Football

Mc25 – The Best Players in Scotland Over 2018

Mc25 – The Best Players in Scotland Over 2018

What a 2018 it was for Scottish football!

We had the sealing of another domestic treble for Celtic and their Betfred Cup win in December means they go into 2019 looking for the same again.

There was a resurgent Rangers in the second half of the season, with Steven Gerrard showing he’s got what it takes in the dugout.

Kilmarnock were the unexpected success story of the year as Steve Clarke built on a strong end to 2017 by amassing more points than any other side in the Scottish Premiership – that’s why there are so many Killie players deserving of a spot on this list.

Aberdeen kept their spot as the second best team in the country, while Hibs and Hearts had their moments at the top.

It may have been more difficult for the rest at times – and that’s why so few make the list from the current bottom six in the Scottish Premiership – but every team should look back fondly at what they did well in 2018.

When picking this list comes around every year, we try to be as fair as possible to the players who have had an impact on Scottish football throughout the whole 12 months.

So for anyone reading and wondering where some stars like Allan McGregor, Filip Benkovic and Greg Stewart are, we couldn’t include them as they’ve either only been in the country since the summer or, in Stewart’s case, been on form since the start of the current season.

We’ll be counting down from 25 to 1 from 9am on January 17th, revealing 25-21 then, 20-16 at 9.30am, 15-11 at 10am, 10-6 at 10.30am and 5-1 at 11am. If you don’t want to read the rundown then you can get complimentary podcasts explaining who has ranked where and why. You can tune in to those here or via your podcast app:

25 – Mikael Lustig – Celtic (Down 13)

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The Swedish right-back might not be every Celtic’s favourite player at the moment, and his 2018 was actually pretty poor given he finished 12th in this list last year.

However, Lustig still played his part in the Hoops’ incredible continued assault on domestic football, and played no small part in helping Brendan Rodgers make history with the Double Treble in May.

His time at Parkhead might be winding down, but he’s done just enough to be retain his spot on this year’s list.

 

24 – Michael Smith – Hearts (New Entry)

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Has there been a more reliable Hearts player over the last year?

Steven Naismith, Christophe Berra and John Souttar have been the ones getting most of the plaudits alongside Craig Levein, but the Northern Irishman deserves his for the way he’s quietly went about marshalling the right side of their defence.

He’s more often seen as a right back, but has actually stepped into a back three for the Jambos and looked just as good.

Recent fears of him departing Tynecastle came from his absence at warm weather training during the winter break.

But he’s already confirmed he’s going nowhere – and that’s a huge boost for everyone at Hearts going into 2019. A worthy pick at #24.

 

23 – Jordan Jones – Kilmarnock (New Entry)

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When Steven Gerrard has signed you up to his Rangers revolution, you know you’re doing something right. And Jordan Jones did plenty of things right for Kilmarnock in 2018. The speedy Northern Irishman was regularly able to supply the flash to compliment the impressive grit of Steve Clarke’s Killie team. In fact, it’s not to bold to predict that without Jones as a viable out-ball, Kilmarnock would have struggled to amass more points than any other Scottish Premiership team in 2018.

In the last 12 months, Jones has came up trumps against both James Tavernier and Mikael Lustig (both of whom feature in this year’s Mc25) showing he can produce the goods on the big stage. Ex-Killie boss Lee McCulloch is even quoted as saying, “There isn’t a right back who could handle Jordan when he’s on his game.”

Jones’ direct style of play will clearly bolster Gerrard’s options out wide, whether that’s at the end of the season on his already agreed pre-contract or later in the January window.

 

22 – Lewis Stevenson – Hibs (New Entry)

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Another reliable full-back making the list, there’s arguably no one more significant to Hibs than Lewis Stevenson.

He’s made the left back position his own for the majority of his time at Easter Road and shows no sign of that changing with one quality display after another.

In 2018, his strong Hibs form earned him a Scotland call-up, albeit injuries to Kieran Tierney and Andy Robertson helped with that.

But it’s reward for more consistent form – and his place on this list is further evidence of just how good Stevenson has been for Neil Lennon and Hibs in a year that has been hit and miss for the Leith side.

21 – Joe Lewis – Aberdeen (New Entry)

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He might not be the most obvious name that springs to mind when putting together a list of the country’s most outstanding footballers, but just think where Aberdeen would be without their ultra-reliable shot-stopper.

Another consistent and impressive year saw Lewis help the Dons reach yet another cup final under Derek McInnes, as well as secure a fourth-consecutive second-place finish in the Premiership.

20 – Florian Kamberi – Hibs (New Entry)

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Hibs striker Florian Kamberi has continued to look like a real talent since making his initial loan move from Grasshopper permanent in the summer.
The 23-year-old forward netted 18 goals for the Hibees in 2018 and will no doubt be on the radar of a number of clubs in England.
The striker has come in for criticism from fans and boss Neil Lennon after scoring just once since October. It’s an indication of just how reliant the Leith side are on the Swiss star’s goals.
He remains a top talent and that’s what sees him complete the top 20 of this year’s Mc25.

19 – Ryan Christie – Aberdeen/Celtic (New Entry)

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Ryan Christie was finally given his chance to prove that he’s got what it takes to become a first team regular at Celtic this season – and he grabbed it with both hands.
Christie, 23, was drafted in as injury and suspension saw captain Scott Brown and Olivier Ntcham ruled out, and he hasn’t looked back.
The Celts midfielder spent much of last season trying to help Aberdeen secure second spot, but this time round he’s helping Brendan Rodgers’ side win trophies.
His pace and attacking flare have been as good as a new signing for the Hoops, not to mention seven goals and six assists, including his winner in the 1-0 Betfred Cup Final win over the Dons.
Christie’s confidence is sky-high and it’s seen him become a regular selection in the Scotland national team set-up.
It’s been a fairytale end to 2018 and it looks like there’s plenty more to come.

18 – Steven Naismith – Hearts (New Entry)

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What a signing Steven Naismith has been for Hearts since Craig Levein took him on loan from Norwich a year ago.

In that time, he’s scored 14 goals and produced six assists in 34 games while helping Levein turn the Jambos into a top six side.

Their ascent to the top of the Scottish Premiership this season had a lot to do with Naismith and the negative impact of his early exit from the Betfred Cup semi-final against Celtic showed just how important he is to the way Hearts play.

His quality form has been so good he’s been back in the Scotland fold and produced some important goals in their Nations League victories.

All in all, it’s been a brilliant 2018 for Naismith!

17 – Craig Gordon – Celtic (Down Six)

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Another man who often splits opinions among Celtic supporters.

Gordon’s distribution is extremely questionable at times and he often leaves supporters with their hearts in their mouths.

But there is no doubting the former Hearts and Sunderland man’s shot-stopping ability.

That was evident in the Hoops’ Old Firm defeat where Gordon kept the score at just 1-0.

At 35 years old, Gordon is approaching the end of his career and fans really should enjoy him while he’s around.

16 – Alan Power – Kilmarnock (New Entry)

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Did you know Kilmarnock amassed more points than any team in the Scottish Premiership in 2018?

Did you also know that Alan Power played 39 times on their way to doing that and is regarded as one of Steve Clarke’s main men?

Just ask any Kilmarnock fan and they’ll tell you how good the Irish midfielder is.

He may not score many goals and isn’t an assist king either, but Power is a box-to-box midfielder of old who contributes massively to a Killie team who were outstanding in 2018.

Under Clarke they were transformed from a bottom six struggler to a table topper and it only looks like 2019 is going to get better for the Rugby Park outfit.

But keeping their star men is going to be a tough job, with Greg Stewart already having departed and Jordan Jones heading to Rangers in the summer.

That said, with Power still around, Killie should have the solid base with which to build on and continue getting big results.

15 – Scott McKenna – Aberdeen (New Entry)

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The powerful Dons centre-back more than justifies his inclusion in this year’s list after a breakout 12 months in 2018.

Not only has McKenna’s pace, strength and reading of the game cemented his spot as one of the country’s best defenders, but the 22-year-old is already looking like the future of our national team too.

He’s been linked with several big-money moves away from Pittodrie, but it’ll take a pretty hefty fee to prise him away from the Granite City – and rightly so!

14 – Dedryck Boyata – Celtic (New Entry)

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Last summer it looked like Dedryck Boyata might never play for Celtic again.
The defender looked to be on his way out of Parkhead after declaring himself unfit to play as the Hoops crashed out of the Champions League qualifiers to AEK Athens.
But just a matter of weeks later, he’d returned to the squad a seemingly more accomplished player from his impressive World Cup journey with the Belgium squad.
There’s now a composure to his game which had been lacking before, while his distribution and willingness to drive the side into the opposition’s half has provided a number of assists for Brendan Rodgers’ side.
After another treble-winning season in 2017/18, Boyata has formed a solid defensive partnership with Filip Benkovic this campaign which has helped the Hoops to 11 clean sheets in 20 league games.

13 – Martin Boyle – Hibs (Up 12)

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The jet-heeled Hibernian winger has been a standout Premiership performer in 2018, helping to restore the Edinburgh club in their rightful place as a top-six club.
At 25, Boyle still has plenty of good years ahead of him, and the only frustrating thing about his 2018 is the fact that he’s been snapped up by the Australian national side!

12 – Efe Ambrose – Hibs (New Entry)

Once regarded as a Celtic flop, Efe Ambrose resuscitated his career when he joined Hibs on a loan deal in 2017 before making the switch permanent.

The Nigerian was instrumental as the Hibees returned to the Premiership in 2017.

And he starred as they fought to a fourth-placed finish last season under Neil Lennon.

Ambrose was influential again as Hibs progressed to the third round of the Europa League knockout stages.

But, after deciding to terminate his contract at Easter Road, the centre-back has left a big void in the Hibs defence.. and the hearts of Scottish football fans.

11 – Graeme Shinnie – Aberdeen (Down 4)

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The Aberdeen captain has once again been the model of consistency over the last 12 months, and is pretty unlucky not to make the Mc25 top ten for the second consecutive year.
Strong in the tackle, and one of the few players in Scottish football who can play to a high level week-in, week-out at several different positions across the pitch.
His contract’s up at the end of the current campaign, and has been linked with a move to Wigan – and Dons fans will be the first to tell you just how tough he’ll be to replace.

10 – Stephen O’Donnell – Kilmarnock (New Entry)

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Is Stephen O’Donnell the best right back in Scotland?

If not, he’s certainly the best Scottish right back in the Premiership and is deservedly earning rave reviews for Kilmarnock.

Just like Power before him on this list, O’Donnell has played a huge part in a very memorable season for the Rugby Park side.

Earning more points than any other Scottish Premiership team in 2018, O’Donnell made 44 appearances for Steve Clarke’s men.

He’s played so well that he’s now a Scotland regular and you’d expect him to remain in Alex McLeish’s squad going forward.

Just like Power and some other of Killie’s top performers, O’Donnell could attract some interest from other teams in 2019.

9 – Daniel Candeias – Rangers (New Entry)

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Daniel Candeias has grown to epitomise everything that Steven Gerrard wants from his Rangers team this season.

He works hard out of possession, harries defenders and is explosive during the transition of play, the Portuguese wide-man also shows plenty of passion for the badge while on the pitch, making him a fan favourite among Gers fans.

Quite rightly selected as Rangers’ Player of the Year last season, Candeias has quickly earned the mantle of being Mr. Consistent in Gerrard’s squad as he rarely has a poor or ineffectual game.

The 30-year-old has supplied 8 assists and scored 9 times in 2018 too, showing he’s much more than just a workhorse for other more technically gifted players.

Pedro Caixinha might not have done much during his short stint in Scotland but he deserves major credit for unearthing this gem.

8 – Odsonne Edouard – Celtic (New Entry)

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After joining Celtic in the summer of 2017 on a one-year loan deal from PSG, Odsonne Edouard looked like he would be playing third-fiddle to Moussa Dembele and Leigh Griffiths.

But the striker cemented a place in the hearts of the Parkhead faithful after netting the winning goal against Rangers at Ibrox last March.

The Frenchman wrote his name in the history books after becoming the club’s record signing at £9million when he joined permanently.

And after finding the net 21 times in 2018, the man who celebrated his 21st birthday this week will be hoping to continue to bang in the goals in 2019.

7 – James Tavernier – Rangers (Up 9)

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James Tavernier has been entrusted with becoming Steven Gerrard’s on-pitch leader for Rangers this season…and he hasn’t disappointed.

The Englishman has been as good as ever going forward, with 12 goals and 14 assists to his name in 2018.

Tavernier also remains one of the most prolific set-piece takers in Scottish football.

But what’s been more impressive than the 27-year-old’s recognised ability in attack is how he improved defensively throughout 2018.

The ex-Newcastle United man has been criticised in the past for abandoning his defensive duties.

However, Steven Gerrard has already praised his skipper for defending like an “animal” during the current campaign.

Starring alongside a better caliber of player has also clearly helped Tavernier grow into his duties as Gers skipper.

Only time will tell if he can build on a solid showing in 2018 by lifting some silverware come the end of the season.

6 – Scott Brown – Celtic (Down 4)

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If it wasn’t already set in stone, Scott Brown well and truly secured his place in Celtic folklore in 2018, after playing a crucial role in the Parkhead club’s unprecedented Double Treble campaign.

The 33-year-old would probably be the first to admit he fell short of his usual high standards towards the end of the the calendar year, culminating in a pretty underwhelming display at Ibrox in December, and that’s partly why he’s down from last year’s No.2.

However, Brown’s tenacious, clever and thoughtful play from the centre of the pitch was still evident throughout 2018, and he’s done more than enough to retain a spot in the top-10.

5 – Tom Rogic – Celtic (New Entry)

Adored by Celtic fans everywhere, Tom Rogic makes the top five and remains one of the most exciting players in Scottish football.

Dubbed the ‘Wizard of Oz’, Rogic continued his fine form in 2018 by adding eight goals to his name.

The 26-year-old penned a five-year deal last summer after being linked with a move away from Parkhead and could become a Celtic legend should the club go on to win 10-in-a-row.

Rogic is currently on international duty with Australia at the Asian Cup and his absence was notably missed during the Hoops’ first Old Firm defeat in 13 attempts last month.

4 – Kieran Tierney – Celtic (Down 3)

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When you reach the top there’s only one way you can go. That’s the case for last year’s no.1 on the Mc25, Kieran Tierney.
That’s not to take anything away from the Hoops left-back, it’s still been a pretty incredible year with all things considered.
At just 21, Tierney has become a mainstay for both club and country and shows a maturity beyond his years.
Tierney, who has pulled on the captain’s armband for both club and country in 2018, continued to develop under Brendan Rodgers last year and played a key role in the side’s ‘Double Treble’ winning season.
Injuries in the 2018/19 campaign have hampered Tierney’s season so far and perhaps play a major factor in his slip in this year’s list.
But he’s still managed to pitch in with six assists and a crucial Europa League goal, and it’s only a matter of time before the Premier League’s big guns come calling for one of Scottish football’s top talents.

3 – Alfredo Morelos – Rangers (New Entry)

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It’s near on impossible to imagine Rangers being involved in a title race without the enigmatic figure of Alfredo Morelos leading their line.

We realise the fiery Colombian isn’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea. But when Morelos has been in the mood, he’s been unstoppable in a Rangers jersey.

There’s no doubting that the temperamental Colombian was the best striker in Scotland throughout 2018.

Morelos is averaging a goal every 123 minutes this season, having netted 26 times throughout the last year.

He’s strong on the ball, brilliant in terms of his build-up play and most importantly always seems to be in the right place to get his name on the score-sheet.

Morelos has scored big goals in 2018 too, from his emphatic double against Rapid Vienna in the Europa League to his goals against Hearts, Hibs and Aberdeen.

Surprisingly a goal against Celtic continues to elude Morelos…but if he continues on this trajectory, it’s surely only a matter of time before El Buffalo is the hero in an Old Firm Derby.

2 – Callum McGregor – Celtic (Up 4)

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It seems a lifetime ago that Callum McGregor was a player who split opinion among Celtic supporters after breaking into the first team under Ronny Deila.

But there’s no doubting the effect the midfielder has on Brendan Rodgers’ squad these days.

The 25-year-old has become the first name on the Hoops’ teamsheet and netted nine goals in 2018 as Celts lifted another Treble while McGregor became a Scotland regular.

McGregor now has nine medals to his career and will be a key figure if Celtic are to go on to lift more silverware in 2019.

1 – James Forrest – Celtic (Up 4)

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In our humble opinions, James Forrest has been the all-round standout footballer in Scotland throughout 2018 and, in truth, it’s hard to find adequate adjectives to truly do his outstanding year justice.
The previous 12 months saw the jet-heeled winger really come of age, not only for his club but his country too, which isn’t often said about a 27-year-old with bags of experience.
Last season’s ‘Double Treble’, combined with this season’s Betfred Cup, have seen Forrest take his tally of winner’s medals for the Hoops to a staggering 15 and, at this rate, he’ll unquestionably go down as one of the club’s most decorated servants.
Moreover, 21 goals for club and country throughout 2018 make him one of the Mc25’s top-scorers. Not bad for a right-winger, eh?
Forrest was once a much-maligned figure amongst a section of the Parkhead support but 2018 saw him finally deliver on the promise he’s shown in flashes over the last decade, and he’s now one of the first names on Brendan Rodgers’ team-sheet.

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