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Aberdeen legend Willie Miller reckons young guns can fire themselves all the way into the Scotland team in no time

© Rob Casey / SNS GroupNathan Patterson in action for Rangers
Nathan Patterson in action for Rangers

Willie Miller reckons of all four of the Scottish Football Writers’ Association Young Scottish Player of the Year nominees look future winners of the senior Player of the Year award.

Hibernian’s Josh Doig won the category (see Pages 8 & 9), seeing off competition from Nathan Patterson of Rangers, Aberdeen midfielder Lewis Ferguson and Celtic’s David Turnbull.

“I think it could be an exceptional crop this season,” said Miller, who was SFWA Player of the Year in 1984, at the end of a season in which the Dons won the Double.

“Lewis and David are two we already knew all about, having been the winners of the award in the last two years.

“Then you add in Josh Doig, who has had an outstanding breakthrough season, catching everybody’s eye and marking himself out as a real talent.

“And if Nathan Patterson hasn’t quite managed to establish himself to the same level at Rangers, there is clearly huge potential there, too.

“So, collectively, they are an exciting quartet.

“In each case, you could see them being involved with the national team, and I could see all four going on to win the main award in years to come.”

© Craig Williamson / SNS Group
Josh Doig scored his first goal for Hibs in a 2-0 win over Hamilton Accies at Easter Road back in February – and didn’t he enjoy it!

As his comments suggest, Miller has been highly-impressed with the winner.

“Doig is one I have seen play live on quite a few occasions this season, and it has been great to watch a young boy come through the way he has,” he said.

“It is all very well to speak about young players being given opportunities. But they have to take them, and he has really grabbed his.

“I think a fair comparison would be with David Robertson, who first got into the team at Aberdeen in my playing days.

“David had all the pace, energy and fearlessness you want from young players, and he fairly burst on to the scene.

“He would fly down the wing, and give opposition teams all sorts of problems, which was great from an offensive point of view.

“In fact, he was so keen to get forward, the issue was more of having to rein him in a bit at times so the team didn’t get compromised defensively – which I certainly did myself from time to time.

“That was at Aberdeen, and he went on to have a big career, playing for Scotland and at club level getting moves to Rangers and Leeds United.

“I could see Doig following a similar career path – whether he stays put for a while or not – because there will be plenty of managers keen to sign him for what he can bring to a team.

“Patterson is another very modern full-back, of the type that can add so much to sides from the way they go forward.

“With these young boys, their development has to be carefully handled because we have seen some decent ones go backwards. But he is absolutely one to watch out for.”

© Alan Harvey / SNS Group
Celtic’s David Turnbull

Turnbull’s case is a little different as his nomination came off the back of a move, a delayed £3-million switch from Motherwell to Celtic.

“David is obviously a very talented boy. We know that because he has already won this award,” Miller continued.

“However, I think he has also displayed real mental strength over the past season, so it is good to see him in the mix, too.

“If you talk about a player joining Celtic during the last decade, you are looking at slotting them into a winning side, one that is picking up trophies while performing with lots of confidence.

“In the case of David, though, he has gone in at a time of turmoil when things are going wrong and anyone involved is coming under enormous scrutiny.

“To go into a new club under those circumstances – and to keep your head up and prove not only that you belong at the level, but that you can shine there – says a lot about him.”

© Craig Foy / SNS Group
Aberdeen’s Lewis Ferguson

It is a similar story, Miller believes, with Lewis Ferguson at Pittodrie.

“Lewis again, has done well in a troubled season at Aberdeen.

“One of the biggest compliments I can pay him is that I already think of him as a senior pro because of the way he goes about his job,” said the Pittodrie legend.

“With having Derek as his father, and Barry for an uncle, that maturity is maybe not a surprise – but he is still just 21-years-old.

“He is very good now, and I think he will become even better when he has Scott Brown giving him a bit of direction here and there next season.”