We’re soon approaching award season and having looked at the candidates for the PFA Scotland Player of the Year award yesterday, now it’s time to examine those most likely to earn a Young Player of the Year nomination.
*Note: players must be 21 or younger when the season starts to qualify*
Odsonne Edouard (Celtic)
It’ll take time for him to live up to the £9 million transfer fee that Celtic paid to PSG, but with 19 goals in all competitions from a season that’s been interrupted by a series of knocks and niggles, there is more than enough evidence to suggest he could become the next £20 million heading out of Parkhead in the years to come. If he doesn’t earn a Player of the Year nomination it’ll be because his fellow professionals forget how young he is. Seeing as he doesn’t turn 21 until next year, he’ll remain eligible for the 2019/2020 award also and you’d be a fool for betting against him.
Kieran Tierney (Celtic)
In the future when plooky-faced footballers walk up on stage in ill-fitting suits to awkwardly collect their Young Player of the Year award, the golden gong they are presented with should be modelled on a likeness of Kieran Tierney. It should also be renamed ‘The Kieran Tierney Award’. The Celtic left-back has won the accolade for the past three seasons and has enjoyed the longest sustained run of form of any young player in the Scottish top flight in decades. Unfortunately, his bid for a fourth successive triumph has been derailed by injury. Due to hip and calf problems, he’s played only six times this year and having been forced out of Sunday’s Old Firm derby having suffered a reaction, it doesn’t look like those issues are going to clear up before the votes are counted. He still might win it though - everyone loves Tierney.
David Turnbull (Motherwell)
Team-mate Jake Hastie seems to be getting more attention before of the interest from Rangers and the reported £15,000-a-week offer (aye right) he’s received. However, don’t let the hype fool you. Hastie is great and his athleticism combined with his football ability may give him a higher ceiling than Turnbull, but the playmaking No.10 has been the stand-out youngster in the Fir Park squad this season, and maybe even their best player overall. Without him there’s little chance Stephen Robinson would have been able to pivot from the ‘lump-it-long-and-batter-f***-out-of-our-opponents’ gameplan to something a whole lot easier on the eye. Even though he didn’t get his chance in the first team until October, his star has shone so bright that he deserves a nomination anyway.
Lewis Ferguson (Aberdeen)
If Ferguson doesn’t get a nomination it’s because his fellow professionals have forgotten he’s only 19. And who could blame them? Having been in press conferences with the midfielder, I can attest to him speaking with a confidence and maturing that Scottish stars typically tend to attain only once they’ve reached their 30s. That’s without getting into his football ability. He operates with the discipline, determination and penchant for popping up in the big moments that you would expect from someone who’s started far more than 50 career games to this point.
Kristoffer Ajer (Celtic)
He wasn’t in contention at all until the last couple of months as his stock dropped in value from last season as he struggled to hold down a place in the Celtic rearguard. However, injuries to Dedryck Boyata and Filip Benkovic have given him a chance in 2019 and he’s impressed with his performances, including a star turn in Sunday’s Old Firm victory. He may yet steal in to nab a nomination, though his club-mates may take potential votes from him.
Sam Cosgrove (Aberdeen)
In the interests of honesty, the original version of this article did not include the Aberdeen frontman because I forgot he was still eligible for this award. With 18 goals this season he’s certainly got a chance unless his fellow professionals do the same. Because forwards attract more headlines than midfielders, due to the whole goalscoring thing, he may even have a better chance than Ferguson, though his team-mate would be more deserving for being consistently great throughout the entire season, whereas Cosgrove couldn’t kick his a**e until December.
Jake Hastie (Motherwell)
He really shouldn’t get a nomination. Not only is he not the best young player on a bottom six team, he also didn’t play in the top flight until returning from his loan at Alloa Athletic in January. However, he’s scored a couple of belting goals and is reportedly on the verge of joining Rangers, so don’t be too surprised if he is one of the four finalists.
Scott McKenna (Aberdeen)
He literally might be the first Young Player of the Year contender in history whose chances of winning the award have been severely hampered by his inclusion in the Scotland national team.
Jason Kerr (St Johnstone)
If he were to be included in the nominations list then nobody should complain. It’s just unlikely to happen. He’s been solid throughout the season, even since the turn of the year as St Johnstone’s form fell off a cliff following Tommy Wright’s infatuation with the idea of working luxury playmaker Sean Goss into his functional team. The fact of the matter is a centre-back on a low profile club is always going to struggle to get recognised. When that club is also one of the poorest in the league at voting time, it’ll be near impossible.
Greg Taylor (Kilmarnock)
Taylor definitely deserves some recognition and, considering the constant attention around Steve Clarke’s seemingly magical powers, there may just be enough attention paid around Rugby Park for a young player of his quality to stand a chance. Unfortunately, even more so than Ferguson, players are probably going to forget how young Taylor is. It feels like he’s been around forever but is still only 21. He’s been a staple of the side since breaking into the squad at the tail end of the 2015/16 season and recently made his 100th appearance. This season he’s really taken his play up a level and, if I were feeling controversial, would suggest he might even deserve a nomination more so than Tierney.
Ryan Kent (Rangers)
The Liverpool loanee has had some standout games and, were he a youth academy product, would be right in the running. But it tends to be that signings from outside Scotland have to stand out just that little bit more to get consideration for the Young Player award. His strong individual display in the Old Firm game will aid his case, but it doesn’t help that Rangers’ title challenge has died a death over the past few weeks.
THE LONG SHOTS
Max Lowe (Aberdeen)
See Ryan Kent (only with the added hindrance of not playing for either one of the Old Firm).
John Souttar (Hearts)
Has matured into Hearts best defender this season and it’s not even close. If Aberdeen are seriously demanding £10 million for Scott McKenna (good luck with that) then Hearts will should hold out for a seriously good offer for the 22-year-old when bigger clubs come calling this summer. He may not, however, get too many votes because of the three-month lay off he had with injury. That and the general form of Hearts since October will hinder his case.
Ryan Porteous (Hibs)
His bid is a more extreme version of Souttar; performances would indicate he should strongly be in the running, but he’s just not played enough games due to injury - and hasn’t been linked with Rangers.