The out of contract players Premiership clubs should sign

By Cameron Christie (@CammyChristie97)

Aberdeen –

Greg Tansey (Inverness CT) – Yes I know that Tansey has already signed for Aberdeen but I’m still going to put him on this list as I found it hard to chose a player who would improve Aberdeen’s team enough to validate an inclusion and Aberdeen would actually make a move for. Sure I could’ve put a second choice keeper on the list but didn’t see the point. Tansey is a terrific signing for Aberdeen, unfortunately for them it looks like he’s been drafted in as a replacement for captain, Ryan Jack. Tansey does offer them some quality in the middle of the park with a great range of passing, decent strike and is strong in the tackle. When he comes in, he should compliment both Graeme Shinnie and Kenny McLean.

Celtic –

Callum Paterson (Hearts) – This is the most difficult one as most of the Celtic side would walk into any other team in the league, however right back is not one of them. In another article, I named Lustig as the player Celtic should look to replace in the summer and I believe Callum Paterson could be the man to do so. Despite playing at right back and not playing at all in 2017, he’s still Hearts second top goal scorer at the time of writing. He would provide Celtic with a greater attacking with his pace, strength and fantastic leap (Incredible verts bro). Paterson does still have to work on his defensive roles as he has been caught out a number of times. Working alongside someone like Kolo Toure next season could do a lot of good for the Scotland international.

Dundee –

Lionel Ainsworth (Motherwell) – The position for Dundee was easy, they sorely lack wingers, and it was just a case of choosing which one. I ended up going with Lionel Ainsworth who appears to have fallen down the pecking order at Motherwell. Very pacey, the English man can add a dynamic to Dundee that they don’t have. Ainsworth however is a bit inconsistent and can be lazy when tracking back but even then, it wouldn’t be offering the Dundee full backs any less protection than they tend to get. Dundee need width and pace, these are two things Ainsworth can provide.

Hamilton –

Paul Quinn (Ross County) – Following the release of Tena and Seaborne, Accies need a centre half. Paul Quinn fits the bill. Whilst Devlin is great, I’m not entirely convinced he’s the best leader. This is where Quinn comes in. Fallen out of favour at Ross County and unlikely to sign an extension, it is a very realistic potential signing for Hamilton. Quinn is dependable and experienced at this level. He could be good foil for Devlin. Solid centre half and good for a goal he would be a wise addition to the Accies squad. I am unsure on Quinn’s allegiances however, given he came through the youth academy at local rivals Motherwell but if they can be put aside, a move to Accies would be good for both parties.

Hearts –

Alan Mannus (St Johnstone) – Hearts need an experienced head in that back line, they are currently a disaster. Not putting sole blame on him, but think Jack Hamilton’s inexperience is partly down to this. With Mannus, you get a leader and an organiser. The experienced Northern Irish international stopper has been one of the better keepers in the premiership since he came to sign for the saints. This season he’s been displaced by Zander Clark as Tommy Wright see’s him as the future for St Johnstone. Hamilton may be seen as the same for Hearts but he could be brought out of the firing line for a bit and Mannus is the perfect replacement for Hearts. He can go in as number one but also mentor Hamilton off the field. It’s a win win and a move Ian Cathro should look to makeproviding he doesn’t stumble upon a Championship Manager legend.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle –

Alex Schalk (Ross County) – This is idealistic thinking, but Inverness do need this type of player. Had they been able to sign Miles Storey, who’s done nothing at Aberdeen all season, this wouldn’t have been the case. Schalk is a similar type of player as Storey and would suit Inverness a lot. Being able to play him in, making runs behind the defence could and should get Caley a lot more goals than they are currently scoring. McKay has lost his edge and Anier isn’t cutting it so they could do with someone like Schalk. Of course this theoretical transfer is dependent on where Caley are next season.

Kilmarnock –

Danny Swanson (St Johnstone) – This may be some ambitious thinking but once the Kilmarnock squad is cleared out in the summer, it should free up some wages and they should look to trying to acquire someone like Danny Swanson. Kilmarnock have been turned into a functional but effective team by Lee McCulloch but I feel they could do with some quality in the midfield and Swanson can provide that. Lacking some pace but he is fantastic on the ball with a great range of passing. His service could do Kris Boyd a world of good and possibly allow Kilmarnock to push for a top 6 spot next season.

Motherwell –

Mark Russell (Morton) – Motherwell need a left back and Russell can solve those problems. Hammell is getting on a bit and is picking up a few too many injuries and Joe Chalmers is just the worst. This is a difficult one to describe as I really haven’t seen a lot of Russell play. The left back impressed on the big stage in the League Cup semi final against Aberdeen keeping the likes of McGinn and Hayes quiet. A mainstay in a very strong Morton team at just 21 is impressive and with a great potential future, Motherwell should try their hardest to make sure he is wearing claret and amber next season.

Partick Thistle –

Jordan Jones (Kilmarnock) – Despite the fact David Amoo is terrible, Thistle could still do with replacing him following his inevitable release. With Thistle making it to the top 6 and making a bit more cash off the back of it, they should set their sights on Jordan Jones. The former Middlesbrough trainee has thrived since McCulloch came in as Killie boss. Quick and direct, traits offered by Amoo, he would be a good fit for Thistle who do occasionally lack it. However, unlike Amoo, there is an end product with Jones having racked up a decent number of assists in his first full senior season. Jones is still a raw talent but Firhill could be a place where it is nurtured and Jones could be turned into a more complete winger.

Rangers –

Josh Meekings (Inverness CT) – Everyone can see Rangers are weak defensively. Clint Hill (who is 38) aside, the other centre halves are pretty poor. Wilson and Kiernan were shaky as a duo in the championship and the last said about Senderos the better. Whilst the money Rangers could spend on a centre half could get them a better one. I’m not trying to say Meekings is the cheap option as he is a very good centre half. When he doesn’t play, Inverness look worse off for it. He is a little injury prone but hopefully he can put that past him and forge a good career for himself, whether it is at Inverness, Rangers or elsewhere.

Ross County –

Fraser Fyvie (Hibernian) – Ross County need a battler in the midfield and Fraser Fyvie could provide that. The County midfield has been lacking the hustle and bustle since Jackson Irvine moved down south in the summer. Fyvie certainly wouldn’t replace a player as great as Irvine but he would provide the energy, especially when you have Martin Woods unwilling to run. Fyvie’s lack of game time over the last season would suggest the FA Cup and Scottish Cup winner will not be retained come the end of the season which makes this a plausible move.

St Johnstone –

Craig Sibbald (Falkirk) – St Johnstone took Blair Alston from Falkirk last year, so why not try nabbing Sibbald this year. Sibbald has played 100 games and is only 21. It is an incredible achievement. That many games in his younger years shows a great character and already gained vital experience which would allow him to slot into the St Johnstone team with ease. Can either play central or out wide, he offers versatility which is key to what Tommy Wright has built at the Saints. I said in a previous article that Liam Craig could be replaced in the St Johnstone team and I believe Sibbald to be an excellent choice to do so.

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Bashing your bottom 6

By Rory West (@rorywest96)

Some crave drugs, some crave alcohol but others crave bottom 6 banter. Since the season kicked off, the battle within the Premierships’s bottom 6 has been chaos and at no point has it showed any signs of calming down.

When onlookers, on the odd occasion pear through the Scottish football blinds they often don’t look any further than Celtic. Everything else to them is garbage, and in some cases they may be correct. However if they ignore the quality (which in my opinion isn’t actually as bad as it is made out to be) they would realise; that although there may not be an exciting title race, the relegation race defines excitement.

With 5 games remaining, no team in the bottom half are mathematically out of the race for relegation or the playoffs. While Killie and perhaps Ross County have realistically reached the shore, the 4 other teams are well and truly still out at sea.

So due to all sides, mathematically, involved in the carnival or carnage that some call the bottom 6 (and knowing Scottish football, maths means nothing) I’m going to get the magic ball out and predict the final standings of each bottom 6 side by the time the season is through.

7th – Kilmarnock

With 3 of the 5 remaining fixtures being at home for Killie, I can’t see them moving places from where they are now. Their two away fixtures see them travelling to Lanarkshire for two difficult games. Both Motherwell and Hamilton will be fighting for their lives at this stage with both level on points. Putting my neck out here (at very little rsik) and predicting the Accies v Killie bash to finish in a draw. Both teams love a draw more than Ric Flair loves getting booted out of seedy bars.

Since Lee McCulloch took charge, following Lee Clark’s departure to Bury, Killie have become a solid unit, cutting out the mass number of goals they once shipped and more importantly they have picked up points in games where, previously they may not have.

A 7th place finish for Kilmarnock, considering where they have been at points in the season and possibly where they could be if Clark stayed, isn’t a bad spot for them.

With 5 games remaining, and a 2 point gap over County in 8th, I can’t see Killie dropping enough points to the teams around them to drop any lower.

8th – Motherwell

‘Well are another side where, if not for a change in managerial personnel, they could be in a lot more trouble than they actually are.

The appointment of Stevie Robinson hasn’t exactly shown a huge improvement in Motherwell’s form or results but there has been an improvement of sorts.

What is vital for Well’s safety is the return of Louis Moult. Moult is a talisman for Motherwell and without him they struggle when it comes to the goal scoring department. In a similar position to Ross County – who I’ll get to later – what could be the difference between those two sides staying up and others not, is having a proven goalscorer. The other bottom 6 sides lack that.

This season has been disappointing for Motherwell and they’ll hope that either Robinson can pick up some bodies in summer to replace players such as, Hammell and McDonald who are still capable but slowly becoming less influential, and challenge for top 6 again.

9th – Ross County

As said above, what should keep County afloat is having a proven goalscorer, in Liam Boyce. However its all well having a goalscorer but you have to play him up front, not in midfield like Jim McIntyre has been recently.

Off the back of last season’s poor league form towards the end of the season, following the league cup win, County have picked up where they left off. They haven’t really hit a great run of form all season but have had enough about them when in desperation for results.

Big results such as; a home win over Aberdeen, a win over Hearts at Tynecastle and picking up a point against Celtic prove that County have too much about them to get dragged into a relegation dogfight.

There have been calls for McIntyre’s head, from sections of the County faithful this season, and while that may be a bit harsh considering he brought the club their greatest moment ever but he can’t ride on the for too long. The loss of Jackson Irvine in the summer has played a huge part in the Staggies’ struggles this season and I don’t think anyone outside County fans realised how important he was to them.

McIntyre needs to use his budget wisely this summer and hope that he can hold onto Liam Boyce for one more year.

10th – Hamilton Accies

Now this is where it got tough. Who would be the side to escape the playoff spots? I’ve went for Accies but that is mainly down to the form of the one final team missing, Dundee.

Many (myself included) thought before the season started that this would be the year Hamilton went down.

Accies have been the go to team this season when it comes to draws. However recently Hamilton have dropped the draws and while some have been turned into defeats, they’ve managed to pick up a few more victories. In fairness, they are far from the worst side for defeats this season but the number of times they have failed to pick up all 3 points from winning positions this season, would kill Martin Canning if it meant Hamilton would go down.

For the budget that Hamilton have, it is a surprise to everyone how they still manage to stay fighting each year. Although with the added inclusion of Hibs next season, they may be in for another struggle next season.

11th – Dundee

This one required some thinking at first, but then 7 defeats on the spin said otherwise. Since beating Rangers at Dens and then handing out a scudding to Motherwell at Fir Park, Dundee have been rotten.

This had to be swiftly rewritten as the original was written prior to Paul Hartley’s sacking on Monday. On the sacking, it may be seen as a little bit harsh but 7 defeats on the spin, including a 7-0 spanking at home to Aberdeen, wouldn’t help any managers case. The Dundee board would have been worried that Hartley couldn’t have got Dundee out of the slump and that form would have surely seen them in the playoffs.

Dundee’s run in isn’t the easiest also with a game away to Hamilton on the final day, which could prove to be one of the biggest games of the season, altogether.

Dundee’s team on paper looks like there should be enough quality in it to not only stay in the Premiership but challenge for top 6. Underachieving is an understatement. Granted that losing Kane Hemmings and Greg Stewart in the summer was a huge hole that Dundee would massively struggle to fill but never the less, they should have had enough not to find themselves in this position.

While I’m on the topic of 11th place and who will finish there, I’m going to put my neck out and predict the outcome of the playoffs.

The Championship playoffs is a complete different matter and something that requires a post in itself. To shorten things I think that Falkirk will reach the playoff final to face Dundee and this season they will go one better than last season and gain promotion to the Premiership, relegating Dundee in the process.

12th – Inverness

Cheap appointment, brave appointment? Whatever it was, the Richie Foran appointment hasn’t worked out for Caley and it will result in them ending their 7 year stint in the top division.

Caley don’t have an easy run in to save their season in their final 5 games. 3 away fixtures including, perhaps the biggest Highland Derby ever to open the bottom 6 fixtures. They also have a tough trip away to Killie and going by their 1 win on the road all season, things aren’t looking too bright for Inverness.

Over the last few seasons, Caley have lost a number of key players with; Shinnie (Graeme and Andrew), Ryan Christie, James Vincent, Billy McKay when he could score and Marley Watkins all departing the Highlands. No matter how good your recruitment is, players like those are very difficult to replace and that looks as though it has finally caught up on Caley.

Players such as Tansey, Draper, Meekings, Warren and to an extent McKay should have left Inverness with their head above water but Foran’s tactics all season have been an abomination. He has no idea what he’s doing and that was exemplified by his crazy beard he grew. Beards don’t make you look like you know what you’re doing Richie!

Caley can take faith that, unlike the past few bottom of the pile sides, they haven’t been cut afloat and left with no mathematical chance of staying. However similar to sides like Hibs, Hearts and Dundee United, going down will allow them to get rid of a lot of dead wood in the squad and build a new team, ready to regain their top league status. This won’t be a quick fix but one that is necessary.

 

Buying into the community

By Rory West

Having the opportunity to run a football club and face the challenges that the day to day business offers is a test that supporters believe they could live up to. Often just a dream for fans, this is now a reality that The Well Society – a group of Motherwell supporters – are faced with after they purchased the major share hold in their club.

Before Motherwell however there were already four community owned senior clubs in Scotland; Stirling Albion, East Stirlingshire, Dunfermline Athletic and Clyde. The four clubs have seen differing levels of success on the pitch since community ownership, although all have gained a sustainable financial position. Dunfermline have been promoted into the Scottish Championship, where they are competing well, after winning League One comfortably. On the other hand however, East Stirlingshire have been relegated out of the senior leagues although last season’s relegation was no surprise after some difficult times – on and off the pitch. The community ownership overall has seen a stability in the financial structure at East Stirlingshire, something that was long overdue.

So the question is, why community ownership? Community ownership creates a greater sense of financial responsibility; an increased recognition for clubs to live within their means. This reduces the risk of a businessman come in, spend way beyond what he can afford and driving the club into the ground; an example of that is with Brooks Mileson with Gretna FC who went out of business in 2008.

Placing clubs in the hands of supporters allows more transparency in terms of clubs’ budgets and makes relevant information more accessible to fans. It allows the club to raise finances in, more innovative ways; such as through ‘Community Shares’. Community shares are a way of raising finances through a secure, legal form. As opposed to ordinary shares, they seek investment from people who are most interested in the long term success of the club – as a community asset. By giving supporters and the community the chance to invest in the club it strengthens their connection with it.

When it came to community ownership for – Stirling Albion, East Stirlingshire, Dunfermline Athletic and Clyde, Supporters Direct – has played a role in each of these cases, ensuring that supporters groups were listened to and that the process of clubs moving into community ownership was conducted in the best interests of supporters.
Head of Supporters Direct Scotland, Andrew Jenkin, said; “The Supporters Network is our vehicle to ensure that supporters regardless of whether they are interested in community ownership or not can have a say in Scottish football.

“It is our way of connecting with the supporters to gather their views and opinions, whether this is on the match day experience, ticket pricing or fixture rescheduling.

“The Well Society are members of ours and we have worked closely with them during the process of them becoming major shareholders in the club.

“There are a number of different aspects to the idea of community ownership. First and foremost the club has to be run sustainably; there is no point a club going into community ownership if they aren’t going to run the club sustainably. The idea and ethos of community is that they commit to the idea that at the end of the season the profits that are made don’t go to the shareholders; they go back into the club.

“We at Supporters Direct have researched the benefits that community ownership offers clubs. The supporters feel as though they have a greater representation of the club.”

Community ownership often comes after a financial meltdown within the club. This was the case with Dunfermline; Motherwell had the same issue in the early 2000s. More recently St Mirren and Hearts have had supporters groups pursuing community ownership. While neither club are fully community owned as of yet; these groups have bridged the gap between the fans and the board, increasing the likelihood of the takeover in ownership. Hearts’ majority shareholder Anne Budge has already announced that Heart’s supporters group The Foundation of Hearts will likely take over the club within the next three years.

All supporters trust owned clubs have to publish annual accounts which have to be approved by members at their AGM. This provides a level of scrutiny and recourse for supporters as well as a level of public transparency that is often lacking at other clubs.
Supporters Direct Scotland have recently worked with clubs such as Heart of Midlothian, Motherwell, Kilmarnock, Annan, East Fife, Livingston and Falkirk to further involve supporters in the ownership and governance of clubs.

Recent research from the National Football Supporters Survey, revealed a strong belief among supporters that the fan and community ownership model can work in Scotland with 93.18% of a survey backing fans being represented at a board level at clubs.

Supporter ownership is definitely on the rise within Scottish football, whether it can fully take off in the Premiership is something that may take a bit longer but lower league clubs should definitely make use of the idea and pursue community ownership.

The regular starter who should be replaced in the summer

By Cameron Christie (@CammyChristie97)

Aberdeen – Ash Taylor

Taylor can play as a very competent, aerial dominant centre half, there is always a mistake in the big man. Signed initially as a back-up centre half in 2014, he was thrown in the first team earlier than many expected due to an injury to fan favourite Russell Anderson. He took a few months to adjust to life in Scotland, games at home to Dundee United and away to Hamilton Accies stand out. After them, he began to show signs of improvement and consistency. Despite this and his fairly decent recent form, Taylor always has a mistake in his game. The game against Celtic is the most recent example where he was miles off Dedryk Boyata as he scored what turned out to be the winner. Whilst Ash Taylor isn’t a bad player, Aberdeen could certainly do better.

Celtic – Mikael Lustig

Whilst Lustig is a solid, dependable full-back, he is not good enough for Celtic to take themselves to the next level. Lustig was one of Celtic’s weakest players in the Champions League group stages this season. Lustig has also provided cover at centre half this season due to fitness concerns for Kolo Toure and Jozo Simunovic, Brendan Rodgers not trusting Boyata at that stage of the season, and Efe Ambrose’s sheer incompetency, the Swede is fairly versatile. While I’m not saying Celtic should be getting rid of Lustig, far from it, he is now 30 and is susceptible to an injury, Celtic should look at bringing in a younger and better right back for next season.

Dundee – Kevin Holt

Holt has never really been good enough for Dundee. Brought in at the start of 2015/16 season following a good campaign with Queen of the South who made the play-offs that year, he has really struggled to make the step up. Whilst he has notched the odd goal, he has made a number of mistakes, the cup game at Ibrox was littered with from about 8 seconds in. A lack of competition doesn’t help either. He had none at all last year and this year, his only competition is Danny Williams who is not a natural left back. Dundee need a number of improvements in the summer, with the exception of signing some wingers, a left back should be their priority.

Hamilton Accies – Alex D’Acol

Again, whilst not been a disastrous player for Hamilton, the Brazilian really isn’t good enough for this level. Signed from AEK Athens at the beginning of last season, he failed to score the whole of the campaign. This season he does have 7 goals in 26 games which isn’t bad but in a struggling side, they need to find someone who can put the ball in the back of the net on a more regular basis. Since D’Acol’s injury a few weeks ago, the partnership of Brophy and Bingham has looked promising but since Mikael Antoine Currier left the club, Accies have struggled for a reliable front man.

Hearts – Jack Hamilton

This is one I kind of feel bad about for putting on this list as Hamilton is still a young promising goalkeeper, but not without his flaws. Brought into the starting XI late last season as a replacement for Neil Alexander, Hamilton is in a similar mould to his mentor. He’s not the biggest keeper, meaning he isn’t so great in the air as has been shown in the last few weeks against Rangers and Motherwell. A loan spell elsewhere with Hearts bringing in an experienced goalkeeper on a short term basis could do both parties good.

Inverness CT – Owain Fon Williams

Fon Williams is the worst goalkeeper in the league, he’s so inconsistent, and for a goalkeeper that is certainly not what you want. One week he pulls of sublime save after sublime save, then he goes and fumbles one into his net the next. The most ridiculous thing is after an error prone year last season, Caley offered him a 3 year deal. Madness! He’s made countless errors for the Caley Jags and it’s a position they really should look to improve in the summer.

Kilmarnock – Freddy Woodman

One of 45 players signed during Lee Clark’s 44 games in charge of Kilmarnock, the on loan Newcastle keepers recent inclusion in the starting XI seems bizarre to everyone. Clark has left the club for Bury so it remains to be seen if Lee McCulloch will stick by the Welshman or if he will bring Jamie MacDonald back into the side. This is the one inclusion on this list that can be rectified with replacing the player with someone already at the club.

Motherwell – Craig Samson

Onto the second worst goalkeeper in the division now. Samson has somehow carved out a decent career for himself despite not being very good. The former Kilmarnock and St Mirren keeper played second fiddle to on-loan Middlesbrough youngster Connor Ripley last season and for whatever reason, Samson managed to get himself promoted to the number 1 slot at Fir Park. Well did sign Dean Brill, ex Caley Thistle keeper, but McGhee elected to go with Samson this season. I’m not claiming the Brill is an amazing keeper but he’s certainly better than Samson and that’s why he takes his place on this list.

Partick Thistle – Ade Azeez

Azeez is another one in the long line of poor strikers at Partick Thistle. He’s this year’s replacement of Mathias Pogba. He’s a big physical striker with very limited ability and doesn’t score goals. I think we are now at the point where Kris Doolan is no longer the alternative. Whilst Doolan is a sold 10/11/12 goals a season forward, Thistle need more if they are to improve and finally break into the top 6.

Rangers – Andy Halliday

Ah, the man who has supported Rangers since he was a boy. This made him a fan favourite last season, he cemented that with a fantastic performance up against Scott Brown in last season’s Scottish Cup semi-final. This season, along with Rangers other stars from last year (Waghorn and Tavernier) have struggled on their step up to the top flight. Halliday has been a mainstay in the team without justification. He makes very little positive impact for Rangers, with only one goal from open play and no assists. He’s also been recently bullied around by opposition midfield which isn’t what you want from your main man in midfield. There are many areas Rangers need to address in the summer but sticking by Andy Halliday because of feelings towards the club would be the wrong move

Ross County – Jay McEvely

Mostly everyone thought that this was a good bit of buisness from the staggies but how wrong could they be? McEvely has been a disaster for County this season making many costly mistakes. Thanks to Aberdeen’s 7-2 thrashing of Motherwell and Inverness generally being terrible, Ross County no longer have the worst defence in the league at the time of writing but that is no achievement for the former Scotland international. Supposed to be able to play both centre half and left back. Looks way out his depth in the middle unless it’s a part of a back three and is far too slow to play against quick and tricky wingers. If Ross County want a versatile defender at the club, McEvely is not that guy.

St Johnstone – Liam Craig

This was by far the hardest one to come up with. Like Lustig, I don’t think St J should bin Craig but he should be reduced to a squad player instead of a regular starter. Craig is a dependable and versatile midfielder, playing out wide or through the middle. Lacks pace to play out-wide and isn’t creative enough for St Johnstone through the middle. Barring a dreadful year at Hibs, he has been a fairly solid player in the top flight but now in his 30’s, if St Johnstone want to remain a guaranteed top 6 side, they have to bring someone else.

Scottish Premiership’s 5 most under-valued defenders

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

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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

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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

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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

13177115-jpg-galleryPossibly 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.

 

Scottish Football – Cult Heroes

By Rory West

As part of a new series of blog posts; I will be collecting cult heroes from across Scottish Football and explaining why supporters love these players so much.

A cult hero is seen as someone who is only appreciated by a small group of supporters – mainly their club’s supporters – for moments of brilliance. The cult hero status however does mean that there is a downside to the player, otherwise they would probably be seen as a club legend. Regular cases are the player leaving the club much earlier that fans would have hoped, injuries keeping him out of regular action and preventing him showing his full potential.

Alexei Eremenko

To open the feature is a player who defines cult hero. Only featuring in two full seasons with Kilmarnock, Eremenko immediately took to the hearts of the Killie faithful with the flair and trickery in his game.

Initially joining Killie on loan in the 2010/11 season from Ukrainian club FC Metalist Kharkiv, Eremenko was an instant hit after scoring on his debut in a 2-1 win over St Mirren. He would only go on to score a further three goals that season, in 31 games, however he was influential in gaining Killie a fifth place finish, a position that they haven’t been near to finishing to since. His form was rewarded with a nomination in the end of season, player of the year awards, he would lose out to Emilio Izaguirre.

Eremenko’s loan deal expired at the end of the season and he moved on to Russian side Rubin Kazan. He would return to Kilmarnock in the 2013/14 season on a short term deal after finding himself without a club. His performances towards the end of that season earned him a new deal with the Ayrshire club. However he would again find himself leaving Rugby Park in 2015 after failing to come to an agreement on a new contract.

What Killie fans will remember fondly about Eremenko was his ability from a dead ball. It became one of their prized assests with Eremenko’s specialty at free kicks winning Killie valuable points during his stay.

Franck Sauzee

Known by the name of “Le God” around Easter Road, Sauzee arrived at Hibs in 1999 with the Leith side in the; then First Division. Instantly named club captain; the Frenchman guided Hibs back into the Premier League. He would then go onto to take Hibs to third place in the league, in their first season back and into the 2001 Scottish Cup final.

A Champions League winner with Marseille in 1993 , Sauzee joined from Montpellier after several successful spells in his home nation of France. Cited as famous Hibs fan, Irvine Welsh’s favourite ever player.

Sauzee will be most fondly remembered by Hibs supporters for his performances in Edinburgh derbies. The two most notable instances are the ‘Millenium Derby’ in 2000 where Hibs won 3-0 at Tynecastle with Suazee scoring and running the full length of the pitch to celebrate with the Hibs supporters at the other side of the ground. Another notable display in an Edinburgh derby was when he was knocked unconscious and lost a tooth; all in the act of scoring a header in a 3-1 win over Hearts. He was also involved in the 6-2 massacre of Hearts.

After retiring in 2002; Sauzee became Hibs manager for a short spell but was a massive flop; winning one of his 15 games. He was sacked after 69 days; however that is not what he is remembered for around Easter Road.

Mark de Vries

Joining Hearts in 2002; at the time de Vries was a sought after man, with his performaces at  Dordrecht ’90 gaining him some attention. Craig Levein managed to secure the Surinamese striker and he was an immediate hit with the Hearts faithful.

Scoring just under 30 goals in 72 games during his time at Tyecastle, de Vries played a key role in securing Hearts a third place finish and UEFA Cup footall in 2003.  He is well remembered by Hearts fans for scoring 4 goals on his first start against fierce city rivals Hibernian in a 5–1 victory in August 2002.

In 2003, after qualifying for the UEFA Cup the season prior de Vries scored the winning goal which gave Hearts a shock victory over Bordeaux, producing one of the club’s best ever away results in European competition.

De Vries would join manager Levein at Leicester in 2005. He would then return to Scottish football with Dundee United in 2008 however his spell there wasn’t quite as glamorous as his stay in Gorgie.

Claudio Caniggia

The Argentine played; in three World Cups, for Roma, Boca Juniors and Benfica. Then in 2000 he found himself plying his trade at Dens Park. A major coup was pulled off as Dundee added to their Argentine contingent in an attempt to become the third force in Scottish football.

Scoring on his debut in a 2-0 win at Pittodrie against Aberdeen, Caniggia couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. He also scored in a 2-0 win over Rangers in 2001, the last time the Taysiders beat Rangers.

Dundee would finish a disappointing sixth that season and also perform poorly in the cups. This prompted Caniggia to jump ship to Ibrox at the end of the season, joining Rangers.

Hicham Zerouali

Nicknamed ‘Zero’ by the Dons fans; the Moroccan was an instant hit and fans favourite at Pittodrie. Signed by Ebbe Skovdahl in 1999 he became famous for becoming the first player in Scottish football to wear the shirt number zero.

However what he became more famous for within the Aberdeen support was his sheer ability. Scoring 11 goals in 37 appearances for the Dons, he will be most remembered for a thirty yard free kick he scored in a Scottish Cup tie away to St Mirren, earning his side a replay.

He also famously scored a hat-trick against Dundee at Dens where after he scored his third he celebrated by jumping into a puddle on the side of the pitch, an iconic celebration for Aberdeen fans.

After his Aberdeen contract expired in 2002, Zerouali went on to play in the United Arab Emirates for two years until his untimely death in 2004.

Choose life, choose Scottish Football- Why our game really isn’t all that bad

By Rory West

Scottish Football, in the past 10 years, has continuously been on the wrong end of jokes, mocking our game. From an infamous video of some, admittedly poor football, head tennis in a Aberdeen vs Celtic game last season, the Rangers debacle with Joey Barton this year, European nightmares, to the national team’s atrocious performances; online jokers have had plenty ammunition to take a dig at the Scottish game.

English exposure

In comparison to our English neighbours; our game is inferior, there’s no point hiding that fact. Teams in England’s third (possibly fourth) division are working with similar budgets to the majority of Scottish Premiership sides, despite some being no where near in stature.

Are sides such as MK Dons, Fleetwood or Scunthorpe – all performing well in England’s third division – bigger clubs than Aberdeen, Hearts or Hibs? No is the answer. The can’t match those three Scottish clubs when it comes to history or fan base, yet manage to offer players similar wages and transfer fees due to mass amounts of money thrown at the English game.

Move yourself up the English leagues, and you find clubs such as Bournemouth, Burnley and Swansea City spending three times the amount on transfer fees as Celtic do. Despite Celtic competing in some form of European competition every season in comparison to those three English sides; either battling relegation or yoyoing between Premier League and Championship, they can still offer players much more money.

While it all makes sense through mega TV deals, Celtic more than stood their own against one of English football’s super powers, Manchester City, in this season’s Champions League group stages, drawing home and away.While Celtic never qualified for either the Champions League or Europa League knockout stages, their European performances this season were credible against very tough opponents.

If in the same position as some of these lesser English clubs, you would like to think; if given the same sort of money, with their huge fan base, Celtic would be within the top seven in the English Premier League.

BT Sport

Ever since the introduction of BT Sport to the televised football market, they have put in more effort with Scottish football, than Sky ever have. They haven’t been able to solely stake a club and taking the majority of games, however what they have done that is clever; is picking intriguing games that may be a gamble but a gamble that there is no chance in hell Sky would take.

BT Sport also, at the end of last season, purchased the TV rights to the , then, League Cup; re-branding it as the Betfred Cup. This proved to be a brilliant business decision with the introduction of the group stage format proving exciting and allowing fans to watch games, from stadiums, they normally wouldn’t. The tournament overall, was exciting; producing entertaining football and memorable moments.

A factor that has pushed BT’s coverage of Scottish football on; is their choice of pundits. Unlike Sky’s un-interested, tired figures; BT have introduced refreshing, engaging and interesting figures; such as Chris Sutton, Michael Stewart and Stephen Craigan. Some of the highlights so far this season have been the debates between the three. Who will forget the infamous barmy between Sutton and Craigan over, then new, Hearts boss Ian Cathro.

Cup Competitions

Something that will probably shock English clubs but up here Scottish clubs genuinely do take the cup competitions seriously. Unlike our English counter parts, even when it comes to the early rounds of competitions; all the big clubs put out strong teams, no matter who the opposition are.

It comes as no shock how there were barely any cup shocks in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup – where the Premiership clubs enter. When the term “Magic of the cup” is branded around in Scotland, instead of a lower league side managing to draw Celtic or Rangers in a one off game, where they will no doubt get hammered, it means one of the clubs outside – let’s be honest Celtic now – winning the tournament. Forget any cup shock, if there should be an example of the “Magic of the cup” it should be the scenes in the Hibs end last season after they won their first Scottish Cup in 113 years.

The Supporters

Football would be nothing without the supporters and that old cliche is more important to Scotland than anywhere else. Scottish football has always struggled, with large amounts of people throughout the country choosing to support one of the Old Firm, rather than their local team.

It is always a frustrating sight, when you’re watching Sportscene on a Sunday night and some of the games are being played in front of completely empty stands. However crowds are beginning to find their way back to stadiums and that is vital for clubs.

Scottish supporters are some of the most passionate supporters in the Europe, travelling miles to go and watch their team.

Choose Scottish Football

All in all, our game up here isn’t all that bad. Admittedly we have been culpable for the odd moment but sometimes that can bring our game back down to Earth, taking football back to its roots; before clubs were franchises and world wide businesses.

The standard of our game can be quite poor at some times but it is not as though every league in the world produces, end to end, enthralling games every week. And from time to time we can produce games were people would sit up and take notice of what the standard actually can be like. Not the perceived long balls and head tennis stigma that has been thrust upon Scottish Football.

So next time you’re flicking through the channels and spot a Scottish game on, take a gamble and choose Scottish Football.