GK – Brian Schwake (Edinburgh City) – Young stopper Schwake enjoyed a successful loan stint in the capital, helping the Citizens gain promotion to League 1 for the first time in their history. The 20-year-old American impressed throughout the season, keeping 10 clean sheets and making a league high 125 saves in 34 cinch League 2 appearances. Schwake’s class was truly highlighted in the 2nd leg of City’s play-off final clash with Annan Athletic, where a string of remarkable stops kept his side ahead in the tie and ultimately led to promotion.
DEF – Ross Meechan (Forfar Athletic) – Meechan has been renowned as one of the lower leagues’ best right-backs for several years now. The Loons’ skipper’s energy and consistency made him a stand-out in a side which finished in 2nd place and shipped just 36 goals across the league campaign. Whether preventing opposing wingers from creating opportunities at one end or flying up the right flank and whipping in pinpoint crosses at the other, Meechan was the best player of his kind in cinch League 2. He this week joined West of Scotland League side Darvel.
DEF – Thomas O’Ware (Kelty Hearts) – After a difficult few injury-plagued years, central defender O’Ware was back to his brilliant best in 21/22. The central pillar in a title-winning Kelty Hearts defence which kept 17 clean sheets in 36 L2 fixtures, O’Ware’s experience and class proved vital in the Maroon Machine’s race to silverware in their debut SPFL season. The best central defender in cinch League 2 last season, O’Ware should be among the divisional elite once again in League 1 in 22/23, as Kelty aim to continue their meteoric rise through the Scottish footballing pyramid.
DEF – Andy Munro (Forfar Athletic) – The quintessential no-nonsense central defender. Munro excelled at Station Park in 21/22 after joining from League 2 rivals Stenhousemuir in the summer. A defender who shows quality in either penalty area, Munro helped keep 11 clean sheets and scored nine goals in league games (a goalscoring output that most attacking players could be proud of!). The towering number 19 is contracted to the Loons until 2023 and will surely be a key player in his side’s promotion push next term.
MID – Owen Moxon (Annan Athletic) – A player who has improved with each passing season, Moxon’s 21/22 campaign showed him to be one of the very best midfielders in the lower leagues. The Galabankies midfielder scored six and assisted a further five goals in a League 2 campaign which saw his side finish in third place and narrowly miss out on promotion via the play-offs. A class act in the middle of the park, with the ability to play out wide if needed, Moxon has returned to hometown club Carlisle United for the 22/23 season, opting to move into full-time football.
MID – Jamie Barjonas (Kelty Hearts) – A permanent summer signing from Rangers, Barjonas showed just why he was so highly rated at the Ibrox club in his first season at New Central Park. An extremely classy ball player, with an eye for long-range passes, as well as a goalscoring touch. Barjonas made the extraordinary look incredibly easy on a near weekly basis for the Maroon Machine (see his assist for Joe Cardle at Forthbank in August, for example). Another of Kelty’s players who should acclimatise to L1 football with ease next season.
MID – Michael Tidser (Kelty Hearts) – Tidser is one of the very best deep-lying playmakers in the lower leagues. Controlling the tempo of football matches like an orchestral conductor, the former Morton and Falkirk man is one of the most talented players outwith the top-flight. Kelty’s captain led by example with outstanding performances in the middle of the park, as the Fife side ended the season as champions. With Tidser alongside Barjonas in the middle of the park, Kelty’s midfield is ready built to dominate L1 football.
MID – Joe Cardle (Kelty Hearts) – The best player in the division, no question. Cardle had been touted for a move to the Maroon Machine for several years, with the transfer finally coming to fruition in summer 2021. His signing has been an unmitigated success. Whether creating chances, scoring goals, or taking players on with his silky footwork, the Blackpool born winger showed time after time in 21/22 that he has plenty left to give at age 35. The Star Man in cinch League 2, with 12 goals and nine assists in a campaign where his side romped to the title in emphatic fashion.
FWD – Stefan McCluskey (Forfar Athletic) – The third ‘Loon’ to be selected in TOTS, McCluskey enjoyed a stellar individual campaign in 21/22. With 11 goals and four assists in the league, the attacker was one of the division’s most productive players. Whether deployed through the middle or pulling wide to pick up the ball and attack defenders with his dribbling capabilities, McCluskey impressed in the Sky Blue on a weekly basis. After arguably the best individual season of his career, the Loons will hope that their number 17 can spearhead their promotion push in 22/23.
FWD – Nathan Austin (Kelty Hearts) – It came as a surprise to absolutely nobody that ‘Fash’ finished the season as cinch League 2’s top scorer. A goal machine in every sense of the term, Kelty’s number 9 continued his goalscoring hot streak from the Lowland League into the SPFL, netting 17 league goals as his side ended the campaign at the top of the pile. Austin’s pace, power, awareness, attacking runs in behind the back line and killer instinct in front of goal saw him terrorise defences up and down the division.
FWD – Kallum Higginbotham (Kelty Hearts) – ‘Higgy’s career has taken him all over Scotland and England, and even a short spell in India. But the attacker seems to have found himself at home in Kelty. Another of the Maroon Machine’s deadly attacking line-up, with pace to burn and more tricks up his sleeve than the world’s best magicians, Higginbotham always seemed to step up when his side needed him in 21/22. Crucial goals against Elgin and Annan (plus an extra time Scottish Cup winner to knock out holders, St. Johnstone!) along with a glut of assists made the number 11 one of the champions’ most valuable players.