If you’ve been following my Twitter feed, you’ll know how much I believe that the Scottish Championship, League One and League Two are breeding grounds for excitement.
Not only that, but if you’ve got a scouting network willing to look through those leagues, the lower divisions can be a breeding ground for gems.
Today we are going to look at five players, currently doing bits in the Championship and League One (Although, we searched League Two as well) who could potentially make the step up to the Premiership.
Leigh Griffiths began his career at Livingston and has gone on to play a massive part for Celtic in recent years. Griffiths has also racked up 19 caps for Scotland (Which he won’t be adding to during this international break, at least).
He’s not alone in the Premiership as a shining light of how time in the lower leagues can produce a Premiership level player. Current Hibernian player (and potentially soon an Australia cap) Martin Boyle began his career with Montrose. Plying his trade in what is now League Two, Boyle racked up 36 goals in all competitions over four seasons at Links Park. He’s now an integral part of Neil Lennon’s side.
So, who could be the next Leigh Griffiths or Martin Boyle? Or maybe just the next Stephen Dobbie or Rory McAlister, bullying the lower leagues opposition (We’ve left these two out).
Let’s just get him out the way early. Shankland has scored 18 goals in 15 appearances this season. Sensational.
Shankland was lethal last season too, netting 26 times in League One. This summer, after a storming League Cup group stage under Ian McCall, Shankland was linked with moves to both Hearts and Dundee and Ayr United apparently turned down a 150 thousand pound offer from an unnamed English club.
Shankland could have been on this list back in 12/13. Then playing for Queen’s Park in League Two, he struck 14 goals in all competitions. That earned Shankland a move to Premiership Aberdeen, but despite dominating in the developmental league for the Dons, he never broke into Derek Mcinnes’s plans.
Shankland is out of contract in the summer, so it’s likely he’ll leave Ayr United for free. However, not selling him in the summer might be worth it for United. They currently sit top of the Championship and Shankland is a big, if not biggest, part of that.
Dropping down to League One now, Kyle Turner is maybe a name you’ve not heard of, but the midfielder has certainly got scouts attention.
At just 20 years old, Turner has already made 91 appearances for Stranraer. 66 of those have come at League One level and he’s scored 12 goals, while assisting another 10 in all competitions.
Turner is versatile, playing anywhere across the midfield and clearly has some goals in his game. His form is even more impressive considering the fact Stranraer sit around about mid-way in the League. They finished literally middle of the league –fifth – and just outside of the playoff spots last season, and they currently occupy that spot after nine games this season.
Turner has been spotted by many scouts in his short time in professional football. The 20 year old has had trials with Aberdeen and English Championship side West Brom. While neither of those trials resulted in full time deals, Turner certainly didn’t get the opportunity without possessing natural talent and it may be just a matter of time before someone in a higher division does pick him up.
The first defender on the list, this pick was recommended by Twitter user @Wieorugr
22 year old Ryan Williamson played 46 times across all competitions for Dunfermline last season. Most of these appearances were at right-back, although Williamson has shown this season that he has the ability to play on the wing.
Dunfermline reached the Championship playoffs last season, almost reaching the Premiership in the process. Williamson was clearly a key part of this just looking at his appearances, but 10 assists from right back is also fairly influential.
Formerly a youth player at Celtic, Williamson will be wanting another taste at the highest level of Scottish football. There is still every chance in a competitive Championship that Williamson could win promotion with his current side, but with his deal up this summer, it would not be surprising to see some Premiership sides sniffing around – Hibs were rumoured to be interested last summer.
Released by Partick Thistle this summer, Nisbet has previously made 17 appearances in the Premiership – although he’s not scored.
Nisbet has also had some slightly uninspiring loan spells while at Thistle, so when he was released this summer, it maybe wasn’t a massive surprise. He’s hit the ground running in League One this season though, and despite a managerial change, he’s leading Raith Rovers title challenge.
Currently the top scorer in the league, Nisbet has averaged a goal a game with nine goals thus far. He’s also notched a goal in each of the cup competitions he’s played in this season – The League Cup and Challenge Cup.
Raith could find themselves back in the Championship next season, and if they don’t, Nisbet still might. It appears the 21 year old only signed a one year deal and if he does play a league higher next season, replicating his form in the Championship could lead to a Shankland esc story. Potentially just a late bloomer?
Back to Ayr United again, some may have been surprised when right back Liam Smith was released by Hearts this summer.
Having played on loan with St Mirren last year, 22 year old Smith may have felt he’d impressed enough in Paisley to earn a chance at his parent club or at least somewhere higher up than a recently promoted Ayr United.
Smith’s manager Ian McCall may have been the most surprised by the capture. He’s apparently told Sportsound pundits how he’s shocked Smith isn’t playing at a higher level and if anyone is receiving almost as much praise as Lawrence Shankland at Somerset Park this season, it might be this lad.
Other than the League Cup trashing at the hands of Rangers at Ibrox, Smith has not been involved in an Ayr United game thus far that they didn’t win – he’s shown his ability to fill in at left back too.
Was Smith’s release from Hearts potentially a bit premature?
That’s our lower league players who could make an impact in the Scottish Premiership. There is plenty more to consider, but let us know, who do you feel can make the step up?