Can you believe it? It’s that time of year again already when the Paisley Daily Express player of the year awards are dished out.
It’s been a remarkable season in so many ways, with the Buddies picking up a record top flight points tally since the SPL was formed in 1998 and finishing in seventh spot for the first time since 1989.
There have been plenty of standout performers for St Mirren this campaign and this year we’ve teamed up with Saints legends Steven Thompson and Tony Fitzpatrick to help you decide who deserves to lift the title.
The Buddies goalkeeper had some huge gloves to fill after fan favourite Vaclav Hladky left Paisley last summer.
Joining from Rangers on a free transfer, the Englishman has gone on to have a fine season between the sticks.
As well as making some truly stunning saves, his distribution and organisational skills have helped the club’s defence massively over the course of the sometimes turbulent campaign.
Thompson has been hugely impressed with the ease in which Alnwick has filled the void left by Hladky.
He said: “It was such an important position to fill and Jim has got it spot on.
“With Hladky leaving, it was always going to be difficult to replace that quality being lost. But I think Alnwick has been better than Hladky this season.
“His distribution is better and I feel he has more of a presence about him in the box. Coming for crosses, making big close-range saves, Alnwick has been incredible.
“The back four need a goalkeeper that organises them all and he communicates all the time to keep them in shape.
“Information is key as a defender and Alnwick has given St Mirren the platform to go and defend well and build from there.”
Fitzpatrick added: “Jak has had a massive influence on the whole club since coming in.
“You need top players to attract other top players, and he had the belief in Jim and the club to sign up and that helped us bring other great players in.
“He’s a fantastic keeper. His shot-stopping is incredible and so is his all-round game.”
Joining for free from Ross County last summer, the St Mirren defender has been a mainstay in the starting XI in his first season.
The hardworking fullback has been consistently solid, while also showing his versatility by playing on the right side of a back three over the course of the season.
Thompson believes the Staggies were crazy to let him leave, with the 26-year-old going on to be one of the Buddies most consistent performers this year.
He said: “One of the most remarkable things about it is that County released him. That doesn’t make much sense to me!
“He’s Mr Consistent. He’s never a 10 or a 5 out of 10, he’s always a 7 or an 8 and managers love that because they know they can rely on him.
“Jim’s rewarded him with a new contract and rightly so because he’s been excellent.
“What’s surprised me with him is his willingness to get forward when he gets the opportunity. His energy levels have been impressive and his versatility is one of his best assets too.”
Fitzpatrick added: “Marcus is a top-class player and he’s a leader of men.
“He’s been so consistent and has raised the standards.
“Every one of our defenders is a captain in their own right, they’ve all been captains of their old clubs before.
“I haven’t seen Marcus drop below par over the course of the entire season, which is remarkable really.”
Academy graduate Ethan Erhahon has been one of the biggest success stories in Paisley this season.
Having come through the ranks, this campaign has been his breakthrough at St Mirren.
He’s made 40 appearances for the Buddies, including featuring in both the League Cup and Scottish Cup semi-final clashes at Hampden.
The 20-year-old also scored, arguably, the club’s best goal of the season with an absolute howitzer at Pittodrie.
Fitzpatrick said: “Going back into his real position has really helped Ethan this season.
“He played left-back before for us but that wasn’t his natural position.
“The number of games he’s played this season at his age has been incredible and he’s getting better by the game.
“He’s got that ability to see one or two passes ahead and his close control is superb too. He’s strong for his age and he can get out of tight situations which is vital for a central midfielder.”
Thompson added: “When Ethan first broke into the team he found it difficult to establish himself in there.
“This season he’s shown a lot more maturity in his play and he’s been impressive. He’s very consistent for a young midfielder.
“He’s got a couple of goals too including probably the goal of the season up at Aberdeen. I never scored from that sort of range!
“He still has things to work on. I feel he has another level he can still kick on to, but he’s still so young.
“It’s easy to drop young players when they hit a rough patch but Jim stuck with him and now that he’s broken in and made the position his own he needs to go up another level again next season.”
The Irish midfielder enjoyed a decent start when he made the switch from Dundalk to Paisley in January last year.
But this season the 24-year-old has seriously kicked on and arguably been the club’s most influential player all season.
Not since Bobby McKean in the 1973/74 season has a St Mirren midfielder finished top of the goalscoring charts for the club.
Thanks, in part, to his incredible spot kick technique, the Saints star has bagged an incredible 17 goals which helped push the club up to their impressive seventh-spot finish.
He also scored two in St Mirren’s memorable 3-2 League Cup win over Rangers, as well as crucial winners over Motherwell and Ross County in the Premiership.
Fitzpatrick said: “How do you sum up a player like Jamie McGrath? He’s just a marvellous footballer.
“He’s going to be an international for Ireland, I’m certain of that. In tight areas he just goes by players like they’re not even there.
“His grace on the ball is a joy to watch and to score 17 goals from midfield is incredible.
“I know people are saying that half of them were penalties, but you still need to show quality to score them.
“His finish against Hamilton was superb and the way he kept his cool to control in the box and score against Rangers in the League Cup too was so classy.
“As well as being an incredible footballer he’s also got humility about him, which is a lovely characteristic to have.”
Thompson added: “I’d say McGrath is now St Mirren’s best player.
“A lot of his goal return has come from penalties, but he’s also scored some massive goals from open play too.
“It’s not just his goals though. He has great creativity, his close control is excellent and he can manipulate the ball under pressure.
“It doesn’t matter if he’s marked by two or three players, he still keeps the ball and keeps the team moving.
“He plays with his head up and produces some killer passes. He’s been an absolutely terrific signing for the club.”
Who is your St Mirren player of the year?
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