By Rory West
Within any football team there are always the headline grabbers. These usually tend to be the strikers, wingers or goal scoring central midfielders. Hidden behind these influential figures there are always hard working, under appreciated players who’s roles often allow these players to go and express themselves.
This is a list of those sort of midfield players in the Scottish Premiership.
5. Perry Kitchen – Hearts
Since Kitchen’s arrival at Tynecastle from D.C United in March 2016, he has been an instant hit with the Hearts faithful. Within seven months of his Hearts career he was appointed as the new club captain, replacing Alim Ozturk, this was a gutsy move from then manager Robbie Neilson but one that had substance due to the player’s leadership qualities shown in the US. The American’s presence in the centre of the Jambos midfield allows players such as Jamie Walker, Sam Nicholson and Don Cowie to have less defensive duties.
Signed on a two and a half year contract, Kitchen will be sticking around at Hearts for the near future. He will an important part of Ian Cathro’s plans as a player of his ability will be fundamental to the style of football Cathro will be looking for his Hearts side to play.
4. Josh Windass – Rangers
Another player who has been in Scottish football for less than a year but already made a positive impact. Windass first caught the eye for Rangers in – surprisingly enough – the 5-1 defeat to Celtic. During that game he was the only Rangers player to have a half decent game. Playing alongside Joey Barton in that game, Windass would go on to replace Barton in the role he was signed to play in.
The midfielder’s Rangers career had a slow start due to an injury but since he has gotten a run of games under his belt, he has proved to be one of Rangers’ most important players this season.
Windass has moved back into a deeper midfield role for Rangers from his more attacking position while playing for Accrington Stanley. Seen as a goal scoring midfielder at Stanley, he has yet to score for Rangers but his pace and passing ability has seen him allow Barrie McKay to play in a free role – offering more attacking drive.
3. Murray Davidson – St Johnstone
Davidson has been a mainstay in the St Johnstone starting XI since his arrival nearly eight years ago. His athletic ability in the earlier stages of his career grew interest from England and Rangers – while they were originally in the top division. He looked certain to leave the Perth side but injuries have exploited his career, benefiting the Saints however as it has meant he has stayed around much longer than expected and at the end off last season he signed a new three year contract.
Now at the age of 28, knee injuries forever niggling, Davidson has managed to adapt his midfield role to fit his fitness. No longer able to produce lung bursting runs up the pitch, he has perfected the sitting midfield role and has become the envy of rival teams. The player that nearly all teams are desperate to have.
He patrols in front of the defence breaking up play and giving the ball on to better users of the ball, such as Danny Swanson, David Wotherspoon and Steven MacLean. St Johnstone have now become known as the “difficult to beat” side of the Premiership and Murray Davidson is one of the catalysts behind that mantra.
2. Kenny McLean – Aberdeen
Often a scapegoat within sections of the Aberdeen support when things aren’t going so well, McLean has been given a very tough time so far this season without playing badly at all, in fact rarely having a poor game all season.
When signed by Derek McInnes in January 2015, Dons fans thought they were getting the goal scoring midfielder they had been crying out for. Managing to almost hit double figures in the first half of the season with St Mirren, the goals dried up for McLean and it took him until the Europa League qualifiers of the following season to score his first Dons goal. However even from that point on, goals have been a difficult thing to come by for McLean.
With the introduction of James Maddison this season, Kenny McLean has been forced into a deeper role in midfield which doesn’t fully suit him. Although his range of passing and intelligence is obvious to see. Now recently being pushed forward into his more comfortable position of the number 10, he has began to show the player he is. Perhaps still not getting the amount of goals or assists he or the fans would like but his influence can be traced back in the majority of Aberdeen’s goals of late.
1. Stuart Armstrong – Celtic
If there was an award for most improved player come the end of the season, Stuart Armstrong’s name would already be getting carved on the trophy. A revelation under new boss Brendan Rodgers, the midfielder has hit his best streak of form in possibly his whole career since the Northern Irishman took over.
Armstrong seemed like a forgotten man under previous boss Ronny Deila, despite being signed by the man. He was plagued with injury problems and was also featured in reports linking him with a move away from Celtic. Now he has put those issues behind him and pushed his game on to a completely new level. A level that should see him potentially as the first name on the team sheet for not only Celtic but Scotland.
Ever since Armstrong’s breakthough at Dundee United it was obvious that he was a talented player but now it seems as though the talent is finally coming through.