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Scottish Premier League: Power Ranking the SPL's 7 Most Valuable Players

Paul MullaneyContributor IINovember 10, 2012

Scottish Premier League: Power Ranking the SPL's 7 Most Valuable Players

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    'The end for Scottish football'. Everywhere you turned during the summer you found pundits, journalists and 'experts' referring to this or making some similar prophecy of doom for football in Scotland.

    It hasn't quite turned out that way so far.

    With the league more open than it's been for years and with Celtic performing above all expectations in the Champions League, there are a few reasons for fans in Scotland to be cautiously optimistic about the state of their game.

    Here we take a look at seven of the SPL's hottest prospects, players who are near enough certain to leave in the not so distant future, but who for the minute are lighting up the league.

Nial McGinn: Aberdeen

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    In a quite unbelievable start to the season, McGinn has scored 7 goals for Aberdeen, and has been perhaps the biggest reason for their rise to the upper reaches of the SPL table.

    Whether or not Aberdeen can mount a serious challenge to Celtic over the course of the campaign remains to be seen but if McGinn is able to keep up his goalscoring, anything is possible.

    A winger with Celtic, who brought him to the SPL, he has since been converted into more of a central player by Craig Brown, and the change has seen him improve significantly

    His goal in Northern Ireland's 1-1 draw away in Portugal won't have gone unnoticed either.

Leigh Griffiths: Hibernian

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    A hot prospect ever since he made his debut in the game with Livingston aged just 16, Griffiths found himself in England at Wolves but struggled to make much of an impact south of the border.

    Since returning north to play for his boyhood team Hibernian, Griffiths has continued to improve as a player, and currently leads the league with 11 goals after 12 games.

    Unfortunately, the striker has an explosive temper to match his explosive shooting and will need to keep this in check if he wants to avoid going the same way as a former Easter Road favourite like Derek Riordan.

Johnny Russell: Dundee United

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    In some ways quite a similar player to Griffiths, and often his striker partner with the Scotland Under 21 side, Russell is a striker whose movement, pace and finishing set him apart.

    Replacing David Goodwillie might have seemed like a difficult task but those who had seen Russell in his previous appearances would have known he was up to the challenge and he wasted no time in making United supporters forget all about his predecessor.

    In time Russell will doubtless move on elsewhere, but as is the case with the other players on this list, more time spent playing first team football in the SPL might serve him better than warming the bench in the English Premier League or the Championship.

Tony Watt: Celtic

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    His stock may have risen exponentially after the world saw his game winning goal on Wednesday in Celtic's 2-1 win over Barcelona but anyone who'd seen Watt before this game will have known they were watching something special.

    With a level of composure and awareness quite uncanny for a player just 18 years old and who not so long ago was playing for Airdrie United, it's highly unlikely that will be the only time we'll see Tony Watt set the Champions League alight.

Gary Mackay-Steven: Dundee United

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    It's rare to see players with Gary Mackay-Steven's level of skill and flair. It's even rarer to see such players playing in the SPL, but, hard as it may be to believe, the Dundee United winger is in fact Scottish and it's surely only a matter of time before he gets his chance in the national team.

    Blessed with an extraordinary amount of talent, Mackay-Steven tries moves and tricks other players can only dream of and what's impressive is that he more often than not is able to pull them off.

    Injuries have hampered his progression after a strong start to the season, including an impressive display against Dinamo Moscow in the home leg of United's Europa League tie but once he regains full fitness, he'll be back to terrorising full backs up and down the country.

Fraser Forster: Celtic

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    With his route to the first team at Newcastle barred first by Shay Given and then by Tim Krul, Forster had little choice but to seek an opportunity to play elsewhere and joined Celtic on loan in 2010 before making the move permanent in the summer of 2012.

    After a solid if unspectacular start to his career at Parkhead, Forster has really began to impress, particularly in the Champions League where he has quickly adapted to the standard.

    He's since been called into the England squad, something which has been notoriously difficult for players based north of the border, and after his incredible display against Barcelona midweek, Joe Hart might just be looking over his shoulder. Finally he has a bit of competition.

Victor Wanyama: Celtic

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    Victor Wanyama is the archetypal all-round modern midfielder. Strong, good in possession, great at winning it back and with an eye for goal, the Kenyan is a cut above when it comes to the SPL and it won't be long until he's got a chance to prove himself elsewhere.

    Rumours abound that top clubs from around Europe are keeping a keen eye on his progress and regardless of how much Celtic might want to keep him, Wanyama will have his eyes set on a big move, if not in January then next August.

    Like so many young players though, Wanyama might be better served showing a little patience when it comes to looking for a move and instead focus on continuing to improve his game at Celtic—especially if this means the chance to play regular Champions League football.

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