The 12 Scottish Premierships stars you should be watching after the international break - a Celtic figure of fun, Rangers' best player and Hearts' returning ace
With the international break in full swing it is a good time to take stock of the season so far and the players who have either impressed or struggled. The following 12 stars are ones which you should keep an eye out for on the league's return.
Ryan Hedges - Aberdeen
To say Aberdeen have so far been plodding in terms of their performances is perhaps an understatement. Diagonals and long balls have been a feature of their game and it has not been easy on the eye. One player, however, has looked to provide a creative spark, summer signing Ryan Hedges. The winger announced himself in the league with a thunderous winning goal against Hearts on the opening weekend of the season. Since then he has been one of the more productive attackers with a combined five goals and assists. The 24-year-old has similarities to team-mate Niall McGinn, albeit it pre-South Korea McGinn. There is little fear factor when coming up against full-backs, he can go either way and he's really effective at cutting onto his left-foot and sweeping in crosses.
Boli Bolingoli - Celtic
The recruit from Rapid Vienna did not have a strong start to his Parkhead career, so much so that Neil Lennon opted for Callum McGregor at left-back in a crucial Champions League qualifier ahead of him. A few days prior to the game with Cluj he was a ropy against Motherwell, encapsulated by his 'attempt' at stopping Liam Donnelly's opener for the home side. Turning his back to block, despite being nowhere the ball or Donnelly. However, in recent weeks he has really settled into his role at the club and is looking like a Celtic player. He is heavily involved in the attacking build up, giving the team an outlet down the left. He is one of the side's most frequent passers as well as scoring high for the number of crosses. In addition, the manner in which he plays the game is enjoyable. Greg Taylor will find it difficult to get a starting berth on a regular basis.
Sam Stubbs - Hamilton Academical
Until the weekend's thumping at Rangers, the Accies had largely been competitive in every encounter since the opening-day defeat at Ross County. Brian Rice has a side which will be inconsistent in attack, best summed up by Lewis Smith. A hugely promising talent but one who will have his moments this term but not one the team can hang their hat on. Survival could be about the defence. They conceded 75 goals last season. It is a figure which needs to improve and in Sam Stubbs they have a player that can be relied upon if the campaign so far is anything to go by. He has blocked the most shots, made the second most interceptions, has the second best aerial duel success rate, and the best in his own box.
Peter Haring - Heart of Midlothian
Craig Levein revealed that he is hopeful the Austrian midfielder will be back in contention for the Rangers match at Tynecastle after the international break. Such comments, when it comes to Hearts and injuries, should always be taken with a pinch of salt. However, if he was to return it would provide the team with a huge boost. His influence could be seen in the Scottish Cup final. Seconds after being taken off Celtic took advantage of the Haring-shaped hole in the midfield and scored the winner. The intrigue will come in terms of where he will be played. He was originally signed as a centre-back before being pushed forward where he became an all-conquering, battling, driving midfielder. Yet, Levein has Loic Damour, Andy Irving, Glenn Whelan and even Oliver Bozanic as options, while at centre-back the team look light.
Melker Hallberg - Hibernian
The Swede's debut at Kilmarnock passed him by with concerns that he wasn't the type of midfielder the team required. Fast forward a few weeks and he has become a key cog in the middle of the pitch. His positioning at the base of the midfield in a 4-1-4-1 system has given Hibs a balance which was seldom seen before his arrival. His role has been crucial in two aspects. He helps put out fires when Hibs are counter-attacked against, as seen against Celtic, offering solid protection to the midfield. On the other hand manger Paul Heckingbottom wants his team to play and Hallberg helps in not only retaining possession but make sure he makes movements away from space to allow for the likes of Josh Vela, Scott Allan and Stevie Mallan off the right to get on the ball.
Dario Del Fabro - Kilmarnock
The Italian centre-back told Kilmarnock Standard: “I’m very fascinated by this kind of football, which is very aggressive... I think I’m an aggressive and solid defender so it is fine for me to play this kind of football. I’m comfortable with it.” Del Fabro was not lying. He has taken to Scottish football without blinking, embracing the challenges which present themselves. Kilmarnock have kept four clean sheets in the five games he has played with the 24-year-old forming a fine partnership with Stuart Findlay. As well as showing himself to be a fine defender in his reading of the game and winning his battles, he fits into the changes in which Angelo Alessio has made as an excellent distributor, whether it is long or short.
Steven Lawless - Livingston
Following the 2-0 win over Celtic, Livi defender Nicky Devlin tweeted a picture of the team with the caption 'Hammer Throwers FC'. The West Lothian side may play the most long balls in the league and commit the fourth-most fouls, while collecting the second-most bookings, but when they get the ball in the final third they are inventive and direct. A big part of that is Steven Lawless. There have been a number of star players for Gary Holt - Lyndon Dykes, Scott Pittman, Marvin Bartley etc - but it is the ex-Partick Thistle man who provides that creative spark. His career at the Tony Macaroni Arena has been an interesting one having played most of last season in an unfamiliar wing-back role. Moved into an inverted winger or No.10 position this campaign has seen him become one of the most effective forwards. He has three goals to his name, two assists and a second assist. He is crucial to Livi in their build-up play and is constantly looking to get players into scoring positions. No player has played more through balls and only Scott Allan has made more passes which Wyscout define as 'smart'.
Devante Cole - Motherwell
Declan Gallagher, Allan Campbell, Liam Polworth and Liam Donnelly have been key for Motherwell this campaign. Others have played supporting roles, including Devante Cole. Stephen Robinson is a reliable goalscorer away from being the team that should finish third. Instead, goals have arrived from around the pitch. Yet, Cole has played a useful facilitating role in recent weeks and netted in the win at St Johnstone after producing one of the misses of the season. He is a willing worker and makes intelligent runs, picking up good positions and suits the way the Steelmen are currently playing. If he can become a regular goalscorer then they will be a formidable outfit.
Steven Davis - Rangers
It is a strange one at Ibrox where arguably the club's best player goes under the radar. Alfredo Morelos and Jermain Defoe have 26 goals between them, Ryan Kent has returned and Ryan Jack has earned plenty of deserved column inches due to his performances. Then there is Steven Davis. He possess an understated quality in that he doesn't look flashy but more often than not provides the right solution, makes the right pass and gives the midfield plenty of direction. Watch him closely and you will see a player who protects the ball and turns with it better than many of his peers. No player has played more passes, through balls or played into the final third as much as he has. Yet, he does so from a deeper role. It is no surprise that Jack has discovered a new level playing alongside the Northern Irish international. Also, his assist for Defoe's second goal in the 6-1 win over Hibs. Sublime.
Jason Kerr - St Johnstone
There are few players who have regressed as much the St Johnstone defender. It wasn't that long ago when this writer saw him as the next centre-back to break through into the Scotland squad. He is a long way from that happening, despite the national team's troubles. The 22-year-old has looked lost this season. For someone so assured and composed in everything he did last season, whether it was winning a tackle, intercepting or moving out off defence with the ball, it's quite a fall from grace. He has been unsure of positioning, indecisive and slow to react to what has been going on around him. He has't been selling the jerseys as such but has played a role in Saints not yet keeping a league clean sheet. Can he regain last season's form after the international break?
Vaclav Hldaky - St Mirren
Danny Mullen, Jonathan Obika and Junior Morias have a huge task on their hands trying to step up and become the goalscorer St Mirren to desperately need. With only three goals to their name in the league the Buddies are understandably struggling. It has put more stress on the defence and goalkeeper. Vaclav Hladky has been outstanding this campaign, most recently in the 2-0 defeat to Motherwell where he produced a number of excellent stops. No goalkeeper has faced more shots and made more saves than the Czech. He will have to be at his very best in the coming weeks to keep Jim Goodwin's side in touch with those around them.