Scottish Premiership: Top 5 SPFL Players Set to Move to More Powerful Leagues

Sean Martin@@smarti51Contributor IOctober 27, 2013

Scottish Premiership: Top 5 SPFL Players Set to Move to More Powerful Leagues

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    While the Scottish game is often looked upon as being poor in quality, some of its alumni have gone on to more lauded leagues like the English Premier and earned plaudits they otherwise would not have received.

    It is, then, a platform for players to prove their talent and win moves to higher quality leagues.

    This summer saw Celtic players Victor Wanyama and Gary Hooper move to Southampton and Norwich City respectively. While that is widely regarded as a step down in terms of club size—indeed they sacrificed Champions League football as a consequence—the league to which they've moved is undoubtedly of better quality than the one they left.

    Players like Robert Snodgrass and Kevin McNaughton left the Scottish game to end up in the English top division, albeit via moves to Championship clubs. Similarly, Steven Fletcher's move from Hibernian to Burnley in 2010 kick-started a series of three transfers in four years for him which now has him as Sunderland's main goal threat.

    Who will be the next players to follow Wanyama, Fletcher, Snodgrass and co.?

    Here, we take a look at the squads in the Scottish Premiership and determine five players from the league who are likely to move on to bigger stages in the near future.

5: Stevie May (St Johnstone)

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    Position: Striker

    Age: 20

    National side: Scotland

    Caps: Uncapped (4 under-21 caps, 1 goal)

    Previous permanent club(s): None

    This season: 8 goals, 4 assists (15 games)

    Local lad Stevie May is lighting up the Scottish Premiership this season.

    Sporting a ponytail and recording both goals and assists, Saints fans seem to have found the Perth Baggio.

    After impressing over the past two seasons while on loan at Hamilton and Alloa, where he scored a combined 45 goals in 57 matches, the forward has returned to Perth, scoring seven and laying-on four in his 14 games this term.

    Despite recently agreeing a contract extension, continued good form could see the 20-year-old move on to pastures new come next summer

4: Billy McKay (Inverness Caledonian Thistle)

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    Position: Striker

    Age: 25

    National side: Northern Ireland

    Caps: 3 (0 goals)

    Previous permanent club(s): Leicester City, Northampton Town

    This season: 9 goals, 1 assist (11 games)

    English-born Northern Ireland international Billy McKay has been on fire for Inverness for over a year now.

    The forward scored 27 goals in season 2012/13, including an astonishing run of 12 goals in seven games over the course of just one month (24 November-22 December 2012).

    He has continued his scoring exploits so far this season, with nine from his 11 games, earning him the SPFL Player of the Month award for September. 

    Inverness manager Terry Butcher won't want to see him depart, not least midway through a season, but with rumoured interest from the likes of Sheffield United and Derby County, it will be hard to persuade him to stay.

3: Gary Mackay-Steven (Dundee Utd)

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    Position: Left winger

    Age: 23

    National side: Scotland

    Caps: Uncapped (3 under-21 caps, 1 goal)

    Previous permanent club(s): Liverpool, Airdrie Utd

    This season: 2 goals, 1 assist (10 games)

    Many are surprised Gary Mackay-Steven is still at Dundee United this season.

    The little winger has impressed, well, everyone over the last three seasons with his extraordinary dribbling ability, drawing interest from Celtic last year, Blackburn Rovers and Leeds United in the summer. 

    He already has experience of English football, albeit at youth level. Mackay-Steven spent two years with Liverpool's youth team from 2007-2009 before being let go after injury.

    It is only a matter of time before he is entertaining fans outside of Scotland. 

2: Adam Matthews (Celtic)

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    Position: Right-back

    Age: 21

    National side: Wales

    Caps: 12 (0 goals)

    Previous permanent club(s): Cardiff City

    This season: 1 goal, 1 assist (14 games)

    At just 21 years of age Adam Matthews has already moved countries, played almost 150 competitive club matches, played in the Champions League, beaten Barcelona, captained Celtic, represented Wales 12 times and been named one of In Bed With Maradona's '100 for 2013' list of the best young footballers today.

    He can also sing a bit, but this is about his footballing ability.

    It was a brave decision to swap Cardiff for Celtic at 19, but Matthews has become a mainstay in the Hoops team and one of Neil Lennon's most trusted players.

    How long Celtic can hold on to the young right-back is up for debate. 

    He is currently out injured for the next ten weeks after undergoing shoulder surgery recently following an injury against Motherwell

    That is unlikely to deter his potential suitors, however, who have included the likes of Liverpool, Fulham and Everton over the past two seasons.

1: Fraser Forster (Celtic)

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    Position: Goalkeeper

    Age: 25

    National side: England

    Caps: Uncapped

    Previous permanent club(s): Newcastle Utd

    This season: 8 clean sheets (17 games)

    Fraser Forster has been at Celtic for three seasons now. That time can be split roughly down the middle.

    When he arrived on loan from Newcastle United in August 2010, the goalkeeper performed with great potential but too many flaws, notably his susceptibility at corners and struggle to command his area (only compounded by his 6' 7" inch frame).

    Still, he was young, and there was time for him to learn. He'd even topped a clean sheet record previously held by Celtic icon, Artur Boruc.

    His overall performances changed in style. He won the game with a last-minute penalty save at home to Hearts in December 2011, and has barely put a hand wrong since.

    The confidence boost the Hearts save gave him was apparent to all and his game has gone from strength to strength ever since, culminating in fantastic performances against Barcelona in the Champions League two seasons in a row.

    Despite having a genuine claim to at least be capped by England now, Roy Hodgson continues to favour Manchester City goalkeeper, Joe Hart.

    Nevertheless, his rumoured suitors (which apparently include the likes of Barcelona, Benfica and Manchester United) are not put off by this lack of selection at international level, leading Neil Lennon to admit recently that it would be near-impossible to keep Forster in Glasgow much longer.

Honourable Mentions

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    This slide is in recognition of those who didn't make the cut but deserve to be mentioned.

    First up is perhaps an obvious one: Celtic's James Forrest. The 21-year-old winger has faced injury lay-offs over the past year, but returned recently with the winning goal against Hibernian in the Scottish Premiership and the first in a 2-1 victory over Ajax in the Champions League. Tottenham Hotspur were rumoured to be interested in 2011, when he first broke into the team.

    Scotland under-21 captain Stuart Armstrong also deserves a mention. The midfielder is approaching his 100th appearance for Dundee United at only 21 years old and won the Scottish Football Writers' Association Young Player of the Year award last season. He has recently stated he is in no rush to move away from Tannadice.

    Not strictly playing in the Scottish Premiership, but Greenock Morton's Fouad 'Freddy' Bachirou is a tidy holding midfielder who shone in the sides recent 1-0 away victory over Celtic. The ex-Paris Saint-Germain youth has entered his third year with the Cappielow side and, being just 23 and with Morton rooted to the bottom of the Scottish Championship, could easily handle a higher quality league.

    Ryan Gauld, at 17 years old, has become a regular in the Dundee United team this season under Jackie McNamara. The attacking midfielder has been christened the 'Baby Messi', interested Sunderland and - reportedly - been the subject of a scouting mission by Real Madrid. The best news for Arabs fans, though, is his January-signed contract extension until 2016.