St Johnstone brought the curtain down on the Scottish club season with their Premiership Play-off win over Inverness Caley Thistle last Monday night.
So what better time to pick a Team of the Year?
Not everyone will have cause to look back fondly on the 2021-22 campaign. All will surely agree, however, that it has been anything but dull.
Celtic’s reinvention under Ange Postecoglou, Rangers’ bold run in the cups at home and abroad, and part-time Arbroath’s heroic attempt to break into the top flight have been just some of the highlights.
And even better to come, we hope, when Scotland line up against Ukraine at Hampden on Wednesday night with another step towards a place at the World Cup Finals in Qatar at stake.
Win, and follow up by beating Wales in the Play-off Final in Cardiff four days later, and the old criticism we are always the bridesmaid, never the bride, can no longer be tabled against the national side.
The SPFL players have already had a go at choosing their best XI, with the Old Firm clubs, unsurprisingly, heavily represented.
In a bid to avoid duplicating their picks, and spread things around a little, I toughened the selection criteria up a bit.
And with some of Steve Clarke’s squad mixing wedding arrangements with preparations for the forthcoming raft of internationals, it seemed appropriate to pick a side that included someone old, someone new, someone borrowed and someone blue for good luck.
No more than a brace per club was allowed, and Callum McGregor was disqualified, unreasonably, purely on the basis that my backing for his claims to be named Player of the Year hogged this space a few weeks back.
So here it is, in a 3-5-1-1 formation.
CRAIG GORDON (Hearts) – Something old. But it says it all about the longevity of the keeper that his three Scottish Football Writers’ Association POTY awards span a spell of 16 years. The latest follows an outstanding season for club and country.
CALVIN RAMSAY (Aberdeen) – Something new. Just 18, the Dons right-back’s impressive displays, which included six assists and a goal for a struggling side, have attracted interest from England and beyond.
CAMERON CARTER-VICKERS (Celtic) – Something borrowed – for the moment, at least. Arguably the most-important piece of Postecoglou’s recruitment after his arrival last summer on loan from Tottenham. The man the Hoops defence was built around.
CALVIN BASSEY (Rangers) – They say it is not how you start that matters, but how you finish. The 22-year-old – at times uncomfortable early in the season – could scarcely have ended the campaign more strongly with stellar displays in the Europa League and Scottish Cup Finals earning him comparisons with Kieran Tierney and Virgil van Dijk.
SCOTT PITTMAN (Livingston) – A landmark season for the local lad, who became a new Lions’ record holder when hitting the winner against Hibs last month in his 124th Premiership appearance for the club.
GLEN KAMARA (Rangers) – Unfairly booed by Czech fans, then sent off, in the Europa League group game away to Sparta Prague last September, the Finn got the last laugh as the Ibrox men kept marching on all the way to the competition’s Final eight months later.
BARRIE McKAY (Hearts) – Like Pittman, a Scot in the prime of his career and playing better football now than ever, McKay has great vision, and the thought of him linking up at Celtic with Kyogo, in particular, is an enticing one.
DYLAN LEVITT (Dundee United) – On loan from Manchester United, no less, the 21-year-old was a joy to watch, and Tangerines’ fans will hope their club succeed in their aim to bring him north for longer.
CONOR RONAN (St Mirren) – Eight goals – including a couple of the season’s best against Hearts at Tynecastle and Rangers at Ibrox – five assists and a near ever-present appearance record testify to the success the Irishman enjoyed on his loan spell from Wolves. Was always an attacking threat, even when his side were struggling.
REGAN CHARLES-COOK (Ross County) – The only player from outside the top-three clubs to make the players’ eleven, the Ross County forward is worth his place in anyone’s Team of the Season. Scored 13 goals and caused problems for even the country’s best defences. Another great entertainer.
KYOGO FURUHAHSI (Celtic) – At times startlingly good over his debut season in Scotland despite injury problems, the Japanese pips Alfredo Morelos – whose goalscoring ability was sorely missed by Rangers in the run-in – to the striker’s jersey.
As for something blue?
We will keep that for the manager.
Arbroath’s Dick Campbell would be welcome to turn the air that colour – or any other he liked – as long as he agreed to supply a steady stream of his trademark motivational instructions, and priceless post-match comments.
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