This year’s list was tricky for two reasons. Firstly, the majority of centre-backs on the two most high-profile clubs in the country are what you would describe as “much-maligned”. The difficulty is trying to decipher whether these are poor central defenders, or whether they’re held to a higher standard than the rest of the league and mistakes are magnified as a result.
And if they were in another team in the league, maybe they would be perceived differently – Efe Ambrose being the most obvious example of this.
Secondly, there’s the debate around what tools you want in a centre-back first and foremost. Is it purely about their defensive capabilities? Or should those who can function as auxiliary midfielders be given greater respect as a result, seeing as that’s the way of the world in modern football. Anyway, after much debate and deliberation, we’ve managed to put together this top 12. If you want to recall last season’s elite dozen, you can find that here.•
Terrace Scottish Football Podcast where the top 12 was debated.12. Darren McGregor (Hibs)We begin our list with a player who’s flown a little under the radar this term, even within the confines of his own club. Hibs fans may sing about Darren McGregor – he, the class defender who never gives the ball awaaaaaaaaaay – but it’s been Paul Hanlon and Efe Ambrose (more on them later) who’ve been taking the lion’s share of plaudits.
McGregor himself is having a fine season after moving up from the Championship, where he starred for Hibs in their promotion-clinching campaign. He’s certainly showed Rangers they were wrong for releasing him before embarking on their own second-tier title-winning adventure, as he’s looked more comfortable at the highest level than either Rob Kiernan or Danny Wilson.
Still, McGregor has been used to proving people wrong. Throughout his career he’s often been deployed at right-back or at the base of midfield. This has partly been down to his comfort on the football, though you can’t help but feel managers have been put off by his lack of height, standing at around 6ft. He’s deceptively authoritative, capable of both out-muscling and leaping over attackers bigger than he is.Best moment: Despite missing over three months with injury, McGregor returned to the side and put in a confident display as Hibs defeated Partick Thistle 1-0 at Firhill.Stats: McGregor is fifth in the league for winning his aerial duels with a 73.49 per cent success rate. 11. Dedryck Boyata (Celtic)Last season we put the Belgian in at a tentative eighth place. The reason we didn’t rank him higher was because, while he’d excelled under Brendan Rodgers for a few months, there was no doubt he was a complete bombscare, to borrow common Scottish football parlance, the season prior. Basically, we needed a bigger sample size to prove his reliability.As you can probably tell from the fact he’s dropped three places instead of rising up the table, he’s not done that in the time since.