CHARLIE NICHOLAS has picked his SPFL team of the year. And for the pundit there was space for six Celtic stars but just two of Rangers’ title winning talents.
The pundit also included two Hearts players in the dream team with one Hibs ace making the cut.
But for Nicholas the one player stood out above the rest throughout 2021 was Rangers midfielder Joe Aribo.
It was an easy choice for ex-Celtic man Nicholas who admitted he’s not surprised that Aribo is earning the interest of English Premier League sides.
“He has grown into a player that has a real responsibility within the Rangers team. He is an important player for the Light Blues.
“Aribo was excellent in the last three months of last season and he has just continued that form, when Ryan Kent and Alfredo Morelos went off the boil, into the new campaign.”
Here you can see Charlie Nicholas’ SPFL team of the year in full
Goalkeeper – Joe Hart (Celtic)
Nicholas considered four keepers before his eventual selection; Zander Clark, Allan McGregor, Joe Hart and Benji Siegrist.
The pundit then narrowed it down to Hart and Siegrist but went for the former because of his impact on the Celtic defence.
He added: “Hart for long spells has kept Celtic in the title race.”
Right-back – Anthony Ralston (Celtic)
This was a surprise pick for Nicholas himself admitting he wouldn’t have given Ralston “a prayer of being in the Celtic team a year ago”.
The defender has been reinvigorated under Ange Postecoglou and columnist Nicholas reckons he’s vastly improved and deserves a spot in his team of the year.
Centre-back – John Souttar (Hearts)
The Hearts skipper has come back from a major injury lay-off to lead his team-mates to a 3rd place spot at the winter break.
And Nicholas reckons his comeback and Scotland showings warrant him a place in the team.
He explained: “He has overcome a lot of injuries and is a top player. I would say he is a better version of Ryan Porteous because he just gets on with his job.”
Centre-back Calvin Bassey (Rangers)
The Nigerian joined Rangers as a left-back but has excelled recently when deployed in central defence.
Nicholas rates Bassey as one of the top stoppers in the league even if he is still learning the role as he picked him over team-mate Connor Goldson and Cameron Carter-Vickers.
Left-back – Stephen Kingsley (Hearts)
The second Hearts player on the list and part of a defence which has conceded just 18 goals so far this term.
Kingsley has played both at centre-back in a back three and at left-back and has four goals this season displaying his clinical ability from dead-ball situations.
Central midfield – Callum McGregor (Celtic)
He was only named skipper in the summer but Nicholas reckons he’s a “natural captain” for Celtic.
And the pundit gave McGregor the “most consistent” plaudit as he explained the midfielder “dictates” play for Celtic.
Nicholas commented: “Callum gets in because he is the most consistent midfield player in the country.”
Central midfield – Tom Rogic (Celtic)
Christened the Wizard of Oz by Celtic fans Nicholas hails Rogic as a “game changer”.
He’s been much improved since the arrival of Postecoglou with Nicholas insistinghe’s someone to rely on throughout the season.
Nicholas said: “He has always had great quality but since Ange Postecoglou has come in, he has been bang on it consistently.”
Central midfield – Joe Aribo (Rangers)
Nicholas’ player of the year was a dead-cert to be included in his team.
Aribo has been in scintillating form for Rangers, especially since his shift back to a central role under Giovanni van Bronckhorst.
Reports claim Southampton, Brentford, Watford and Crystal Palace are tracking the Ibrox star.
Right-wing – Martin Boyle (Hibs)
The only man from Hibs to make it in the team of the year.
Nicholas reckons Boyle warrants a spot for being Hibs’ most consistent player despitesome “typically Hibs” dips in form throughout the past 12 months.
“In fairness to Boyle, he does turn up and score big goals”, said Nicholas. “Hibs need to get him more on the ball and if they do that then they will get a lot more out of him.”
Left-wing – Jota (Celtic)
The summer loan signing has impressed and won over supporters in his short time at Parkhead.
Celtic hold the option to purchase the Benfica winger on permanent terms but are currently without the star after he pulled up with a hamstring injury.
Nicholas said: “Jota also had good delivery and he has earned the right to be in this team. I know Celtic want to sign him permanently and they will do well with the way he was playing before his injury.”
Striker – Kyogo (Celtic)
Another of Postecoglou’s summer signings making the grade for Nicholas is Japanese forward Kyogo.
The striker already has 16 goals and five assists for Celtic in 26 matches and has quickly become a fan favourite at Parkhead.
Nicholas said: “He has been a breath of fresh to Scottish football. It is not just his pace but also his industry. He is always on the go and never gives up.”