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Teams of the Year – Scottish Premier League

January 9, 2011

Scottish football is currently in a state of apparent flux. Recent failures in Europe and a distinct lowering the quality of football over recent years has meant crisis talks between the big dogs of the Scottish game seem to be happening on a weekly basis.

In amongst all the notions of chaos, there is still brilliance to be admired. In the third instalment of our Teams of the Year series, The First Eleven welcomes Rob Marrs and his Scottish Premier League Team of the Year.

Goalkeeper: #1 Allan McGregor

There are few players in the SPL who would walk into most English Premier League teams but Allan McGregor is one of them. Bar City, Liverpool and Chelsea, I think he’d be pretty close to starting everywhere else. He has played well for a Championship winning Rangers side and performed admirably against Manchester United and Valencia.

One of the easiest ways to evaluate a player is to consider the teams that are chasing him. McGregor has been consistently linked with Manchester United – that’s pretty high praise. Arguably the best British keeper playing the game (the argument is between him and Joe Hart) but even if there would be disagreements from the Gordon, Foster and (stop giggling at the back) Green households, no one in the Scottish Premier League is in Allan McGregor’s class right now.

Right-back: #2 Steven Whittaker

When Alan Hutton left Rangers for Spurs a few years ago, I didn’t think that his long-term replacement would be as comfortable bombing forward. Last season (2009/10), Steven Whittaker scored 11 goals from defence. He hasn’t brought this free-flowing scoring to this season’s Rangers but he’s remained a solid part of the Rangers team this season.

Left-back: #3 Emilio Izaguirre

On the other side of the defence, I’m picking one of the best players to play in the SPL in recent years. Whenever I’ve seen Emilio Izaguirre play for Celtic I’ve been impressed with him (the only other defenders of his quality in recent years in the SPL have been Cuellar and Bougherra).

Izaguirre is a strong powerful left-back and has, by and large, had most of the right-midfielders he’s come up against in his pocket this season. Pleasingly, he, like Whittaker, likes to bomb forward and has often been left with the responsibility to play as a ”flanker” which allows Celtic’s left-sided midfielder (whoever that may be) to patrol all over the pitch. This is difficult to defend against – and a shoe-in for my team.

Centre-half: #4 Madjid Bougherra

The outstanding centre-back of the last year in Scotland is another Old Firm player – Madjid Bougherra. As laughable as his potential move to Barcelona may sound, he has been a very fine performer for Rangers and was a credit to the club when he excelled at the World Cup with Algeria. He’s a cut above everything else in the SPL right now.

Centre-half: #5 Mark Reynolds

Despite my recent Davie Weir love in, and despite my admiration for him, I’m keen that this team isn’t just a Composite Old Firm XI. There are quite a few contenders from outside the big two – Gary Kenneth was consistent for Dundee United (even if he was awful for Scotland against Sweden) and his partnership with Andy Webster was a joy to watch for geeks of football. However, Bougherra’s partner is young Mark Reynolds of Motherwell. I’ve been very impressed with him every time I’ve seen him play (bar an own goal against Hearts).

Central midfielder: #6 Steven Davis

Like Bougherra, Izaguirre and McGregor, Steven Davis is the finest midfielder currently playing the game in Scotland. I’m a big fan of his understated cleverness and he is the heart-beat of the team.

Central midfielder: #7 Alexei Eremenko

As it is a team of the year (and as I pick another loan player later on in the team), I’m going to indulge myself with two playmakers. Alexei Eremenko of Kilmarnock has been an extremely enjoyable player to watch since his loan move from Metalist Kharkiv. He’s been the key force in Killie’s rise to fourth in the league. He and Davis would be a joy to watch.

Right midfielder: #8 Craig Conway

I’m torn between two players here: Craig Conway of Dundee United and Rudi Skacel of Hearts. Conway has been quietly good for Dundee United whilst Skacel, in his few months in the league, has only been explosive. Skacel has scored 7 goals in 13 games for Hearts (including a Hat-trick against St. Mirren, a 30-yard pearler against Hamilton and two against Aberdeen). That’s pretty difficult to overlook. However, after yesterday’s romantic post about the FA Cup I’m leaning towards the two goals in the SFA Cup Final from Craig Conway.

Left midfielder: #9 David Templeton

It is difficult not to warm to Paddy McCourt, The Derry Pele, even if you aren’t a Celtic fan. However, the one left-sided midfielder who has been the pick of the bunch: David Templeton. He’s been integral to a Hearts team which, on form, is arguably the best in the league right now. He’s quick, has great acceleration and likes to beat a man with both pace and tricks. He’s scored goals and created them this season and, at points, the football he, Skacel and (gulp) Kevin Kyle have played has been very good to watch.

He’s got a big future ahead of him and is one of the few players in Scotland that anyone would pay to watch right now. David Templeton is straight into the team and, sadly, probably won’t be for much longer (a move to England must beckon soon?)

Striker: #10 Robbie Keane

Connor Sammon, David Goodwillie and Kevin Kyle all deserve a mention as they’ve all played well in 2010. However, there are only really three choices here. Kenny Miller, Robbie Keane and Gary Hooper. I’m leaning toward the first two of that trio. Hooper is an old-fashioned goalscorer who has scored everywhere he has been. He’s shown decent off-the-ball movement and, a bit like Keane, has been an example that smaller strikers can score goals from timing and clever movement. 11 goals in 13 games, including a fine hat-trick (against the admittedly abject Aberdeen) are a fine return.  The snub of Hooper is largely because two strikers really did shine in the SPL last year – and, as is so often the case, they came from opposite ends of Glasgow.

Keane was only in Scotland for 19 games but, depressingly, showed the gulf in class between bench-warmer in the Premiership to hot-shot in the SPL. In those 19 games, he fired 16 goals. However, his movement, his off-the-ball ability, his assists and his all-round intelligence shone out in a league too often devoid of real class. Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, he provided us with some glamour.  Robbie Keane is an obvious choice.

Stiker: #11 Kenny Miller

I caused consternation recently when I picked Kenny Miller for my British and Irish Lions team (NB: The point was to pick a UK and Ireland XI and not to pick England plus Gareth Bale). The suggestion that he is moving to Fiorentina is the sort of story that suggests that CERN’s search for the God Particle has been successful and we are all living in a parallel universe.

In the past, his work-rate was his best feature (always somewhat of a back-handed compliment). That said, 22 goals already this season and 18 last are decent tallies and enough to nudge him slightly ahead of Hooper. Kenny Miller completes the team.

2010 Scottish Premier League Team of the Year

If you agree or disagree with Rob’s selections, please let us know below. Who do you think shouldn’t be included? And who would make your SPL Team of the Year in their place?

You can follow Rob on Twitter @MarrsioFootball and read more of his work on his blog Left Back In The Changing Room

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2011 9:22 pm

    Can’t argue with any of them Rob, spot on!

    Really good team, I suppose the only thing would be to put a more defensive central mid in the team, but with a team of the year who wants that.

  2. January 11, 2011 1:20 am

    I miss the old Keane :(

  3. January 11, 2011 8:56 am

    Yes, Andrew, agreed. I’d have selected a more defensive midfielder if the team was actually going to play – but as it was fantasy I thought I’d indulge myself (also thought Eremenko has been outstanding for Killie and deserved in).

    Cheers!

    RCM

  4. January 11, 2011 9:22 pm

    I really liked this team and I really enjoyed that it wasn’t completely dominated by Celtic and Rangers even if they do possess by far and away the best squads in the league.

    I’m a bit surprised not to see a mention of Anthony Stokes in any way. I think he’s had an excellent for 2010 and at least expected a mention. His form for Hibs has to rank up there with the best in the SPL and even though he hasn’t been stunning for Celtic so far, he has done a job up front.

  5. January 12, 2011 9:11 am

    Yes, I was probably a bit harsh on Stokes – I think he’s been outshone by other strikers. Kyle is a farm-foods version of Ibrahimovic but is great at bringing Skacel and the outstanding Templeton into play.

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