Twelve months is certainly a long time in football. In that time, goal scorers have come and gone, while others have simply just not hit the same heights. It should also be said that there has been a steady flow of excellent striking talent coming into the league.
Only three players have survived from the last year’s list. There is little doubt that this dozen are stronger, showing the continued improvement in Scottish football.
The forwards on the list offer a wide range of qualities, but they largely share similar traits. They are influential, focal points and scorer of goals.
So which 12 have made the list…
If you want to recall last season’s elite dozen, you can find that here.
• Click here to listen to the episode of The Terrace Scottish Football Podcast where the top 12 was debated.
12. David Templeton (Hamilton Accies)
The former Hearts and Rangers winger has had a wonderful renaissance at the SuperSeal Stadium. Templeton went through an agonising 21 months of injury hell which featured steroid jags, electrotherapy and sugar injections.The Accies forward had all but decided to retire aged 27. But thanks to his agent and a London surgeon he kept going and a cure was found.
Accies and Martin Canning gave him a new home and it’s now them who are thankful. Templeton is one of, it not the most important player in the league in terms of his influence on his own team. Hearts and Rangers fans would have witnessed a wiry winger cutting in from the left. Canning, however, has moved him infield as a support striker where he has more responsibility and influence.
Hamilton are a different team when Templeton doesn’t play. Of the 11 league games he missed Accies lost 10, to an aggregate score of 25-6. He provides the team with a star quality, that X-factor. Providing a link between midfield and attack, he takes the ball on the turn, burrows and squirms away from opponents. On top of that he possesses the shooting ability to score and vision to assist.
Best moment: Racing through on goal at Ibrox, the Hamilton forward sidestepped Wes Foderingham and knocked home, the Accies winning 2-0.
Stat: Templeton was fouled 42 times, the most for a forward.
11. Jamie Maclaren (Hibs)
While Hibs may have lost out to their rivals Hearts for the signature of Kyle Lafferty, they got their own back with the signing of Jamie Maclaren. The on loan Aussie forward was a significant improvement on Simon Murray.
Murray had fared better than many could have expected as he made the step up from the Championship, netting 14 goals, even if eight were netted against Montrose, Ayr United and Alloa Athletic and Arbroath. However, he didn’t possess the more rounded qualities of Australian international Maclaren.
The 24-year-old didn’t quite hit the ground running in terms of goals after signing on loan from German side Darmstadt but his presence was vital as the club embarked on a run of only two defeats in 16. He stretched defences, laterally and vertically, with his running, put opponents on the back foot and contributed to the balance of the side. With his eight goals he showed he’s a player who can sniff out chances in dangerous areas and finish.
Best moment: Nothing can top his hat-trick against Rangers, his final goal completing an incredible 5-5 draw.
Stat: The best goals to minutes ratio in the league with 0.78 per 90 minutes.
10. Eamonn Brophy (Kilmarnock)
When Eammon Brophy left Hamilton for Kilmarnock and subsequently starting only one of the first 16 league fixtures there was a feeling that he would be best remembered, in terms of the top tier, for his exuberant celebration after scoring at Celtic Park. Hamilton were losing 7-0 when he scored.
Yet, like so many under Steve Clarke, his improvement is as impressive as it has been surprising. He showed signs of promise at Hamilton, a bundle of energy but not enough to hang your hat on, especially with only six top-flight goals to his name prior to his move. Now the question being asked is ‘why did Hamilton let him leave?’. You get the sense, however, that for the betterment of his career a transfer away was the smart move. He scored more Premiership goals from the start of December than he had in the previous three seasons.
It was more than just goals he offered Killie but the perfect foil for Kris Boyd. The veteran striker has been keen to talk up Brophy’s involvement. He has been able to do plenty of running and scavenging for Boyd. But it is more than just being a headless chicken, Brophy gets down the sides and behind defences and forages deep to link play. His low centre of gravity and stocky frame allows him to hold off defenders and create space for himself.
Best moment: Brophy scored some excellent goals but his most impressive may have been at Tynecastle where he held off Christophe Berra before sliding the ball past Jon McLaughlin.
Stat: The 22-year-old hit, on average, 3.78 shots per 90 minutes.
9. Stephen Dobbie (Queen of the South)
Even at 35 years of age Stephen Dobbie could still be cutting it in the Ladbrokes Premiership. After all, he has hit 53 goals in the last two seasons at Queen of the South in all competitions. His league goals have been worth double figures in terms of points in both campaigns.
Dobbie is a figure who, it could be said, is underrated in Scotland, with the exception of Dumfries. He didn’t quite make his mark at Hibs or St Johnstone after a move from Rangers. Goals flowed at the Doonhamers prompting a move to England where he developed a reputation as a promotion expert, winning promotion to the Premier League three times.
Back home, Dobbie is a cut above any striker the Championship has to offer. He has never been a svelte or quick forward but he is in arguably better shape then ever, certainly so when he weighed in at 14st when playing for St Johnstone. If you were to ask Dobbie why he is still so effective, still so good he could simply answer by pointing knowingly to his head. He shows that intelligent in his movement, in his passing and in his finishing, preferring to pass the ball past the goalkeeper than the blast. Defenders must come off the pitch mentally exhausted at trying to keep him under wraps.
Best moment: He raced onto a flick-on, took one touch with his stomach and zipped in a shot from the edge of the box past Craig Samson in the St Mirren goal. It was his 100th for the club.
Stat: Dobbie had the best goalscoring ratio in the Championship with 0.58 goals per 90 minutes.
8. Curtis Main (Motherwell)
In some circles Motherwell are hammer throwing thugs, with Englishman Curtis Main spearheading the skullduggery. Accusers could point to two incidents to present their case. In the Scottish Cup meeting with Hearts, Main sent Harry Cochrane flying with a mere push. Then against Rangers he ragdolled full-back James Tavernier, who is no slouch himself. Yet, such a conclusion would be unjust. Especially the second incident where Main wonderfully set up Allan Campbell to score.
Motherwell were in a pickle when Louis Moult left for Preston North End in the January transfer window. They had failed to win any of their seven games in December and their top scorer and talisman had only played in one of those games - although there were other factors which caused the slump. And now they were losing the player who had netted 50 goals in 98 games permanently.
In his stead came a 25-year-old who had netted 21 times in his last four-and-a-half seasons. But it would clear from pretty early on that this was a striker who perfectly suited this Motherwell team. He was strong, committed and aggressive. No slouch, Main works his socks off, not giving defences a minute’s peace. His huge arms and solid frame make him the ideal target man. Plus, he has found a goalscoring touch.
Best moment: Scottish Cup semi-final win over Aberdeen. He hit a double, while Kari Arnason may still be having nightmares of the Englishman hunting him down.
Stat: Main contested, on average, 10.88 aerial duels per 90 minutes.
7. Kyle Lafferty (Hearts)
Big players produce big moments. Kyle Lafferty has been such a player for Hearts. Three goals against Celtic, one against Hibs and another against Rangers, plus goals in the Scottish Cup. Add in his propensity to rile up opposition fans it is clear to see why Hearts fans are so fond of their Northern Irishman forward, one who rejected the possibility of a move to Easter Road, preferring Tynecastle Park.
He has always been an interesting individual. After all, this is someone the capricious Palermo president Maurizio Zamperini branded an “out-of-control womaniser, an Irishman without rules”. While he has settled down off the field, he has been open about gambling issues he is contending with. This complex character only makes him more appealing to the club’s support.
On the pitch he has largely delivered for Hearts. He was one goal short of becoming the first Hearts player to score 20 goals in a season since John Robertson in 1991/1992. He is a goalscorer whose all-round game is at best erratic. He can be very loose with his touch and enjoys going to ground easily, but such a goal return is massive considering he is often left isolated and in a team which doesn’t create many chances. He is up there with Rudi Skacel in terms of finishing, such a compliment shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Best moment: Scoring against Celtic in a 4-0 win where he terrorised the Celtic defence.
Stat: The Northern Irishman scored most goals from outside the box with 5.
6. Odsonne Edouard (Celtic)
A question posed prior to the season was ‘did Celtic really need a third striker?’ After all they already had the best duo in the league, Moussa Dembele and Leigh Griffiths. They scored 50 goals between them in the 2016/2017 season. Ten months or so later and it turns out Brendan Rodgers was fully justified in bringing Odsonne Edouard to the club.
The Frenchman is the type of signing in the type of market Celtic shrewdly target. Some don’t work out - Charly Musonda - but others do, and Edouard certainly has. Celtic fans must have been rubbing their hands when he scored a goal and provided another on his debut in a 4-1 win over Hamilton Academical. Yet, he was very much seen as a back-up striker, which owed to some disappointing performances. Something which can be expected from a raw talent, only 19 years of age when he arrived, and playing in such a foreign land in terms of the football.
But he has looked a more impressive figure as the season has progressed with his defining moment coming in the 3-2 defeat of Rangers where his arrival helped propel Celtic to a 3-2 win. As well as the goal his all-round display showed his qualities and the danger he possesses. He’s quick over short and long distances, strong, a forward who can play as part of a two or on his own. He is a diamond which requires polishing, but whether Celtic look to do so by taking him off PSG’s hands is a question for another day.
Best moment: Netting a fine goal against Rangers.
Stat: Edouard had 5 touches in the box per 90 minutes, the third highest.
5. Florian Kamberi (Hibs)
It is hard to think of a player, certainly a forward, who was more impressive and influential in the second half of the campaign than Florian Kamberi. It also begs the question as to why Grasshoppers in his native Switzerland were willing to let the 23-year-old move to Edinburgh, even more so in a season when the team struggled the Swiss Super League.
Neil Lennon made the brave decision to swap Simon Murray and Anthony Stokes, mid-season, for Kamberi and the aforementioned Maclaren, two players who had no previous Scottish football experience. Almost immediately the duo found a connection, one Hibs fans would love to continue next season. There was a time when strike partnerships seemed to be a dying breed but the Swiss and Aussie showed the benefits, especially when they compliment each other so well.
The biggest compliment that can be paid to Kamberi is that he doesn’t seem to have any obvious weakness. He may not look like the most robust striker, in the way Curtis Main at Motherwell does, but he is strong as an ox allowing him to deal with the physical challenges of Scottish football. He combines that with an impressive work-rate, an understanding of the game, decent pace and an aerial threat. If there is one slight criticism, it’s that he sometimes makes the wrong decision around the box, especially when choosing to shoot rather than pass, but he is one of the reasons Hibs only lost once in their final 14 league games.
Best moment: He may have scored a hat-trick against Hamilton but he was everywhere for Hibs in their 2-1 win over Celtic after the split.
Stat: The Swiss is flagged offside, on average, 1.76 times per 90 minutes, the second highest in the league.
4. Alfredo Morelos (Rangers)
If you were to believe some, whether it be fans, pundits or journalists, Alfredo Morelos is some sort of inadequate donkey. A striker who is incapable of scoring, a disruptive influence and one who has won a competition to play for Rangers. They are, of course, completely wrong.
An argument could certainly be made for Daniel Candeias, but the Colombian has been the club’s best signing this season (there were 16). He arrived at Ibrox via an unorthodox route. Colombia to Finland then Govan. He took the Finnish top-flight by storm after moving from Independiente Medellin. A little over three weeks after his last appearance and last goal for HJK Helsinki Morelos was pitched into Rangers’ European disaster against Progres Niederkorn.
Remarkably he was replaced at half-time for Luxembourg in the infamous second leg. Thankfully for Rangers fans it wasn’t a sign of things to come in terms of the striker. He netted six goals in his first six league games. It was his work outside the box which progressed the most in the season just past. It would have got to the point where opposition defenders were sighing on seeing his name on the team sheet, he was such hard work. He’d drop deep to link play, he’d back in and bully defenders, he would run them to create space for others or he would just be very slippery with his movement.
However, he had a penchant for missing big chances and displaying a tempestuous temperament. These, however, pale in comparison to what he offers the team as a whole.
Best moment: The first 60 minutes of the Old Firm game at Ibrox which Celtic ultimately won 3-2. The Colombian was unplayable and gave Dedryck Boyata a chasing.
Stat: No player had more touches in the opposition box than the Colombian’s 163.
3. Kris Boyd (Kilmarnock)
At a point this season Kris Boyd gave serious thought to chucking it and concentrating on his post-playing career. He had scored only once as Killie failed to win any over their first eight league games, plus the ignominy of a defeat to Ayr United in the Betfred Cup. In that particular game, Boyd huffed and puffed his way through the game. Add the three previous seasons where he scored ‘only’ 27 goals and you could understand the player becoming fed-up.
Enter Steve Clarke. Those three words will can fit almost every individual at Kilmarnock over the last eight months. Boyd loved what he was being told, everything suited him, both as a player and prospective coach. He could play in a team which would get the best from him, while learning from one of the best coaches in the country.
Training at Killie was short and sharp, while on Saturdays, Boyd simply had to concentrate playing as a No.9. With the likes of Lee Erwin and Eamonn Brophy to do his running for him and Jordan Jones supplying from the wings Boyd just had to put the ball in the back of the net. And he did so with aplomb, netting 23 goals in all competitions, his best return since 2009/2010 - earning Killie 16 points. But he has provided more than goals. He has leadership qualities and Killie know if they get the ball to his feet, it’ll end up in the back of the net or he will hold onto it and allow team-mates to play off him.
2. Leigh Griffiths (Celtic)
It was a surprise to see that Leigh Griffiths had made 39 appearances this season. It seemed that he, along with Patrick Roberts, had become the forgotten men at Celtic Park. There is still an element of truth in that, the 27-year-old has only started one game in 2018 and didn’t get off the bench as Celtic completed the double treble in the Scottish Cup win over Motherwell.
It started so differently for the Scotland international. He was immense in Celtic’s 5-0 defeat of Astana in qualifying for the Champions League, assisting two goals, while it was his shot which was deflected in for the fifth. He showed he was more than capable of operating as a lone striker at a high level. By then he had already opened his league account with a double against Hearts. But then the season, if not slowly unravelled, certainly stagnated before petering out.
A mixture of injuries and a third striking option thrown into the mix has seen Griffiths play the fewest amount of minutes in a season since the 2007/2008 campaign. Yet, he still maintained a fine goals per 90 minutes ratio (0.64 - the fourth best in the league). That’s because he is still a very fine striker and still the second best in the list despite a frustrating season. And he’ll be looking to bounce back.
Best moment: Opening the scoring in a 3-0 win at Anderlecht for his first ever goal in the Champions League.
Stat: Griffiths’ 5.11 shots per 90 minutes was the league’s highest.
1. Moussa Dembele (Celtic)
There have been times during his two seasons at Celtic where Moussa Dembele has been unjustly judged due to the speculation which surrounded the player regarding a move to some of Europe’s leading lights. Despite not turning 22 until July he has been held to this high standard, the standard of a striker valued somewhere between £20m-40m.
It should be understood that Dembele is allowed to have off days, look ragged at times, make mistakes. Yet, more often than not he is simply excellent. It is easy to understand those who say Celtic would be just as fine with Griffiths as they are with Dembele on the domestic stage. But the Frenchman is a step or two above.
The first thing critics are going to look at when analysing strikers is their goal return. But strikers are so much more, especially in a Brendan Rodgers team. They have to possess game intelligence, understanding their own role in the collective and also those around them. Dembele has this in abundance. It goes with his strength, his goal threat and, an underrated ability, his capability of standing up a defender and beating them with a shimmie or a shake.
If you want to see Dembele in full flow, watch his performance against Motherwell. He didn’t score but he facilitated and got the best out of those around him, putting in an excellent individual display within a excellent team display.
Best moment: Dembele was unplayable, as were Celtic, in a 3-0 win at Aberdeen in October. He scored twice and assisted the other.
Stat: Dembele hit the target with 48.44 per cent of his shots.