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Wednesday 3rd June 2015

SPFL Team of the Year

Craig Fowler of the Terrace Football Podcast has picked his Team of the Season, covering the four divisions of the SPFL:

Craig Fowler of the Terrace Football Podcast has picked his Team of the Season, covering the four divisions of the SPFL:

Fans can forgive weekly omissions, but when it comes to Player of the Year accolades, people tend to treat it a little more seriously.

At first, it was a real struggle to create a team that incorporated quality from all four SPFL leagues and not have it look extremely contrived. Was there any justification in only picking two Celtic players in an exercise solely aimed at avoiding predictability? If Stefan Johansen and Virgil van Dijk made the team, why not Craig Gordon? Or Scott Brown? Or Leigh Griffiths?

So, in order to get to the true essence of what this team is about, highlighting the quality that exists throughout the SPFL, and not just focusing on the summit, some rules needed to be established.

1) No more than one player from each team

2) No more than four players from each division

3) Include at least one, preferably two, players from each of the four leagues.

Without further ado, here is the 2014/15 SPFL Team of the Year

Goalkeeper - Derek Gaston - Morton
Quite simply, Morton would not be playing in the Championship next season if it wasn't for their custodian. In a division littered with strong goalkeepers, Gaston still managed to stand out from the crowd. His shot-stopping is excellent and he has an uncanny knack of making his best saves at crucial junctures in matches. His distribution and the way he commands his area are also strengths of his game. The say a good keeper earns you 15 points a season; Gaston earned Morton a league title.

Right-back - Shay Logan - Aberdeen
The only threat to Logan making this team was if club-mates Adam Rooney or Jonny Hayes were selected instead. The right-back had a decent, if unspectacular, debut campaign at Pittodrie in his first season, but there is no doubt he improved immensely in 2014/15. Solid in defence, his forays down the right are where his real qualities lie, as he always provides an out-ball to keep attacks flowing and provides a constant source of menace. In a team full of excellent defenders, Logan has been the stand-out.

Centre-back - Darren Dods - Forfar Athletic
Darren Dods: forever young. The 39-year old would be hard pressed to earn contention for a team like this if he didn't have a manager who knew how to play to his strengths. The veteran centre-back is dominant in the air, though it's no secret he's hardly a greyhound in a sprint. Dick Campbell recognised the qualities in Dods and built a defence around him which covered for his lack of pace, allowing his captain to concentrate on being a general on the field and sending every long ball back from whence it came.

Centre-back - Alim Ozturk - Heart of Midlothian
At the beginning of the season it was clear Hearts had a cool, calm and collected leader in Danny Wilson and, to put it lightly, a maverick stationed beside him. Ozturk could be rash and perhaps lacked the concentration required to play in the mile-a-minute nature of the Scottish game. Then came the first derby at Easter Road. Everyone remembers the goal, but Ozturk's turnaround began with his defensive performance that afternoon. He was Hearts' stand-out player on a day where everything just clicked into place. From that point on, he not only demonstrated the abilities that were evident earlier in the season - strength, aerial presence, technique - he also adopted a composure both on and off the ball.

Left-back - Graeme Shinnie - Inverness Caley Thistle
Shinnie would have made this team even without the one-player-one-club limit. Few full-backs are ever as influential as Shinnie is at Inverness. His rise from a defender who provided an inconsistent attacking option to one of the most complete footballers in this country has been remarkable. Aside from his aerial ability, which is solely down to a lack of height, he can do everything on a Scottish football field. When played in the centre of the park he can frequently run the show, but his most consistent work comes when he starts at full-back, where he does enough running to play two positions at once.

Right midfield - Danny Carmichael - Queen of the South
The winger always had ability, he just needed to put it all together and show he could be consistent across a full season. Such a tricky player, perhaps the most impressive thing about Carmichael's season has been how seamlessly he's filled in at three different positions. At home on the wing, he's also shone in the centre and used his running abilities, both pace and stamina, to prove a handful for opponents at wing-back when Queens switched to their 3-5-2 formation. Hibs fans should be delighted they have lured him to Easter Road for the 2015/16 season.

Centre midfield - Stefan Johansen - Celtic
The best player on the best team; there was no doubt Stefan Johansen was going to make this XI. Decent enough in his first few months with Celtic after being signed by Neil Lennon in January 2014, it wasn't until Ronny Deila pushed him forward into the No 10 role that Johansen really began to shine. He complements Deila's methods perfectly by providing Celtic with a creative force who isn't afraid to mix it up and get in the faces of the opposition. The high pressing game has led to a lot of easy goals for the Hoops when opposing teams have failed to deal with the pressure deep in their own half. Johansen is a key component of that strategy. That's not to say his game is built merely around hard work, as his vision and passing have been out of this world this past campaign. Double digits in goals, double digits in assists and the deserved Player of the Year.

Centre midfield - Scott Allan - Hibernian
Ultimately the promotion campaign proved fruitless, but who knows where Hibs would have been had Scott Allan not decided to return north and sign with the Easter Road club last summer. The answer could be provided just by looking at the first couple of months of the season, where Allan's lack of fitness prevented him from being a consistent member of the starting XI. Hibs looked a decent team and had stretches in games where they vastly outperformed the opposition but Allan helped tie the team together. He brought a composure on the ball, creativity in attack, and the ability to dictate the tempo of the play. You could argue no single player in Scottish football was more important to their team last term than Allan was to Hibs.

Left midfield - Bobby Linn - Arbroath
Arbroath's horrible collapse in 2015, which saw them go from almost certainties for the League 2 title to a team that almost missed out on the play-offs altogether, does not detract from the accomplishments of Linn. In fact, he is one player who continued to excel even through their rough times. A winger who loves to run at people, Linn terrorised opposing full-backs and centre-backs alike as he liked to make the centre of the field his home whenever the opportunity arose. This fearlessness helped the elusive attacker score into double figures over the season, a terrific return for a wide player.

Striker - Peter Weatherson - Annan Athletic
Here's a piece of trivia you probably didn't know - Peter Weatherson was the top goalscorer in Scottish league football last year. He achieved this accomplishment despite being 35, starring for an Annan side that was competitive but failed to make the play-offs, and missing close to 10 games because of injury. Seriously, how could he not be in this team? Similar to Darren Dods, lacking pace in ageing legs can be compensated for with a first-class football mind. Weatherson has long been scoring goals in the Scottish lower leagues and he senses the gaps in the defence that younger strikers just can't find. Also, he scores from the halfway line!

Striker - Greg Stewart - Dundee
Everyone loves a pulled-himself-up-by-his-bootstraps story and Stewart has one to match any Hollywood film. While most of Stewart’s Scottish football peers were plying their trade at million pound youth academies, being trained by some of the best minds in the country, he was working away in the amateurs. Even when Cowdenbeath plucked him from obscurity in 2010, he still had to work to earn a regular spot in the team and was actually outshone by team-mate Kane Hemmings in his final year with the Blue Brazil. Few thought he'd make a big impact upon signing for Dundee. After all, how many players come from part-time football and immediately star in the top flight? Instead, Stewart earned a Player of the Year nomination and finished top goalscorer in a newly-promoted side that made the top six. And that was despite playing most of the season on the left wing.