By Rory West
A team’s success is often build on a strong core to their side; running through the centre of the pitch, all of the positions are as vital as the next however building a side without a strong base (Goalkeeper and Defence) is disastrous. Scottish football was known for it’s top class defenders; from Willie Miller, Alan Hansen to John Greig. High quality players of their calibre are in the past now, however these are five of the current game’s most under – valued stoppers.
5. Michael Devlin – Hamilton Accies
Another graduate of Hamilton Accies’ renowned youth academy that has produced players such as James McCarthy and James McArthur; Devlin is part of the next batch of youth prospects who have cemented their place in the Accies team. At 23; Devlin isn’t quite a youngster anymore, racking up over 100 first team appearances in his five years with the club.
Making his debut in a 4-0 defeat away to Rangers in 2011, Devlin was part of a group of youth prospects who debuted that day. He spent two years on loan at Stenhousemuir following that to gain further first team experience.
At the beginning of this season; Hamilton boss Martin Canning made Devlin the new club captain after the departure of Michael McGovern and Devlin has thrived in the role. Since, he has shown real leadership qualities on the pitch; with other aspects of his game such as his ability on the ball and reading of the game improving to a level perhaps higher than he’s currently playing at.
He’s contracted to the summer of 2018 which will be a relief to Accies as losing your captain two summers on the spin is a difficult role to replace. Canning has already tipped Devlin for a future Scotland call up; albeit that might be a bit early yet, it is definitely something that Devlin has the potential to achieve.
4. Josh Meekings – Inverness Caley
Despite Inverness’ frailties at the back so far this season, without players such as Josh Meekings and Gary Warren has left Caley would almost certainly be doomed. One of the big issues however for Caley so far this term is that injury problems that the pair have suffered from.
At only 24, it feels as though Meekings has being playing in Inverness’ defence for much longer than he has, now in his fifth year with the club. Meekings’ pace is a key part to his game and his an attribute that has gotten Caley out of jail on multiple occasions during his time at the club.
Meekings will probably go down as an Inverness when he eventually leaves the club for being part of the team that triumphed in the Scottish Cup in 2015, winning Inverness their first major trophy.
If there ever was an example of a team folding due to the breaking up of a defensive unit, Caley is it. Since the departure of captain Graeme Shinnie to Aberdeen in 2015, Caley’s defensive has slowly regressed; with it reaching the level it is at now where they are sat bottom of the league, from a top six team two years ago.
Meekings’ contract expires at the end of the season and if things continue the way they are at the moment, and Caley get relegated, it is unlikely that Meekings will remain an Inverness player. He will be sought after by team’s in Scotland and England, possibly the type of defender Rangers are crying out for.
3. Lee Hodson – Rangers
Signed by ex-Rangers manager Mark Warburton at the beginning of the season, Hodson was basically signed as cover to full backs James Tavernier and Lee Wallace, due to his ability to slot into both.
It then came to the attention to the Rangers support, after the 2-0 defeat to Hearts at Tynecastle in November that he was actually better defensively that Tavernier at right back. Warburton gave him a start in the following game – a huge one – at home to Aberdeen. Rangers won 2-0 at Hodson scored the second.
Warburton’s reluctance to change was the downfall for Hodson and is why his first team appearances haven’t been as high as he, or groups of the Gers support, would like.
After the departure of Warburton, Hodson’s stay at Ibrox will be up in the air when it comes to the summer; he still has a deal that runs to the summer of 2019 however if he isn’t certified first team football, it is unlikely he will be sticking around at Ibrox.
2. Andy Considine – Aberdeen
An Aberdeen stalwart; Considine has spent his whole career with the Dons and has just extended his stay until 2019, making it likely that he will end his career at Pittodrie. Making just under 300 first team appearances for the Dons, Considine will, unless a season-ending injury occurs, make it into the top seven all time appearance list for Aberdeen.
This season has seen a huge improvement in Andy Considine’s performances, at times being Aberdeen’s best player. Always known for giving 100% every week, Considine has never really be one of Aberdeen’s stand out players and was often prone to a mistake. This season, he has cut out the silly errors and shown a more consistent level of quality each week. He has also shown an improvement on his reading of the game – being caught out less often by runs from attackers – and physical presence.
Playing predominantly centre back for most of his Dons career; Considine has been versatile and become established as a left back also, however with the arrival of Graeme Shinnie last season, it was assumed that Considine would see less game time. Fortunately for him, Shinnie has played central midfield for most of his Dons career so far; allowing Considine to nail down the left back slot as his own.
1. Steven Anderson – St Johnstone
Possibly the league’s most under – valued player overall.
Often overlooked through the recent success of St Johnstone, Anderson has been at McDiarmid Park from the beginning of their rise to becoming an established top six club in the Premiership.
Making over 300 appearances for St Johnstone, Anderson has spent his whole professional career at the Perth Saints after being released from a youth contract at Dundee United. Part of the St Johnstone team that won the 2014 Scottish Cup – St Johnstone’s first ever major trophy – and scoring the opener in the 2-0 final win over, his old club,Dundee United; Anderson will go down as a club legend.
Appointed club captain last year after the retirement of Dave Mackay, Anderson shows a level of experience that matches the previous skipper. He shows bravery and leadership such as a centre back from the 80s; traditional look of black boots and rolled up sleeves suit his style perfectly.
At 31; Anderson sure has a few more years left in him at the top level, without any injuries catching up on him. Former St Johnstone manager labeled Steven Anderson as a “Classic unsung hero”, a term that fits in neatly with Anderson.