Celtic made it official on Saturday, defeating Aberdeen 3-0 to clinch their eighth consecutive Premiership title. But while most Hoops supporters are focused on securing “10 in a row,” we feel it’s more relevant to look back at the most recent season that was and acknowledge the key contributors and storylines. So, here are the winners of the Fifth Annual Full Scottish Awards:
The Full Scottish with Brian P. Dunleavy
Player of the Year:
James Forrest took home the PFA POTY honor and, we admit, it’s hard to argue with the selection. The wee man has 17 goals and 20 assists on the season to date, and has either scored or created some of the biggest goals of Celtic’s campaign.
However, we’ll let him bask in the glow of the far-more-prestigious PFA accolades and instead give our vote to Forrest’s teammate and fellow midfielder Callum McGregor. Actually, what makes McGregor so valuable in our view is his versatility.
Yes, his preferred and best position is in the middle of the park. However, he has capably filled in where needed, out wide at times and even at left-back. And, like Forrest, he is as reliable as rain in Glasgow: McGregor has made 56 appearances for his club (and a few more for his country) this campaign and he not only plays, he contributes, tirelessly covering every blade of grass on the pitch. McGregor is Scotland’s best all-around player. Period.
Manager of the Year:
We thought about Neil Lennon (not really), and then Brendan Rodgers (not), and Steven Gerrard hardly merited a look. No, the clear-cut winner here is Kilmarnock’s Steve Clarke, who has taken a squad of no-names, has-beens and never-weres making, on average, just £62,000 per year (less than one-tenth of what Celtic pays, to put it into context), and led them to incredible heights in the Prem.
Killie will finish either third or fourth this campaign, and they even topped the table for an extended period early in the season. Clarke may draw interest from the Scotland national team and clubs in England, but he is a lifelong Killie supporter, so any offers will need to be very tempting.
Young Player of the Year:
Kristoffer Ajer, Celtic. Hoops supporters have been clamoring for help in central defense for consecutive transfer windows, and the calls likely won’t subside this summer. However, Ajer, a converted midfielder and still just 21, has emerged as a true stopper who has made more than 40 appearances this term. Is he still too green for the upcoming Champions’ League qualifying campaign? Perhaps, but experience only comes from, well, experience.
Team of the Season:
Celtic. Yep, we’re biased. However, the Hoops are one win away from an unprecedented third consecutive domestic treble, and they have reached the threshold of not just immortality but three times the immortality despite losing their two most potent strikers (Moussa Dembele to Lyon, just before the close of the summer transfer window, and Leigh Griffiths, to personal issues) for all or most of the campaign.
Oh, and the manager up and left two days before a big mid-week match at Hearts in February. And yet, under Lennon, the Bhoys have hardly missed a beat. Has the football always been spectacular? Hardly. Have they dominated on the domestic front in 2018-19 to the same degree they did in recent seasons past? No. But, as of this writing, they also haven’t lost a domestic match since the turn of the year.
Story of the Season:
The loss of two Lions. Perhaps the memories are simply still fresh. However, even as a typically topsy-turvy season in Scottish football winds down, it’s hard to think of a more important story than the passing of two Lisbon Lions: Billy McNeill and Stevie Chalmers. And remarkably, the two teammates and friends succumbed to dementia within days of each other.
Not enough fans of football in the United States know that Celtic were the first British team to win the European Cup (now the Champions’ League) when they took home the big trophy on May 25, 1967, after defeating Inter Milan in Lisbon 2-1.
McNeill captained a side made up of players from in and around Glasgow, a group of men forever known as “Lions.” Chalmers scored the goal that brought the Cup home to Parkhead. The loss of two giants of Scottish… no, British… make that, world football is significant. The understatement of the year.