Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The ninth annual Narey's Toepoker Team of the Year (part 1)

Blimey, this is the ninth season that this blog has been running.  Time flies, and all that.  Here, for your amusement, are the previous Teams of the Year: 

2007/08: Allan McGregor (Rangers), Alan Hutton (Rangers), Carlos Cuellar (Rangers), Lee Wilkie (Dundee United), Lee Naylor (Celtic), Barry Robson (Celtic), Stephen Hughes (Motherwell), Barry Ferguson (Rangers), Aiden McGeady (Celtic), Scott McDonald (Celtic), Steven Fletcher (Hibernian)

2008/09: Lukasz Zaluska (Dundee United), Andreas Hinkel (Celtic), Gary Caldwell (Celtic), Lee Wilkie (Dundee United), Sasa Papac (Rangers), Scott Brown (Celtic), Bruno Aguiar (Hearts), Pedro Mendes (Rangers), Andrew Driver (Hearts), Scott McDonald (Celtic), Kris Boyd (Rangers)

2009/10: John Ruddy (Motherwell), Steven Whittaker (Rangers), David Weir (Rangers), Andy Webster (Dundee United), Sasa Papac (Rangers), Steven Davis (Rangers), Morgaro Gomis (Dundee United), James McArthur (Hamilton), Anthony Stokes (Hibernian), Kris Boyd (Rangers), David Goodwillie (Dundee United)

2010/11: Marian Kello (Hearts), Steven Whittaker (Rangers), Daniel Majstorovic (Celtic), Michael Duberry (St. Johnstone), Emilio Izaguirre (Celtic), Steven Naismith (Rangers), Beram Kayal (Celtic), Alexei Eremenko (Kilmarnock), David Templeton (Hearts), Nikica Jelavic (Rangers), David Goodwillie (Dundee United)

2011/12: Cammy Bell (Kilmarnock), Adam Matthews (Celtic), Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers), Charlie Mulgrew (Celtic), Paul Dixon (Dundee United), James Forrest (Celtic), Victor Wanyama (Celtic), Ian Black (Hearts), Dean Shiels (Kilmarnock), Jon Daly (Dundee United), Gary Hooper (Celtic)

2012/13: Fraser Forster (Celtic), Mihael Kovacevic (Ross County), Gary Warren (Inverness CT), Mark Reynolds (Aberdeen), Stevie Hammell (Motherwell), Victor Wanyama (Celtic), Nicky Law (Motherwell), Murray Davidson (St. Johnstone), Leigh Griffiths (Hibernian), Michael Higdon (Motherwell), Billy Mckay (Inverness CT) 

2013/14: Jamie MacDonald (Hearts), Dave Mackay (St. Johnstone), Virgil Van Dijk (Celtic), Mark Reynolds (Aberdeen), Andrew Robertson (Dundee United), Scott Brown (Celtic), Stuart Armstrong (Dundee United), Peter Pawlett (Aberdeen), Kris Commons (Celtic), Kris Boyd (Kilmarnock), Stevie May (St. Johnstone)

2014/15: Craig Gordon (Celtic), Shay Logan (Aberdeen), Virgil Van Dijk (Celtic), Jason Denayer (Celtic), Graeme Shinnie (Inverness CT), Ryan Jack (Aberdeen), Greg Tansey (Inverness CT), Greg Stewart (Dundee), Stefan Johansen (Celtic), Gary Mackay-Steven (Dundee United/Celtic), Adam Rooney (Aberdeen)

Some, er, interesting picks back in the olden days, eh?  One thing I notice is that the quality of the eleven names seems to have generally dipped since the first one was penned in 2008.  A sign of the way Scottish football is going, perhaps?

A few notes ahead of this season's picks.  Firstly, this was a cumulative effort again, with regular collaborators Martin Ingram, Iain Meredith and Stuart Taylor all picking their favourites.  (Martin chose Boyata before the cup semi-final, and as soon as it was over he was on the blower asking if he could change his mind)  But I drew up the shortlists, so I'm to blame if anyone obvious has been overlooked.

Secondly, there was some dispute over whether to include players who left in January - Danny Ward, Osman Sow and Michael O'Halloran being the obvious ones.  I was pretty relaxed about it, but the others weren't so comfortable.  My own feeling is that anyone who has played more than half their club's league games (all three have) should be eligible; this in turn excludes January signings like Erik Sviatchenko (if you think he's good enough, and I have my doubts still).

Thirdly, you won't find Lee Wallace, or James Tavernier, or Martyn Waghorn, or John McGinn on this list.  It's strictly top flight only.  Capiche?

Onwards we go...

Honourable mentions: Craig Gordon (Celtic), Danny Ward (Aberdeen)

The first time MacDonald got in the Team of the Year, he was part of a relegated Hearts side.  This time around, he's in a Kilmarnock team at risk of the same fate.  Again, with an often hopeless defence in front of him, he's had an awful lot of saves to make.  Maybe he just looks good because he features in most of each highlights reel.

I wondered on Twitter last week if Aberdeen might have won the league had Adam Bogdan not been useless in a couple of Liverpool games around wintertime; the Hungarian goalie's haplessness convinced Jurgen Klopp to recall Danny Ward from Pittodrie.  Ward was outstanding in the first half of the campaign, whereas Scott Brown has been anything but in the subsequent months.  Craig Gordon, meanwhile, has been reliable and relatively mistake-free.

Honourable mentions: Shay Logan (Aberdeen), Mustapha Dumbuya (Partick Thistle)

Paterson continues to get a wee bit better every year; given that he's only 21, there must be a real possibility that he becomes a very special player.  He's certainly got the physical tools and is dangerous on the attack, but just needs to cut out the occasional lapse in concentration.  I have a family friend who works with his mum; it's reassuring to hear that even now she still gives him an absolute bollocking when he gets sent off.

I'd say this has been Logan's best season in Scotland, and it would be a blow for the Dons if he was to decline a new contract.  Sierra Leone international Dumbuya came out of nowhere (well, English League One) to shine for Partick, but injuries have slowed him down since the new year.  There's a dearth of quality full-backs though so he deserves a mention.

Honourable mentions: Kieran Tierney (Celtic), Ricky Foster (Ross County)

This was a close one; Shinnie seems to have spent as much time in midfield as defence this season, and Tierney has emerged as the one really bright spark of Celtic's season.  But with a couple of Aberdeen supporters amongst the 'judges', there was only going to be one winner.  The former Inverness defender has been brilliant whatever position he's been in.

It's crazy to think Tierney isn't 19 till June.  He's deserved his opportunities for Celtic and Scotland (though I'm not convinced he should be ahead of Shinnie in the queue for the latter).  Again, there aren't many other good left-backs to choose from, but it's worth referencing Foster who has fallen back in love with football again and has been consistently good in several different positions for Ross County.

Honourable mentions: Dedryck Boyata (Celtic), Ash Taylor (Aberdeen), Conrad Balatoni (Kilmarnock), Stephen McManus (Motherwell)

A caveat: there have not been many outstanding central defenders in Scotland this season.  In fact, relatively few could aspire to the adjective 'mediocre'.  I'm well aware that one look at the 'honourable mentions' list will likely make a few folk gag - Boyata?!  Taylor?!  Well, both have had their share of terrible games, but both have also had plenty of good ones, at least before Christmas.  If anyone can come up with better options, please let me know.  Dundee's James McPake would have been considered but for the fact that he (inevitably) missed most of the season with an injury.  Otherwise, this league's central defenders have been absolutely pants.

Rossi is an obvious exception, and was a unanimous selection; Hearts' other defenders have been a bit streaky at times, but the Brazilian has been solid as a rock, not like a Brazilian defender should be at all.  Davies hasn't been perfect, but he's shown on plenty of occasions why he was once a £1.8million player and has been a critical part of County's successful season.

As for the others, McManus has had his best season for Motherwell, while Kilmarnock have been so much better since Balatoni arrived at the club...not that that would have been hard given the quality of their defending early doors. (note - I wrote this before his weekend blunders!)

In a few days, we'll have the midfielders and the attackers.  And yes, I'm sure there'll be a Celtic player or two...

Lawrie Spence has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007.  He has a life outside this blog.  Honestly.

1 comment:

KingsnakeSince1986 said...

Boyata should only be in the list for the good he's done for sides not named "Celtic".