hearts, cough, cough) didn’t try to tempt him with an offer before Saints signed him up to a new deal.
23. Darian MacKinnon (Hamilton Accies)
Aside from a lengthy list of Celtic players - Stuart Armstrong, Scott Brown, Dedryck Boyata, Mikael Lustig - MacKinnon has to be considered the most improved player in the Scottish top flight this season. Prior to this campaign, Accies fans were becoming exasperated by his inconsistent play and lack of discipline. Other teams would try to wind him up, and often succeed. He also had a propensity for giving away daft fouls. Not only has he curbed those weaknesses this season, he’s been excellent in most matches, improving just about every facet of his game.
22. Tom Rogic (Celtic)
The Australian is probably a little high if we’re sticking to the criteria of this list, which suggests players should be bumped down if they’ve missed significant parts of the season or suffered sustained periods of poor form. Rogic, to an extent, has had both. He missed four months through injury and then took another month to get properly up to speed. In a ten-month season, being absent for half would usually see you cut from this list - such as his team-mate, the aforementioned Dedryck Boyata. However, the reason he stays is thus: I think he’s just magic. In terms of pure football talent, Rogic might just be the best player in the country. His touch is silky smooth, he’s got quick-feet, can hammer the ball from distance and has a deceptive burst which beguiles his bulky frame. When he’s not jinking past defenders, he’s plain pushing them out of the way. If he can stay fit for an entire season, and maybe improve his levels of stamina, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he wouldn’t be No.1 on this list.
21. Andy Considine (Aberdeen)
Some Aberdeen fans may think he should be higher. After all, he was honoured with both the Players’ and Fans’ Player of the Year awards at the club’s annual bash. However, there was something a little lifetime-achievement about those picks. That’s not to say he hasn’t had a tremendous season, because he has, it’s just that it’s hard to say he’s definitely been better than Jonny Hayes, Kenny McLean or Graeme Shinnie. Regardless, it’s been a great year for the long-time club servant. Having worn the appearance of a centre-back playing at left-back for the last few years, he finally looked truly comfortable at the position, which had the added bonus of allowing Shinnie to stay permanently in the centre of the park. Now, if Aberdeen can just get their centre-backs sorted, people can stop calling for those two to be reinstated to their “natural” positions.