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May 9, 2010

SPL Team of the Season

The end of the Scottish Premier League season is once again upon us as Rangers took the trophy with ease, but who have been the star performers? Soccernet picks out the best XI from the SPL.

GOALKEEPER

JOHN RUDDY (Motherwell): The Everton recruit was one of the cornerstones of the Fir Park club's excellent season. A great shot-stopper and consistently assured at set pieces, Ruddy also transcended the difficulties posed by his home pitch, which at times resembled a map of the Moon. When injury prevented him from playing, 'Well always seemed more susceptible at the rear, which was an indication of his qualities.

DEFENDER

MADJID BOUGHERRA (Rangers): At times, his strutting bordered on arrogance, but the Algerian internationalist offered a masterclass in how to switch between defence and attack and was a constant threat to opponents on his marauding rampages forward. He slightly blotted his copy book in going AWOL after the African Cup of Nations, but otherwise put himself into the frame for a possible move to the English Premier League.

DEFENDER

ANDREAS HINKEL (Celtic): Parkhead was a difficult milieu for defenders during the last year, what with former manager Tony Mowbray getting rid of most of his options at the back. However, despite the problems posed by drastic clear-outs and injuries, the German was an effective performer, both in the solidity of his tackling, his poise under pressure, and his ability to turn adversity to advantage by surging forward.

DEFENDER

DAVID WEIR (Rangers): It didn't seem to matter whatever negative headlines surrounded affairs at Ibrox; week in, week out, their 39 year-old stalwart - who turns 40 on May 10 - provided a consummate illustration of professionalism in everything he did, while helping steer his team to another SPL title. Even Walter Smith, who only signed Weir on a short-term deal, was amazed at the contribution offered by his charge.

MIDFIELDER

MORGARO GOMIS (Dundee United): It was a season of three thirds for the Tannadice men, who started brightly under Craig Levein, stuttered with his departure, and then rallied as Peter Houston picked up the mantle. Gomis, a mercurial talent with the knack for drifting into space and generating momentum for those around him was a tirelessly reliable artist and helped his men book their passage to the Scottish Cup final.

MIDFIELDER

JIM O'BRIEN (Motherwell): The Fir Park men were one of the youngest squads in the SPL, but nobody would have guessed that from the maturity and resilience exhibited by individuals such as O'Brien, who was the pick of the bunch as Craig Brown orchestrated a revival in the ranks throughout the second half of the SPL season. The midfielder shone in the company of other emerging stars, such as Giles Coke and Tom Hateley.

MIDFIELDER

STEVEN DAVIS (Rangers): He was pretty much head and shoulders above the rest of the contenders in the race for the SPL's Player of the Year and one wonders how long the Irishman will remain in Scotland. Whether acting as the catalyst for those in front of him or scoring a number of important goals, Davis shone like a 18-carat diamond and his skill, allied to his consistency, made him a thorn in the flesh of his rivals.

MIDFIELDER

AIDEN McGEADY (Celtic): It might be a controversial selection, but, on his day, the Irish international can strike fear into the heart of any adversaries. The trouble for Celtic aficionados was that he went off the boil too frequently for comfort, but, ever since Neil Lennon replaced Mowbray, McGeady has regained his best form, which suggests the problem may have been more in how he was deployed than his own fault.

STRIKER

BILLY MEHMET (St Mirren): Here was proof that the best players can flourish even when they are involved in a relegation battle. Quite apart from his opportunism and creating of chances for those around him, Mehmet's relentless work ethic was one of the pivotal factors in the Saints reaching the CIS Insurance Cup final, where they were the better side for most of the proceedings, despite eventually losing to Rangers.

STRIKER

KENNY MILLER (Rangers): It was baffling as to why Kris Boyd rather than his forward partner, Miller, was chosen on the list of candidates for the SPL Player of the Year prize. For starters, even by Boyd's own admission, he went missing the longer the season progressed. His colleague, by comparison, ran his heart out, scored over 20 goals, never allowed opponents to settle, and deservedly won over any detractors at Ibrox.

STRIKER

JON DALY (Dundee United): The Tayside organisation were eventually forced to settle for third spot in the SPL, but not before they had illustrated that other Scottish clubs can harry and harass the Old Firm if they demonstrate the requisite belief and attacking flair. Daly was lacking in neither quality and his torrent of goals in 2010 helped ensure that Peter Houston's men enjoyed their best campaign in years.

MANAGER OF THE YEAR:

WALTER SMITH (Rangers): Some people used to argue that Smith could only succeed with pots of money at his disposal. That theory has been blown out of the water in the last two years while the septuagenarian has amassed a string of trophies with a workmanlike squad, which he has coaxed and cajoled to remarkable success. The fact he regained the SPL title without having a contract also testified to his passion for all things Ibrox.

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