I've done this every year for sixteen years, and to be honest it's never felt more like a chore. When you don't have any skin in the game - that's six years Caley Thistle have been stuck in the Championship - it becomes even harder to be motivated by watching Celtic and Rangers pump everybody. It's also more difficult than ever to pick players from other clubs for this XI, because I'm very close to crossing the 'taking the p***' line' by doing so. Still, I've tried my best.
For historical record, the previous fifteen lineups:
2007/08: Allan McGregor (Rangers), Alan Hutton (Rangers), Carlos Cuellar (Rangers), Lee Wilkie (Dundee United), Lee Naylor (Celtic), Barry Robson (Celtic), Stephen Hughes (Motherwell), Barry Ferguson (Rangers), Aiden McGeady (Celtic), Scott McDonald (Celtic), Steven Fletcher (Hibernian)
2008/09: Lukasz Zaluska (Dundee United), Andreas Hinkel (Celtic), Gary Caldwell (Celtic), Lee Wilkie (Dundee United), Sasa Papac (Rangers), Scott Brown (Celtic), Bruno Aguiar (Hearts), Pedro Mendes (Rangers), Andrew Driver (Hearts), Scott McDonald (Celtic), Kris Boyd (Rangers)
2009/10: John Ruddy (Motherwell), Steven Whittaker (Rangers), David Weir (Rangers), Andy Webster (Dundee United), Sasa Papac (Rangers), Steven Davis (Rangers), Morgaro Gomis (Dundee United), James McArthur (Hamilton), Anthony Stokes (Hibernian), Kris Boyd (Rangers), David Goodwillie (Dundee United)
2010/11: Marian Kello (Hearts), Steven Whittaker (Rangers), Daniel Majstorovic (Celtic), Michael Duberry (St. Johnstone), Emilio Izaguirre (Celtic), Steven Naismith (Rangers), Beram Kayal (Celtic), Alexei Eremenko (Kilmarnock), David Templeton (Hearts), Nikica Jelavic (Rangers), David Goodwillie (Dundee United)
2011/12: Cammy Bell (Kilmarnock), Adam Matthews (Celtic), Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers), Charlie Mulgrew (Celtic), Paul Dixon (Dundee United), James Forrest (Celtic), Victor Wanyama (Celtic), Ian Black (Hearts), Dean Shiels (Kilmarnock), Jon Daly (Dundee United), Gary Hooper (Celtic)
2012/13: Fraser Forster (Celtic), Mihael Kovacevic (Ross County), Gary Warren (Inverness CT), Mark Reynolds (Aberdeen), Stevie Hammell (Motherwell), Victor Wanyama (Celtic), Nicky Law (Motherwell), Murray Davidson (St. Johnstone), Leigh Griffiths (Hibernian), Michael Higdon (Motherwell), Billy Mckay (Inverness CT)
2013/14: Jamie MacDonald (Hearts), Dave Mackay (St. Johnstone), Virgil Van Dijk (Celtic), Mark Reynolds (Aberdeen), Andrew Robertson (Dundee United), Scott Brown (Celtic), Stuart Armstrong (Dundee United), Peter Pawlett (Aberdeen), Kris Commons (Celtic), Kris Boyd (Kilmarnock), Stevie May (St. Johnstone)
2014/15: Craig Gordon (Celtic), Shay Logan (Aberdeen), Virgil Van Dijk (Celtic), Jason Denayer (Celtic), Graeme Shinnie (Inverness CT), Ryan Jack (Aberdeen), Greg Tansey (Inverness CT), Greg Stewart (Dundee), Stefan Johansen (Celtic), Gary Mackay-Steven (Dundee United/Celtic), Adam Rooney (Aberdeen)
2015/16: Jamie MacDonald (Kilmarnock), Callum Paterson (Hearts), Igor Rossi (Hearts), Andrew Davies (Ross County), Graeme Shinnie (Aberdeen), Nir Bitton (Celtic), Jackson Irvine (Ross County), Jonny Hayes (Aberdeen), Kenny McLean (Aberdeen), Marvin Johnson (Motherwell), Leigh Griffiths (Celtic)
2016/17: Joe Lewis (Aberdeen), Callum Paterson (Hearts), Jozo Simunovic (Celtic), Joe Shaughnessy (St. Johnstone), Kieran Tierney (Celtic), Jonny Hayes (Aberdeen), Stuart Armstrong (Celtic), Adam Barton (Partick Thistle), Scott Sinclair (Celtic), Moussa Dembele (Celtic), Liam Boyce (Ross County)
2017/18: Jon McLaughlin (Hearts), James Tavernier (Rangers), Scott McKenna (Aberdeen), Christophe Berra (Hearts), Kieran Tierney (Celtic), Scott Brown (Celtic), Dylan McGeouch (Hibernian), John McGinn (Hibernian), James Forrest (Celtic), Daniel Candeias (Rangers), Kris Boyd (Kilmarnock)
2018/19: Allan McGregor (Rangers), James Tavernier (Rangers), Kristoffer Ajer (Celtic), Craig Halkett (Livingston), Kieran Tierney (Celtic), Callum McGregor (Celtic), David Turnbull (Motherwell), James Forrest (Celtic), Ryan Christie (Celtic), Ryan Kent (Rangers), Alfredo Morelos (Rangers)
2019/20: Mark Gillespie (Motherwell), James Tavernier (Rangers), Kristoffer Ajer (Celtic), Jon Guthrie (Livingston), Borna Barisic (Rangers), James Forrest (Celtic), Callum McGregor (Celtic), Ali McCann (St. Johnstone), Niall McGinn (Aberdeen), Odsonne Edouard (Celtic), Alfredo Morelos (Rangers)
2020/21: Benjamin Siegrist (Dundee United), James Tavernier (Rangers), Conor Goldson (Rangers), Jason Kerr (St. Johnstone), Borna Barisic (Rangers), Steven Davis (Rangers), Ali McCann (St. Johnstone), Ryan Kent (Rangers), David Turnbull (Celtic), Martin Boyle (Hibernian), Odsonne Edouard (Celtic)
2021/22: Craig Gordon (Hearts), James Tavernier (Rangers), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic), Ryan Edwards (Dundee United), Stephen Kingsley (Hearts), Callum McGregor (Celtic), Joe Aribo (Rangers), Regan Charles-Cook (Ross County), Barrie McKay (Hearts), Jota (Celtic), Alfredo Morelos (Rangers)
Onto this year's vintage. As per tradition, we'll start with the goalkeeper and back four. It's always a back four...
GOALKEEPER: TREVOR CARSON (ST. MIRREN)
Honourable mentions: Joe Hart (Celtic), Zander Clark (Heart of Midlothian)
Carson's previous four seasons? Three as Motherwell's backup keeper and one as Dundee United's backup keeper (before moving to Morecambe on loan). So yeah, I think we were all a bit surprised that the Northern Irish veteran has suddenly become amazing. Unquestionably the 35 year old has had the best season of his career.
Yes, Hart is surely the best goalkeeper in Scotland but its hard to judge the quality of a player who faces about one shot on target every three months. Clark's move to Hearts looked strange to me - was being number two to Craig Gordon for a year or two that good a career move? - but Gordon's injury has given him an opportunity that he has grabbed with both hands.
RIGHT-BACK: JAMES TAVERNIER (RANGERS)
Honourable mentions: Nicky Devlin (Livingston), Ryan Strain (St. Mirren)
That's just the six straight years that the Rangers captain has been in my Team of the Year, though this season it's as much down to a lack of competition as anything else. Still, sixteen league goals is a heck of a return and whilst Rangers have a few problems to deal with this summer he isn't one of them.
Devlin's consistency for Livingston has earned him a summer move to Aberdeen. Strain has had an excellent first season in Scotland, not least because of his skill with a dead ball. I'm still insisting that players have to have played at least 19 league games to qualify for this, so that rules out both Alistair Johnston and Max Johnston. Don't @ me...
LEFT-BACK: GREG TAYLOR (CELTIC)
Honourable mentions: Borna Barisic (Rangers), Alex Cochrane (Heart of Midlothian)
Taylor has just been so consistent. His development under Ange has been far beyond what I expected and he held off the challenge of new signing Alexandro Bernabei with ease.
Barisic is probably beginning to decline but is still better than most left-backs in this league, which isn't saying much. Cochrane was superb in the first half of the season but his form has dipped along with his teammates in 2023.
CENTRE-BACKS: CAMERON CARTER-VICKERS (CELTIC), CONOR GOLDSON (RANGERS)
Honourable mentions: Carl Starfelt (Celtic), Jack Fitzwater (Livingston), Kye Rowles (Heart of Midlothian), Ryan Porteous (Hibernian)
Carter-Vickers is far too good for this poxy league and Celtic will be hoping it takes him a few more seasons to realise that. It's remarkable just how much CCV and Goldson are missed when they're not there; the drop off to the backups at Rangers and Celtic is steep indeed.
If I'd been feeling more reckless I'd have picked Porteous on the back of his performances before he signed for Watford in January. Rowles was amazing before the World Cup but mediocre after. Starfelt was solid except when CCV wasn't alongside him (coincidence?). Fitzwater is the next Livi player who will go on to better things this summer. Oh, and Mattie Pollock just didn't play enough matches for consideration, but he was very good for Aberdeen.
The midfield and attack will appear at some point. Eventually.
Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly.
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