Friday, May 12, 2017

The tenth annual Narey's Toepoker Team of the Year (part 2)

Right, so here's your midfield and attack.  The other half of the team can be found here.

We've gone 4-4-f******-2 this year - read on to find out why...

Honourable mentions: Scott Brown (Celtic), Kenny McLean (Aberdeen), Jamie Walker (Hearts), Ali Crawford (Hamilton Accies)

This was the hardest choice by miles - basically it was two out of Armstrong, Brown, McLean and Barton.  I love Armstrong's all-action style (and his hair), so he's in.  His progress this season has been exciting and there's still more to come from him.  I thought Brown was finished last year but he's proven everyone wrong by returning to somewhere approaching his best, while McLean has been terrific since Derek McInnes started playing a midfield trio with Ryan Jack and Graeme Shinnie doing the donkey work so the ex-St. Mirren man can concentrate on playmaking.

Barton is the hipster's choice (he's a Partick Thistle player, so of course he is!) but he's been one of the signings of the season, either in central defence or sitting just in front of the centre-backs.  Would Thistle's defensive record be as good without him?  No.  Would Liam Lindsay be getting so many plaudits without Barton beside/in front of him?  No.  So Barton it is.

Besides, I already have plenty of Celtic players in this year's team.  Their fans won't be offended if I leave Brown out, right?  (Goes away to find tin hat).

Oh, and as for the other honourable mentions, both Crawford and Walker were terrific before the winter break and pretty anonymous afterward.  Walker never looked comfortable in Ian Cathro's system - whatever it is - and Hearts need to get the best out of him if they are to move in the right direction.  Crawford seems to only ever star for half of every season, which is just about enough to make him a huge asset for Accies but not enough to entice a bigger club.

Honourable mentions: Don Cowie (Hearts), Danny Swanson (St. Johnstone), James Forrest (Celtic), Niall McGinn (Aberdeen)

It's hard to argue with this dynamic duo.  Sinclair won Player of the Year, after all.  He actually seemed to disappear from games for long periods - as wingers are wont to do, I suppose - but whenever he got involved he tended to make a huge impact.  21 league goals from the wing is some tally.  It's a sign that he belongs at a far higher level than this, I suppose.

Hayes remains one of my favourite footballers.  He has everything you want from your winger - pace, the ability to beat a man, an end product and even a few goals - but it's his discipline and workrate that really make him stand out.  Ever since he came to Scotland in 2009 he's got a bit better year on year; the guy's attitude must make him a dream to coach.

As for the others, I suspect Cowie is another 'dream to coach', and looked like the only Hearts player who had a clue what Ian Cathro wanted.  Why he isn't club captain I have no idea.  Forrest and Swanson both tailed off a fair bit in 2017 after starting the season like greased lightning.  McGinn was the opposite, starting slowly before hitting form in the new year.

Honourable mentions: Steven Maclean (St. Johnstone), Kenny Miller (Rangers), Adam Rooney (Aberdeen), Marcus Haber (Dundee)

This is why we're going 4-4-2 this year - to fit both these boys in.  I think Celtic will get an offer they can't refuse for Dembele this summer, which will probably be greater than Rangers' annual turnover. He must be the best value signing the club have made since a Mr H. Larsson rocked up.  Boyce's exploits have been overshadowed slightly by his club's disappointing season; his goal drought in the spring came when he was moved into a deeper role and the onus was put on him to create chances rather than score them.  To still score 20 league goals (his teammates have managed just 22 between them) in those circumstances is quite sensational.

I'd have loved to shoehorn Maclean in.  The wily veteran is as good a lone striker as anyone in this league.  Miller continues to defy biology with his refusal to slow down and accept that he is getting old, but Rangers really can't afford to depend on him so much next year.  Rooney continues to lead the line effectively for Aberdeen.  Haber deserves a mention simply because his arrival transformed Dundee's season, and their record without him is just terrible.

So here's the team in all its glory:

(It took bloody ages to do the kit graphics by the way, so be nice!)

And, for the tenth year, that's your lot.  I'm looking forward to more of your 'constructive' criticism...

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.

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