By Rory West (@rorywest96)
We’re only four games into the new Scottish Premiership but there has already been plenty of surprises thrown up. Hibs’ victory over Rangers at Ibrox, then Hamilton going to Easter Road and thrashing Hibs, St Johnstone picking up a point away to Celtic and Aberdeen finishing the first set of fixtures top of the league. However, in this post I am focusing more on individual players who have surprised so far.
Olivier Ntcham – Celtic
Upon the midfielder’s arrival at Celtic Park from Manchester City, despite his £4 million transfer fee, not many expected him to slot straight into Celtic’s starting XI, especially in place of last season’s star man Stuart Armstrong.
While part of the reason behind Ntcham playing was Armstrong’s contractual situation, there was huge pressure on him for taking this spot. And he hasn’t disappointed. An unfamiliar player for many, he surprised with his style of play. As someone who has only ever been made aware of Ntcham through Football Manager, I never expected him to be as deep a midfield player than he is. His calming presence on the ball and ability to find forward players has masked the absence of Armstrong.
With Armstrong signing a contract extension and impressing on international duty for Scotland, it will be interesting to see who lines up in the Celtic midfield away to Hamilton this weekend.
Greg Docherty – Hamilton Accies
Hamilton Accies have been the complete surprise package of the season so far. As every season, many had tipped Accies to be automatically relegated but they have started superbly. Currently sitting in fourth with two wins and a draw from four games, it has been an impressive start. And much of this success has come from their new talisman, Greg Docherty.
The hero from last season’s playoff final, with his goal in the victory over Dundee United, Docherty has taken that form and replicated it so far this season. With four assists in the opening four games, it looks as though Docherty will overtake Ali Crawford as Accies’ hottest property. His performance in the victory over Hibs, was outstanding and one where he got fans around the country properly sitting up and beginning to take notice of his work.
Despite being a mainstay in the Hamilton midfield for two years now, it has taken him until now to step into the spotlight and attempt to pull Hamilton out of another relegation battle. What is even more impressive, on Accies’ part, is that he signed to the club until the summer of 2020. While this doesn’t guarantee him staying for that length of time, it does mean that a reasonable sized fee would be required to prize him away fro Hamilton.
Simon Murray – Hibernian
Eyebrows were raised when Hibs decided to bring Dundee United striker Simon Murray to Easter Road. With the departure of the previous season’s top goalscorer Jason Cummings, many questioned Murray as his replacement.
Murray responded to these questions with five goals in the League Cup group stages. He continued that form into the Premiership, hitting two goals from four games, including one in the 3-2 victory at Ibrox.
While the goals have dried up for Murray in the previous two games, the addition of Anthony Stokes will surely help Murray and take some of the pressure of goals off his shoulders. You can’t deny the effort that Murray puts in each week but if he is to further his performances that he’s made so far, then he can’t settle for hard working performances without goals.
Michael O’Halloran – St Johnstone
Deemed surplus to requirements at Rangers by Pedro Caixinha , O’Halloran has used that as inspiration and fired himself to the August player of the month award. With four goals in four games for the Saints, he is the league’s top goalscorer and looking like the player that he was during his first spell at St Johnstone.
Playing in a more central position, he is using his blistering pace to effect. His new teammates have immediately struck the same wavelength as him and allowed him almost a free role around the forward areas.
With his Rangers career seeming over and his loan to St Johnstone expiring in January it will be interesting to see where he will end up after the January transfer window has closed. It would be a wise decision from Tommy Wright and St Johnstone to push the boat out and try to sign him up permanently, however a contract until 2020 with Rangers might be an obstacle to large for their budget to dodge.
Alfredo Morelos – Rangers
Out of all the summer arrivals, few would have expected Morelos to be the one, coming into the international break, receiving all the plaudits. Signed for a fee of £1 million from HJK Helsinki, the Colombian striker has notched five goals in his seven games for the club.
He manages to pick up great positions in the penalty area, often sneaking in between opposition centre halves. For someone who isn’t overly tall, his aerial ability has impressed so far with two of his goals coming from headers.
What has made Morelos the surprise package for Rangers is the players who also arrived at the club around him. Bruno Alves, Graham Dorrans, Ryan Jack and Carlos Pena to name a few who have came through the doors at Ibrox but none of them have set the world alight so far. If Rangers are going to have any success this season, I can see Morelos being a big part of it.
Find us on Twitter @pintsandpens