The top flight team of the year, as chosen by the PFA, came out today and it’s pretty much as we would have predicted, although one or two inclusions – and omissions – will cause a bit of controversy.
But there are six Celtic players in the team, which should make us a virtual shoe-in for the awards when they come around.
Not that we ever expect to get them all.
First up, let’s deal with who isn’t in the team.
There’s no place for Abada, which is a huge oversight.
He must be a certainty for the young player of the year award, although as I wrote earlier he will not be eligible for the sports writers version as they have a pretty ridiculous and restrictive criterion. He could certainly have featured, and should have.
Tony Ralston is very unlucky not to make it, and in particular because Juranovic has but they’ve made him the left back. Ralston could easily – easily – have taken the right back slot, but we know who has ended up playing in that.
Some might argue that Giakoumakis could have made it too, but I have less of a problem with his being left out, although to do so for Morelos is pretty ridiculous considering his paltry return of goals.
But Ibrox needs its token two and the other, of course, is Tavernier.
But the six players in the squad – including Juranovic, accommodated at left back to allow the Ibrox captain his usual seat at the table – are unarguable. Rogic, McGregor, Kyogo, Jota and Carter Vickers make up the rest. Had they been at the club longer I don’t see how Maeda, Hatate or O’Riley could have been left out. That’s next season’s issue.
This completely demolishes the narrative which has been promoted in some quarters that this, in fact, is a poor Celtic team. It is nothing of the sort. Worrying, for our rivals and others, it should be pointed out that in fact this is a very young Celtic team and destined only to get better. A measure of that can be found in a few statistics.
Of the Celtic team that has played this season, a squad that has encompassed 30 different players, only two of them – Hart and James McCarthy – are over 30. If you’re looking at the players who have played the most minutes, Hart is the only over 30 who is even near the top of the list. This team is one of the youngest in the league … and they have dominated it.
Ange’s touch in the transfer market has been unerring.
Four of the six are people he brought here.
Callum has simply done what Callum has been doing for a long time, but Rogic is a player who the manager has resurrected and transformed. For him to be in the player of the year running 12 months after his Celtic career looked over is incredible.
Added to that, Ange has managed what even Rodgers never could and turned Tom into a 90-minute footballer who never stops working. This is a new Tom Rogic, one this manager has taken to new heights.
Had he not gotten injured, David Turnbull would have been a quality candidate for a place in this team. As Carter Vickers’ defensive partner, there is an argument to be made for Carl Starfelt, but it’s not one anyone in the press is ready to launch because his growth as a footballer runs counter to all their expectations and all their anti-Celtic propaganda.
John Souttar gets in the team.
Which I have to say is pretty out there, as the Graham at Dundee Utd could have made it ahead of him and his partner at Hearts, Craig Halcket, has been every bit as impressive and maybe even more so.
Regardless of those debates, it is hard to argue that the six Celtic players in the team is about the least we deserve for the sterling campaign these players have had. It makes it almost certain that the player of the year awards will be dominated by our bhoys.
So too should the manager of the year awards … but there you can expect only the unexpected and the indefensible.
The quest to find an alternative to the Celtic boss who doesn’t sound absolutely mental is already underway, and it will be in vain because anyone other than Ange would be a flat-out disgrace which would devalue the award forevermore.