Originally published at Just Football
With the SPL season over, it’s time to have a look back at the players who have made their mark during the campaign. When selecting a team of the year it’s hard to avoid Celtic and Rangers, but thankfully there are those from outside the big two who have done enough to earn their place.
GK: Darren Randolph (Motherwell)
When John Ruddy left Fir Park at the end of 2009/10, Motherwell were always going to have a job trying to find a suitable replacement. Fortunately, they’ve done just that with Randolph, who has not only set a new club record for clean-sheets in one season (overtaking Ruddy in the process) but has also forced his way into the Republic of Ireland squad.
RB: Steven Whittaker (Rangers)
Whittaker is finally producing the form which made him such a prospect at Hibs. Sound defensively and not bad going forward either, with 7 goals in all competitions.
CB: Sean Dillon (Dundee United)
Not a household name, but Dillon’s ability to read the game has led to a consistently high level of performance and United’s fans voting the Irishman as their player of the year, ahead of David Goodwillie (more about him later). Previously a recognised right-back, Dillon has played across United’s back-four this season with his best displays coming at centre-back.
CB: Marius Zaliukas (Hearts)
Powerful and commanding, but given the off-field nonsense Zaliukas has had to deal with this season, his contribution to his side is even more impressive. Stalling on a new contract earlier in the season, Hearts’ supremo Vladimir Romanov decided that Zaliukas should be left out of the side. Although he returned before Christmas, Zaliukas missed the recent loss to Rangers at the behest of the Edinburgh side’s dictatorial owner, apparently departing the team bus just before it left for Glasgow.
LB: Emilio Izaguirre (Celtic)
Winner of both Player of the Year awards and proving to be an absolute bargain buy, Celtic watched Izaguirre play for Honduras at the World Cup. A marauding full-back who links up superbly with team-mates, he also defends well and is very composed when playing himself out of trouble. His final ball still needs a bit of work, but he has enormous potential.
RM: Steven Naismith (Rangers)
Naismith seems to have finally overcome the injury problems which hampered his early Ibrox career, and is a vital link between midfield and attack. He has also chipped in with 11 league goals.
CM: Beram Kayal (Celtic)
Good passer of the ball, strong in the tackle, dictates the tempo of the game…and still only 23. The Israeli international has already been linked with Manchester United and when he adds goals to his repertoire, he’ll be the complete midfielder.
AM: Alexei Eremenko (Kilmarnock)
The Finn is one of the main reasons behind Kilmarnock’s impressive campaign – very much a flair player, with great touch and vision. Currently on loan at Rugby Park from Ukranian side Metalist Kharkiv, Eremenko has been linked with both Celtic and Rangers.
LM: David Templeton (Hearts)
The 22 year old is a throwback to the days when Scotland produced an abundance of small and tricky attacking players. Templeton was outstanding in the opening months of the season, as demonstrated by his stunning solo effort against Hibernian.
STR: David Goodwillie (Dundee United)
Double Young Player of the Year after turning the potential he has shown in previous seasons into goals. Linked with Rangers in January and will leave Tannadice in the summer.
STR: Gary Hooper (Celtic)
Hooper has had an outstanding first season in the SPL following his move from Scunthorpe United. A superb first touch, the ability to dribble in tight spaces and 20 league goals suggest that when Hooper does eventually return south, it will be for a healthy profit on his £2.4 million transfer fee.
A mention also for some other players who either just missed out, or only played in the SPL for part of the season: Marian Kello, Mark Wilson, Kyle Bartley, Chris Humphrey, Craig Bryson, Craig Conway, Connor Sammon, Kenny Miller, Nikica Jelavic and Adam Rooney.