The PFA Scotland Team of the Year for the 2023/24 campaign was released last week and some of the choices were, well, interesting.

Jack Butland, James Tavernier and John Lundstram all made it from Rangers, while Cameron-Carter Vickers, Liam Scales, Matt O’Riley and Callum McGregor represented Celtic. There were also places for Lawrence Shankland of Hearts, Aberdeen striker Bojan Miovski, Dundee’s Liverpool loanee Owen Beck and the transformed Theo Bair, who went from being a punchline at St Johnstone last term to one of the league’s most feared forwards with Motherwell.

Seven players out of the 11 being from the Old Firm isn’t that unusual, nor should it be. Fans of other clubs get annoyed by it, but they are the best two teams in the country and it’s only fair they get recognition for that.

But it has been a strange campaign where key players from both teams have endured lengthy periods of sub-par form or they have missed a big chunk through injury. Yet a couple of them have still been rewarded. 

Carter-Vickers is undoubtedly the best centre-back in the Scottish Premiership, but injury issues have limited him to only 1600 minutes (the equivalent of about half a season). Scales being selected alongside him was something that took even a few Celtic fans by surprise. The same goes for Rangers supporters when they saw Lundstram’s inclusion.

I’m not just limiting my criticism to the Old Firm inclusions. Bair’s dramatic improvement has been a terrific story but his entry feels very much like recency bias when he only netted twice in the first 19 games and still looks raw. 

Abdallah Sima of Rangers has been the better player but deservedly misses out due to being injured for three months, though he has roughly played the same amount of minutes as Carter-Vickers. Celtic’s forward trio of Kyogo Furuhashi, Daizen Maeda and Luis Palma can all feel unlucky not to have made it.

The players, who vote for the PFA Scotland awards, probably don’t put too much thought into their selections as a generalisation, and that’s understandable. You’re coming to the business end of the campaign, worrying about whether you can help your team survive relegation or reach the top six or qualify for Europe or win the title, and then a voting slip comes into your inbox. You’re probably not going to stress too much about whether Owen Beck had a better season than Alex Cochrane. That’s the job of football geeks like myself.

So let’s have fun this week and put forward some players who maybe should have got more consideration for the Team of the Year XI. Your fellow pros may not have recognised your undoubted quality, but I am here and I see you.

Frankie Kent (Hearts)
The biggest omission. On consistency alone, taking into account both form and availability, he has been the best centre-back in the league. The former Peterborough defender has had a transformative effect on Hearts’ fortunes after they leaked goals consistently last term, a flaw which cost them third place and a second successive campaign enjoying the fruits of group-stage football in Europe. Sure, he is a little limited as a footballer, but he makes the simple pass and doesn’t try to do what his talent won’t allow. And he does the main thing you want a defender to do, and that’s keep the ball out of the back of the net.

The Herald: Lewis Mayo in actionLewis Mayo in action (Image: SNS)

Lewis Mayo (Kilmarnock)
If you want to argue Scales over Mayo because playing at centre-back for Celtic, with all the attention and pressure that comes with it, is a tougher job then I wouldn’t necessarily disagree. But if we’re just looking at form and consistency, Mayo should have got the nod. For a young defender he has got such a calm and composed head on his shoulders. He barely makes mistakes and has come up with some dominant performances in big games, including wins against both Celtic and Rangers. 

The Herald:

Alex Gogic (St Mirren)
Another strong contender at centre-back who you could argue has played just as well as the two names above. I remain to be convinced how good a defender he is naturally, seeing him more as a midfielder who just happens to fit perfectly into St Mirren’s three-at-the-back system where he is given license to step out and almost act as a No.6 from the heart of the defence. But there’s no doubt he has been brilliant for the Buddies.

The Herald:

Dimitar Mitov (St Johnstone)
I don’t mind the selection of Butland. He has come into the Scottish Premiership in his first season and proved himself, both domestically and on the continent, to be the country’s best goalkeeper. But I often wonder about how deserving it is for an Old Firm keeper to get selected in this team. After all, they spend most of the campaign watching the rest of their team from 60 yards away knock the ball around. Butland has made some impressive and crucial saves, but I don’t think he’s made as many as St Johnstone’s custodian. Mitov has produced so many terrific stops over the course of the season and was the only good thing about St Johnstone during Steven MacLean’s disastrous and mercifully short tenure as permanent boss.

The Herald:

Blair Spittal (Motherwell)
If any Motherwell player deserved a place, rather than Bair, I think Spittal should have been that man. I’ve long been a Spittal sceptic and remain unsure how he’ll get on at Tynecastle next term, but I can’t deny that he’s been superb for the Steelmen. He has always had goals in him, he has always been a creative player, but finally he seems to be putting it altogether and playing well on a consistent basis.

The Herald: Hearts fell to a defeat at Ross County

Simon Murray (Ross County)
Another forward who I believe would be more deserving than Bair, but his peak form may just have arrived a little too late into the voting process, He has been brilliant this campaign and is the main reason, if not the only reason, County are still in with a chance of avoiding the play-offs. His running ability, both in terms of speed and endurance, has always been impressive, but he has now added the quality that was missing from his game at the highest level.