By Rory West
Continuing the trend of these five most under – valued players blog posts, this one features the goalkeepers. Possibly the most under – valued of all the positions on the park; goalkeepers have a thankless task sometimes, with a costly mistake usually resulting in a goal. However a top ‘keeper can turn an average team into a great one, here are the Scottish Premiership’s five most under – valued:
5. Alan Mannus – St Johnstone
Mannus has been a mainstay in the St Johnstone team for over five years now, proving to be one of their top performers since signing. Making over 150 appearances for the Perth Saints; he was part of the St Johnstone team that won the Scottish Cup in season 2013/14, putting him in a position where he could go down as a club legend.
The 34 year old, Northern Irishman (Who was originally born in Canada) has played eight times for his country, however this season his appearances for St Johnstone are lower than he would have hoped, only making nine appearances so far. This has been down to the introduction of Zander Clark, who began to make more first team appearances last season in place of Mannus while he was out injured.
Mannus is out of contract at the end of the current season and there isn’t any word so far whether St Johnstone are intending to keep him on. Mannus is ageing and has struggled of late with injury problems. However when called upon he is still more than able; to a level where if the Saints decide not to re-sign him, he could easily fit into another Premiership side.
4. Scott Fox – Ross County
When Partick Thistle allowed Scott Fox depart for Premiership rivals, Ross County in 2015, plenty of on-lookers were surprised with that decision. Fox played an influential role in Thistle’s return to the top flight and their fight to stay in the division; however after two years back in the top flight they let him go, and ever since they haven’t found a stick on replacement, churning through goalkeepers.
Thistle’s loss, on the other hand, would be Ross County’s gain with Fox arriving on a two year contract. In his first season, Fox made himself a hero with the Staggies faithful by saving a Leigh Griffiths penalty in the League Cup semi – final against, his former club, Celtic, in their 3-1 win. County would go on to win the cup but tragically for Fox, he missed the final through a knee injury.
This season Fox has continued his good form making 25 appearances so far in what has been a bit of an up and down season for County. Fox’s solidity in goal however has proved an always rewarding factor in County’s game, especially with him having to play behind a defence including Jay McEveley.
3. Dean Brill – Motherwell
As I write this one, Dean Brill, could be moving closer to a move away from Motherwell. When the ex – Inverness ‘keeper moved to Motherwell after being released by Caley at the end of the 15/16 season, it was assumed he would go in as the new number one. However Mark McGhee has opted for Craig Samson who, numerous times this season, has been a catalyst to ‘Well’s downfall.
Brill suffered a season from hell last year where he failed to make a single first team appearance, all through injury. The season prior (14/15) he suffered the same heartache as Scott Fox, missing the Scottish Cup final – which Caley would go on to win – through injury.
Brill’s lack of appearances for Motherwell this term, he has yet to make a single one, show he is under – valued by them for his quality but also, Caley showed a lack of value towards him. Releasing him through injury problems is understandable but the fact that it left them with Owain Fon Williams as their first choice goalie is something they may come to regret later in the season.
2. Jamie MacDonald – Kilmarnock
This one has only came to fruition in the last couple of weeks, with Killie manger, Lee Clark, dropping MacDonald for new loanee from Newcastle Freddie Woodman. It appears that MacDonald’s frailties have become too much of a frustration for Clark which seems a bit unfair, considering the points MacDonald saved Killie last season.
If it wasn’t for MacDonald and Dundee United being absolutely terrible, Killie would have had no hope of staying up last season. MacDonald proved to be a brilliant bit of business last season when he was picked up on a free from Championship side Falkirk. The Scottish Cup winner was easily Killie’s best player last season. This season has proved to be a bit more of a struggle for MacDonald.
Despite this, Clark opting for a loanee instead of a permanent ‘keeper, could prove a mistake. There are plenty clubs in the Premiership who would take MacDonald, what is lucky for Kilmarnock is that he still has another year remaining on his contract. However if there were to be a bid made for MacDonald, Killie would happily accept.
1. Matt Gilks – Rangers
Signed from English Premier League new boys Burnley, Gilks seemed as though he would be heading straight for Rangers’ first team. That wouldn’t be the case however as Mark Warburton decided to stick with the ‘keeper that got him promoted last season Wes Foderingham.
Foderingham, in fairness; has dramatically improved from last season, where as his defence have regressed. Gilks was only used as the League Cup goalkeeper, where he put in one of Rangers’ performances of the season in the semi – final against Celtic, keeping his side well in it.
There has been talk this month of Gilks departing Ibrox for the English Championship. If that is the case then it will prove to be some poor business from Rangers as Gilks won’t be sitting on the bench on a small wage. If Warburton was keen on bringing in a back up goalkeeper, he should not have chosen someone of Gilks’ pedigree and calibre, he is simply wasting talent.