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TEAMtalk Soccers: Scottish awards
Published : 04 Jun 2009 12:51:12
After a thrilling season north of the border ended with Rangers winning the Double and Celtic looking for a new manager, we've asked our SPL guru Gareth to choose his best boss, star player, classiest rookie, worst villain and most glorious goal. SPL Manager of the Year: This award has to go to Hearts boss Csaba Laszlo, who has turned the Jambos from a laughing stock into the third force in Scotland once again. And he has done it with virtually the same squad of players and, for much of the season, without a recognised striker. The Tynecastle side drew with Celtic three times in four games while they took four points from Rangers, including an impressive 2-1 home win. The only disappointment for Laszlo came in the cup competitions, where Hearts were beaten at Tynecastle by Falkirk and Airdrie. The 45-year-old Romanian has shown he has the motivational skills and the character to succeed in the SPL, but faces a test of his player recruitment abilities when he has to replace a number of stars this summer. Walter Smith deserves a mention for winning the Double of course, while Billy Reid continues to perform a fine job at Hamilton. The Accies stayed up comfortably in the end, with the likes of James McCarthy, Brian Easton and James McArthur continuing to impress. Moving into the First Division and Derek McInnes has finally managed to take St Johnstone back into the top-flight after a seven-year exile - something Owen Coyle couldn't do - while, given the turmoil at Cowdenbeath, Danny Lennon deserves credit for taking them to within a spot-kick of promotion to the Second Division. SPL Player of the Year: There haven't been too many stand-out performers this season, with Gary Caldwell perhaps just edging out Scott Brown, Pedro Mendes, Madjid Bougherra and Andy Dorman. Celtic defender Caldwell has emerged as one of the club's most reliable performers over the last 18 months after becoming the brunt of fans' criticism prior to then. The Scotland international has been in impressive form for much of the campaign and just about sees off the challenge of Rangers' Bougherra, who had an excellent debut season at Ibrox. When Brown is good, he is very good, but he still lacks consistency and doesn't score enough goals and the same goes for Mendes, while Dorman has been a shining light for St Mirren and could well move on for a hefty fee this summer. SPL Young Player of the Year: This gong has to go to the highly impressive James McCarthy of Hamilton. The 18-year-old midfielder, who was born in Glasgow but represents the Republic of Ireland, looks like he will have a big career in the game. With six goals to his name and a string of man-of-the-match awards, McCarthy picks up the award ahead of Steven Fletcher, Andrew Driver and James McArthur. Celtic and Portsmouth already had offers turned down for the teenager before the season even ended and it would be a major surprise to see him lining up at New Douglas Park next season. Hearts' Driver and Hibernian striker Fletcher could also move on after impressing again while McArthur's solid and consistent performances alongside McCarthy for Accies will surely lead to a Scotland call-up in the near future. SPL Villain of the Season: The disgraceful Fir Park pitch looked set to take this award until Georgios Samaras opened his big mouth and saved Rangers boss Walter Smith a team-talk on the final day of the season. The Celtic striker said: "If they are going to win it, I don't think they deserve it. I think we are a better team than them. "If they are going to win it then fair play - but it's our mistakes (that let them) and I think we are a better team than Rangers." Silly comments to make at any time, but just days before the final game of the season, his boss Gordon Strachan must have been fuming. Rangers finished the season four points clear of Celtic, they won more games at home, more games away, had a better goal difference, conceded less goals and picked up two wins and a draw from four meetings between the sides. Perhaps Samaras should have concentrated more on his own performances - he scored just three times in the last four months of the season as three blanks in the last four games cost Celtic the title. Motherwell's Fir Park was almost unplayable for much of the season - for the second year running - while Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor would have been joint-recipients of this award had 'Boozegate' cost Rangers the title; in the end it arguably had the opposite effect. SPL Goal of the Season: Pedro Mendes' stunning 30-yard drive against Celtic at Parkhead has to take this award. It was the Portuguese midfielder's first goal for Rangers and what an opener it was. A clever corner by Steven Davis found Mendes unmarked outside the box and his powerful right-footed drive was a straight as a die, flying past Artur Boruc before the Celtic goalie could even see it. Honourable mentions go to Celtic's Marc Crosas against St Mirren, Bruno Aguiar of Hearts v Celtic, Aberdeen's Darren Mackie v Hearts and Mehdi Taouil for Kilmarnock against Motherwell on the final day.