The most interesting expiring contracts in the Scottish Premiership

Craig Fowler takes a look at the list of players with expiring deals in Scotland's top flight and decides which ones we should be paying particularly close attention to

Most of the following players aren’t the best at their club with an expiring deal. After all, the best will demand a contract offer and then it’s up to them to decide, which isn’t particularly interesting. No, this is a collection of footballers whose futures hang in the balance, affected by a number of variables. There are a couple of exceptions on the way, which also applies to my efforts to limit it to one from each top flight side, but we’ll get to those in due course. Anyway, first up is...

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Aberdeen - Danny Rogers

Prince Buaben is out of contract at the end of the season. Picture: SNS
Prince Buaben is out of contract at the end of the season. Picture: SNS

Aberdeen don’t seem particularly convinced by Rogers. He went into this season as the back-up to Joe Lewis, which was preferable to previous campaigns where he was sent out on loan. However, when the time came for him to get his chance, with Lewis sidelined through injury, Aberdeen brought January signing/sticking plaster Freddie Woodman right into the starting XI at Rogers’ expense after the latter had played in just two games.

At 23 years of age, there is still plenty of time for Rogers to improve and live up to the potential which he displayed during his years in the Championship. However, if that’s to happen at Aberdeen he’ll have to be content with the knowledge that any opportunities which may come his way will be fleeting.

Celtic - Nobody

Prince Buaben is out of contract at the end of the season. Picture: SNS

Sorry Celtic fans, there’s nothing for you here. Jamie Lindsay, Jamie McCart and Joe Thomson are the only players out of contract.

Lindsay has played regularly for Ross County, but not well enough to suggest Celtic will be offering the 22-year-old an extension.

Thomson is currently on loan at Queen of the South, his second spell with the Doonhamers along with stints at Livingston and Dumbarton. He’s a decent second tier player, similar to Lindsay, but likewise would be very fortunate to get another deal.

McCart is the most interesting one, if you’re forcing me to pick, simply because he’s the youngest and his dad is head of youth development at the club. He’s gaining experience at League One Alloa Athletic at the moment.

Dundee - Mark O’Hara

This was one of the tougher choices, mainly because Dundee have at least a full team of first-team squad members available on a pre-contract right now.

In the end it’s O’Hara who earns selection for his relative youth and potential. On his day the ex-Kilmarnock midfielder is a destructive force. He’s a powerful runner and battler with a habit of popping up in the penalty box to score a crucial goal. Then there are games where he goes missing for 90 minutes.

Will Dundee remain patient and look to develop him further? Or will Neil McCann run out of patience? If he does, there should be no shortage of similarly sized clubs ready to take a flyer on the 22-year-old.

Hamilton Accies - Ali Crawford

It wasn’t so long ago that Crawford’s future looked certain to take him away from Hamilton. In the winter of 2016 he was in the form of his life and rumours were circling that clubs in Scotland and England were looking to prize him away. Unfortunately for him, and his bank balance, he couldn’t keep up those standards until the end of the campaign as his form fizzled out. He made a similarly quiet start to this term before picking up an injury. Out for nearly three months, he returned in January, only to be struck down again.

An injury-plagued campaign is the last thing a player needs heading into free agency and it’ll be intriguing to see what he does next. He has been a Hamilton player for his entire career after all.

Hearts - Prince Buaben

Some Jambos would happily drive Buaben to his next destination, a feeling they’ve had for over two years now. Others believe he’s unfairly targeted by sections of the support and is an underrated, unappreciated part of the squad.

In some ways, Hearts should be aiming higher than the Ghanaian. At the top flight level he’s limited as an attacking threat with erratic passing and a tendency to dither in possession. At the same time, he does exactly what’s asked of him in a tactical sense and is a defensively disciplined player.

He’s survived through three different managers during his time in Gorgie. Seeing as the current one is his former boss at Dundee United, and the man who pushed for his initial signing, don’t be too surprised if he gets another year or so.

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Hibs - Dylan McGeouch

There wasn’t a lot of choice for the Hibs selection as most of their first-team players are contracted through next season at the very least. With the exception of McGeouch, it’s a bunch of youngsters and a recently signed back-up goalkeeper.

On the surface McGeouch’s situation is not particularly interesting. Hibs wish to keep him for one obvious reason: he’s a great player. What makes it intriguing is the shift in dynamic that’s taken place between club and employee over the course of this season.

Prior to this campaign, you would have said the ball was firmly in Hibs’ court. McGeouch, when fit, was great. But that was the problem, he just couldn’t keep himself on the field. He continually picked up strains and knocks, and it got to the stage where he couldn’t be trusted to last 90 minutes in a big game.

This season has saw a tremendous improvement in that regard. He’s already made 32 appearances, which is more than he’s managed in each of his first three seasons at Easter Road. There are no shortage of superlatives to summarise his play and there even exists a debate as to whether he, and not John McGinn, is actually the team’s best player. It would now seem the ball is very much in McGeouch’s side of the court, as he ponders a new three-year offer.

Kilmarnock - Greg Kiltie

Had the compensation due to Kilmarnock in the event of his departure in January 2016 not dissuaded some bigger teams from signing Kiltie, it’s fairly unlikely that he’d still be a Rugby Park player at this moment in time. Since signing that extension everything seems to have gone wrong for the 21-year-old, who quickly followed one serious injury with another after helping to keep the club in the top flight.

Now we have an interesting decision for both player and club to make. With Kris Boyd, Jordan Jones and Eamonn Brophy all contracted past this summer, he may not necessarily find regular first-team football once he’s returned to full match sharpness. Even if Killie do desperately want to keep him around, Kiltie might prefer a new start elsewhere; just to have a clean slate after the frustrations of the previous 18 months. Then again, potential suitors, especially ones willing to pay the compensation fee to secure his registration once his deal runs down, could be put off by his fitness struggles. There is a lot of uncertainly surrounding this one.

Motherwell - Ryan Bowman

By the admission of Motherwell’s own coaching staff, Bowman entered the season as their fourth choice striker. Quickly he played himself into the No.2 spot behind the magnificent Louis Moult, and it could be argued he was then the No.1 choice when the latter went down with injury before his January departure to Preston.

Unfortunately for Bowman, those post-Moult days were disastrous for Motherwell’s form. The Steelmen went nine games without a victory to end 2017 with our hero getting on the scoresheet only once. This was far from his fault alone. The side was badly in need of a break and January reinforcements. However, just when he was set to play his part in a rejuvenated squad, disaster struck in the form of a training ground collision which will see him out of action until March at the earliest.

In his place has come Curtis Main. Signed this past transfer window from Portsmouth, Main is very much in the Bowman mould, though he’s more mobile and a greater threat in front of goal. Even if both club and player wish to keep this marriage in tact, it appears Bowman will have to fight his way up the pecking order once again.

Partick Thistle - Paul McGinn/Mustapha Dumbuya

There is an ongoing battle between these two for the honour of being Partick Thistle’s preferred right-back. McGinn had filled in for most of the season following injuries to Dumbuya and Christie Elliott, but he found himself out of the line-up when Dumbuya returned for the 2-1 defeat against Celtic. It’s fair to say the ex-Notts County defender didn’t cover himself in glory, and McGinn was back for the victory at McDiarmid Park. They then both played against Motherwell and Rangers, with the Sierra Leonean a substitute in the latter.

Whoever manages to establish themselves in the position is the favourite to get a new deal.

Rangers - David Bates

Kenny Miller’s contract situation is going to get the preponderance of press coverage because there are still pundits out there who claim, bafflingly, that he remains Rangers’ best player. The thought of this upcoming debate is already boring me, so I’m going to rebel against a narrative which is yet to take shape and go for his younger team-mate.

The 21-year-old has been solid since reemerging in the first-team picture in early December. With age and the persuasive powers of potential on his side, he should be a shoo-in for a new deal. But one has yet to materialise.

There is the sneaking suspicion that, while a dependable defender, Bates’ limitations as a footballer will see his club seek to replace him in the summer transfer window - if he’s not usurped in the side by Bruno Alves before then.

There will likely be an offer on the table for him to remain as a back-up, either third or fourth choice. Given his form of late, he’ll rightly believe he deserves better.

Ross County - Craig Curran/Alex Schalk

Another team who could say goodbye to the majority of their playing squad in the summer, it could act as a silver lining if they do get relegated as they won’t be weighed down by several Premiership-worthy contracts as they look to rebuild in the second tier.

Curran and Schalk are in very similar situations. They both joined the club in 2015 - Curran in January, Schalk in the autumn - and have predominantly been rotated as the second and third-choice striker. This season they’ve been bumped up to switching between first and second choice, which has contributed to County’s problems as neither quite has the tools required to be a talismanic striker at this level. Despite this they’re both fairly popular with the fans. Schalk will forever be a hero for his League Cup final winner against Hibs, while Curran is admired for his battling qualities.

Whether County survive in the Premiership or not will obviously have a huge baring on their futures, though it may not be as simple as survival meaning they’ll stay and relegation seeing them off. Curran and Schalk would be a terrific lower league partnership if they wish to stay, while Owen Coyle could look rebuild the squad from scratch if he does achieve his initial objective of keeping them in the Premiership.

St Johnstone - Steven Anderson

How much do you forgive a surprisingly poor season when there’s a decade of consistent production behind it? That will be the conundrum facing Tommy Wright in the coming months when he decides the future of his long-term centre-back.

Anderson has been one of the league’s top central defenders throughout the decade, but he’s been one of the worst in the Premiership this campaign. Having only recently turned 32, you’d assume he’d have at least a season or two left in him before he’d have to start thinking about dropping down the divisions. But then again, football progression and regression doesn’t always fit our expectations. Ex-Hearts and Scottish international Darren Barr recently made his debut for League Two Stirling Albion. He’s also 32.

Of course, Barr’s slide happened over a number years, though there are players littered throughout football history who were coasting along at the height of their powers before seeing their career fall off a cliff. This may not be what’s happening with Anderson, he may just be having a bad year. Either way, Wright has a huge judgement call to make.