This week saw the nominees for PFA Scotland Player and Young Player announced. There aren't…
Every so often the team behind TheTwoPointOne like to jump into a google document and discuss a topic. It’s a bit like recording a podcast or even popping down to the pub to debate an issue over a few pints. But this way means we don’t even have to look or talk to each other in person.
Alas, we’ve decided to take a wee peak ahead to next season and underline a few exciting, young players that could make a genuine breakthrough for their respective sides. We’re talking about young players that could make the jump from youth football or the bench to performing for their club’s first team. Take a look and let us know what you think about our choices.
So who do we think will really step up to the fore and excite us next season in the Scottish Premiership?
James Cairney: I’d really like to see Frank Ross get a look-in at Aberdeen. I saw him a couple of times last season when he was on loan at Morton and he looked like a really exciting player. He’s a classic tricky winger – pacy, excellent dribbling and a decent end product. The ability is clearly there, he just needs a run in the team to try and improve his consistency. Derek McInnes doesn’t have the best record when it comes to promoting youth but with Ryan Christie leaving and Niall McGinn’s influence waning, I’d like to see Ross given a chance and I think he’ll get it.
Stefan Bienkowski: Yeah, I know a lot of Aberdeen fans were ultimately pretty ambivalent about Christie leaving due to his hot-and-cold form in the second half of the season but they’d do well to note just how many goals he did score. Without Kenny McLean that midfield has lost a lot of goals and they need to find them from elsewhere next season.
SB: One player that might be able to help with that is Lewis Ferguson, who Aberdeen signed from Hamilton at the end of the season. The 18-year-old only played a handful of games for the Accies but when he was on the pitch he looked like a smashing, little playmaker. He picked up six assists in just 15 appearances for Martin Canning’s team and if he gets game time at Pittodrie one would assume he could help find the net with a similar degree of efficiency.
Niall Murray: Yeah I think Frank Ross is definitely a shout, but as you say James, McInnes has been hesitant to bleed youth into his Aberdeen side so let’s hope it’s different this time around. I’m excited to see what Ryan Hardie does at Premiership level for Livingston. The 21-year-old looked seriously impressive for the second-half of the Lions Championship campaign. His return wasn’t bad either with eight goals and two assists in 16 league games. He’s without a doubt a natural goalscorer and that could prove valuable for a club who are likely to be battling in the lower half of the table. It’s one of those signings that make sense for both club and player. Hardie is getting a shot to prove himself at a higher level but has the advantage of doing that surrounded by teammates he already knows. He’ll get the game time and I reckon there’s a good chance he’ll make an impact this upcoming season.
JC: Another player I’d like to see given first-team football is Celtic’s Michael Johnston, but he might find this hard to come by at Celtic Park. He’s impressed at youth level for club and country – he put in some excellent performances in this year’s Under-18s Champions League and was part of the Scotland side that impressed at this year’s Toulon Tournament. As a winger there’s obviously a lot of competition for places at Celtic, so he might need a loan move. I’d really like to see a Premiership club take him on loan for a year and given first-team football – he looks ready to make the step up from youth level.
SB: Yeah, I watched a fair bit of Johnston at the Toulon competition this summer and I’d probably say he looked far more impressive than Oliver Burke and just as good as Chelsea’s highly-rated Harvey St Clair. I’m not quite sure how Rodgers fits him into this side along with Morgan and Christie so I completely agree – a move out to a team in the bottom half of the Premiership or a side chasing promotion in the Championship makes a lot of sense to me.
NM: Of course it was only the tip of the iceberg, but Johnston’s goal against England was sublime. I would love to see him get a chance at Parkhead this season, but as you allude to Stefan it’s going to be very difficult for him given the options at Brendan Rodgers’ disposal. He could be a good fit for St Mirren actually. After all, there’s a huge gap on the left-hand side left by none other than Lewis Morgan. I reckon Johnston could do a lot worse than moving to The Simple Digital Arena… or whatever it’s called now.
SB: Another player I’m still really excited to see break through in the Premiership is Hibernian’s Oli Shaw. He only played about 600 minutes of league football last season for Neil Lennon’s team but he averaged 0.62 goals per 90 minutes, which is a really fantastic return. I know Hibs have re-signed Florian Kamberi, but if they can’t get Jamie Maclaren back then they really need to try and blood this young striker into the starting XI whenever possible.
JC: Yeah, Shaw looks like a great prospect. Although, I’d say he’s another who might need a loan move to secure first-team football. Simon Murray will return to Easter Road from Dundee, so I’d imagine he’ll take Maclaren’s place in the squad. Having said that, being third choice striker would still result in a lot of game time for the striker – I guess it comes down to Shaw himself and where he feels his development would be best.
NM: I’ll stick with Hibs and say young centre-back Ryan Porteous; another of the Toulon troupe who impressed. He already looks very composed for someone so young and with little experience. I remember being at a Hibs press conference last season and club captain Paul Hanlon openly admitted Porteous was significantly better than he was at the same age. All signs point to him being a top class player not only for Hibs but also for Scotland. The 19-year-old had a handful of appearances for Neil Lennon’s side last season and didn’t look out of place in the slightest. When Hanlon had to miss a game due to the birth of his son, Porteous stepped up at short notice to face off against an in-form Kilmarnock side. He didn’t crumble under the pressure and instead was one of their best performers that day. I reckon this could be his breakout season.
SB: “Toulon troupe” is a great name if that squad ever decide to become a performing dance act or a really, really bad boyband. I touched upon Porteous’ form last season for Hibs and I think he was our defender of the month in one of our Sunday Herald columns too.
JC: I totally agree with you there Niall. He looks a great talent and I think he’ll get a few more starts this season too. Darren McGregor will be 33 when the season begins and his game time will have to be carefully managed by Lennon. I think it’s the perfect environment for Porteous to develop and I’m really looking forward to seeing how he gets on. He deserves a bit more responsibility.