The 12 Scottish Premiership stars you MUST watch this season

The start of the Scottish Premiership campaign is upon us, but who are the players set to shine and play a key role this season?

Aberdeen: Bruce Anderson

The news on Wednesday that Sam Cosgrove could be out until December was a huge blow for Aberdeen on two counts. Derek McInnes was being robbed of his star striker ahead of the season opener against Rangers and any chance of the club selling a key asset to raise substantial funds has all but evaporated.

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In Curtis Main, Aberdeen have a decent physical replacement, a focal point and target, but not someone reliable in front of goal, while some fans will be hopeful the club enter the transfer market.

Joe Aribo could be about to have a starring season for Rangers. Picture: SNS

But there is also Bruce Anderson. A 21-year-old who has excited Dons supporters for a couple of years now. He has been prolific in the reserves and a late equaliser against Rangers on the opening day of the 2018/19 campaign ramped up the hype. He has not been given a good run in the team since, even after a positive loan spell at Dunfermline.

Anderson is not your typical Derek McInnes striker. He’s not a traditional target man and won’t give much of an out ball, but he has other qualities, playing on the shoulder, movement and most importantly in front of goal.

Celtic: Mohamed Elyounoussi

Last season was an interesting one for the Norwegian. He made just 20 appearances, but showed himself to be a devastating attacker, combining well with Boli Bolingoli down the left, scoring six and assisting three goals in the space of four games domestically. Hibs defender Tom James has still not recovered from coming up against the 25-year-old in the Betfred Cup semi-final.

Versatile and intelligent, Elyounoussi is not a luxury player, he puts in plenty of graft but can be decisive in the final third. There is something of a mix between Scott Sinclair and James Forrest in him.

Getting him back on another loan deal was an excellent piece of business. If he plays the full season he could be a key matchwinner.

Dundee United: Lawrence Shankland

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Obvious? Absolutely. Necessary? Yes. It could only be one person. Shankland’s selection doesn't require much explanation. He scores goals. Eighty nine to be precise over the last three campaigns.There was every chance he would have reached the 100 mark if the league hadn’t shut down in the middle of March.

He is the definition of MVP for United. While they have key and influential players elsewhere it is Shankland who will win Micky Mellon’s team games. He would be a dab hand at Ready, Steady, Cook such is his ability to improvise, react and make the most out of very little.

The 24-year-old may have a point to prove in the top tier after a difficult time at Aberdeen and his goals will determine how well United’s season goes.

Hamilton: Scott Martin

Accies’ star man last season Alex Gogic left the club this summer to join Hibs. It leaves a destructive force-shaped hole in the middle of the pitch. He was more than that though, he was a talisman, a personality in the team. And alongside him for much of last season was Scott Martin.

The midfielder started the final 13 matches, playing a key role in Hamilton’s survival. The 23-year-old definitely has new levels to reach with his talent and his attitude can't be faulted which is essential at a team like Accies who are often in a relegation battle.

Brian Rice has brought in Charlie Trafford and Ross Callachan but it is Martin who should be stepping up to say the midfield is ‘his’. Not quite the solid, holding midfielder like Gogic but he can provide that box-to-box enthusiasm and be the driving force.

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Hibernian: Josh Doig

There were more obvious answers here. Martin Boyle for instance or Kevin Nisbet who arrived from Dunfermline Athletic for a six-figure fee. However, Doig is the most interesting one. The 18-year-old has impressed in pre-season culminating in a fine volleyed finish against Celtic .

He will have to get past Lewis Stevenson, however. The living legend who has won both domestic trophies with Hibs and seen off about 753 left-backs in his time at Easter Road, such is his staying power and the ability to bounce back, something he will be looking to do after a trying season not helped by injury.

Doig has shown enough that he won’t require another loan spell after a fruitful stint at Queen’s Park which prompted manager Ray McKinnon to offer Andy Robertson comparisons. This writer first noted the player's ability during a Reserve Cup match last year. Playing at left-back, he was aggressive, commanding and direct, appearing to possess a steely demeanour.

Hibs may well have had Stevenson’s long-term replacement under their noses all this time.

Kilmarnock: Nicke Kabamba

With four goals in 12 games after signing in January the striker showed enough to suggest he was a handy addition. Kilmarnock had been lacking options in attack with much of the responsibility falling on the shoulders of Eamonn Brophy.

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It wasn’t a coincidence that Brophy’s best spell arrived when he was paired with Kabamba, scoring six in six in the league. He needs players to act as a distraction for him to operate at his roving best, picking up spaces and shooting from questionable positions but doing so quickly.

Kabamba gives Killie that focal point, someone they can direct play towards and allow the team to play from.

Livingston: Alan Forrest

You’ve no doubt heard it before and you'll no doubt hear it again… over and over. Alan is Celtic’s James Forrest’s brother. Now we have that out the way, Livingston picking the player up on a free contract could be one of the smartest bits of business they do, following on from signing Marvin Bartley and Lyndon Dykes on a free last summer.

There was a mixture of acceptance and disappointment amongst the Ayr United fans when the player departed. Across a number of seasons he has suggested that he was a player who could at one point reach the top flight. Now he has been given that chance by Livi after an excellent campaign where he hit ten goals, a fine return from a winger.

Forrest isn't the traditional ‘hit the byline and cross’ winger. He was only the 14th most frequent crosser in the league. That suits Livingston, they aren’t a crossing team (third fewest last season) despite the presence of Dykes. Instead Forrest will give Livi creativity, variety and goals from out to in, replacing Steven Lawless.

Motherwell: Tony Watt

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After an itinerant six years which has taken in ten teams in five countries, Watt looks to have found a place to settle, a place to call home which is conveniently not far from where he would call home. The striker recently gave an interview where he talked about being at the perfect club to find direction in his career and progress.

The 26-year-old showed flashes after signing earlier this year but a full pre-season under his belt, working under Stephen Robinson could see the player prove any doubters wrong and show he has plenty to offer, whether it be in terms of goals, work rate or being an influential part of a functioning team.

Technically, Watt is excellent. His movement is there, plus control, touch and vision. If it clicks, especially with David Turnbull and Allan Campbell in midfield, Motherwell could be very dangerous.

Rangers: Joe Aribo

The Nigerian international shuffled to go left but he went right, wrong footing the Motherwell defender, collecting a return from Alfredo Morelos in the process. He then exchanged passes with Ianis Hagi, but what followed was most special, shifting the ball from left to right back to left all the while under pressure before slotting into the bottom corner. It was exquisite.

There is a role at Rangers for Aribo to fulfil within the midfield. A physically dominating, attacking midfielder who will drive the team forward and offer verticality, combining with and running beyond the forwards.

There have been some question marks within the Rangers support about the ex-Charlton Athletic ace, probably because they can see a player who has so many attributes who maybe hasn’t fulfilled expectations. After a season of adaptation at Ibrox, this campaign could be a momentous one for the player.

Ross County: Stephen Kelly

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The 20-year-old is highly thought of at Rangers. There is a reason he has been given a contract until 2023. A loan deal with the Staggies is the next step in his development after an excellent season with Ayr United where he picked up the young player of the year award as chosen by the supporters. A more than capable striker of the ball, he hit six goals from the centre of the pitch.

Ross County fans will likely be enamoured by the player's ability to get on the ball and try and make things happen, directing the team forward. He finished in the top five in the Championship for through passes and passes to the final third. Billy Mckay and Ross Stewart shouldn’t be starved off the ball.

The Staggies had another highly rated Old Firm youngster on loan last season with Euan Henderson. It didn’t quite work out but Kelly looks like having the wherewithal to handle himself in a midfield two or three.

St Johnstone: Callum Hendry

Callum Davidson will know he has been fortunate to take over a team without really needing to worry about the striking department. Before the shutdown, Chris Kane, Stevie May and Callum Hendry were all contributing. The new Saints boss has spoken in pre-season of a front three, whether that involves all of Kane, May and Hendry, two or just one of the trio.

Hendry is the most interesting of the three. Since arriving at Saints his development has been a steady one. There was certainly frustration at times last season when, despite a positive impact from the bench, he wasn’t getting the minutes he may have thought he deserved. Only Jermain Defoe and Odsonne Edouard betterted his 0.88 goals per 90 minutes ratio.

Out of the three, Hendry would seem the natural pick if Davidson plays with just one out and out striker. He shares certain qualities with Livingston striker Lyndon Dykes. Physical, hard-working, a pest who can score goals. His progress this season will be fascinating to watch.

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St Mirren: Cammy MacPherson

Injuries last season gave MacPherson a chance in the middle of the St Mirren midfield, and it is one the player grasped with both hands, forming a robust and combative pairing with Sam Foley, especially after out of position appearances at right-back.

MacPherson is all action, plenty of energy but is more than capable of putting his foot on the ball and trying to direct proceedings. The player spoke of the influence of Foley beside him, keeping him straight regarding the system and being in the right position.

With Ryan Flynn and Kyle Magennis both returning from injuries, MacPherson will need to take the next step in his development to keep the place he made his own last season.