Last month, I read with growing incredulity, as one of our half-witted hacks tried, and failed, to make an early season call for manager of the year. His candidate was Jim Duffy, at Morton, currently in a Championship play-off spot.
I was angry, in spite of myself, at such an obvious piece of click-bait trolling, because it’s an insult to what Brendan Rodgers has already achieved and is seemingly on the verge of achieving. This record-breaking run, this march towards a treble, deserves its ultimate reward and should Brendan and the team accomplish what they’ve set out to do there will be no viable excuse for denying them exactly that. Awards should follow. They earned them.
If Brendan is the standout for manager of the year – and he is, without a doubt – then the player of the year awards are even more slated in our favour. I’ve heard a lot of garbage about who ought to be in the running for those, but none of it stands up at all. The media can push a case for the likes of Kenny McLean, Johnny Hayes, Jamie Walker and their favourite sons Barrie McKay and Kenny Miller as they like; it’s all cobblers.
There are four outstanding candidates, three for sure and one for whom a good argument could be made. All of them play at Celtic Park.
This is simply unarguable.
Scott Sinclair, Moussa Dembele and Kieran Tierney have been magnificent. Stuart Armstrong has missed a lot of games, and that may count against him. But they are the four best players in the country at the present time, and it says a lot that you could argue Scott Brown, James Forrest and Tom Rogic would be contenders if Scott wasn’t playing in such an outstanding team and James and Tom didn’t have injury issues to contend with.
It’s also worth noting that Sviatchenko would have been mentioned in any other year but this, for his own outstanding contributions to the cause.
The hacks will try their damndest to deny Brendan the gong on account of his having had the best squad and having done more or less “what was expected of him” as if anyone foresaw an unbeaten run this late into the season or a treble on the horizon. Not one hack predicted that when this campaign kicked off; hilariously most had Barton as player of the year before he’d kicked a ball and some had Sevco as double winners and Warburton as Lord of All Creation.
It would stick in the craws of those people to have to admit the truth and cast those votes where they belong, but they’ll have to suck it up and do it anyway or look ridiculous. There’s no case to be made for anybody else getting the prize.
The player of the year award is a harder one to predict, because the three players mentioned – and Armstrong with them – have been so good.
Arguing whether Moussa or Scott has been the best signing is a futile exercise; both have produced the good so consistently that it’s an impossible call.
Moussa’s 29 goals are a dream start to his Celtic career, but Scott has not exactly been in a slouch in the scoring department and he’s weighed in with assists too.
But Kieran has a great case to make for being up there with both of them. His own performances have been almost entirely brilliant, with the one fly in the ointment being his performance in Barcelona, which is a proving ground that has taken a toll on more seasoned professionals than a 19 year old kid. He’ll have learned a lot from that torrid night, and it is to his immense credit that it did not derail his confidence.
One only had to look at his majestic display against Manchester City just a few weeks later to see how little his head went down, how little it dented his self-belief.
Stuart Armstrong will vie with James Forrest for the title of Most Improved Player in Scotland. Both would stroll into any other starting eleven in the country, but to me Stuart has not looked back since Brendan moved him to his preferred central midfield role. In another year, with more games under his belt, he would be in with a shout of walking away with the gong. He is the future of the Celtic central midfield; don’t be shocked if young John McGinn is lining up there with him in the not too distant future; it was great to see Brendan praise him the other week, I’ve been a fan for a long time and I can’t imagine him not being on our radar.
This has been an amazing season for our club, and it will be a scandal if that is not acknowledged when award season comes along. Yes, it might look a little off if the nominees are all from one club, but who else deserves to be there? Who else can compete?
There are good players at other teams but who has stood out the way these guys have?
One thing and only one is really up for debate; which of our stars deserves it most? You could, I suppose, split the difference and give Moussa or Kieran the young player award whilst Scott Sinclair takes the main one, but is that how it will pan out?
Readers, let me know what you reckon.