SPFL: 5 Players to Watch in 2014

Sean Martin@@smarti51Contributor IFebruary 2, 2014

SPFL: 5 Players to Watch in 2014

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    A lot can happen in a year. Previously unheard of youngsters can surge to prominence just as quickly as established stars begin to fizzle out.

    But just as often, players who could otherwise be described as "under the radar" simply continue to perform at a good level without ever really gaining significant recognition.

    While the Scottish game may well be viewed as a decaying entityand in some respects this stance is justifiedthe Premiership is still home to some first-rate talent.

    Not content with simply choosing the best players in the league, we prefer to consider lesser-known individuals, particularly important team players and those who offer their side that something different.

    With that in mind, a plethora of notable playersundoubtedly among the elite of the Scottish gameare excluded.

    Standouts such as Kris Commons, Fraser Forster and Kris Boyd are omitted while future stars such as Dundee United's Ryan Gauld, Gary Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong, as well as St. Johnstone's Stevie May have been passed over.

    The reasons for this are variedBoyd's best days are behind him despite good form this season. Commons and Forster have nothing left to prove in the domestic game while youngsters such as Gauld, May and Armstrong are already widely earmarked for big things in 2014.

    Here, we take a look at five Scottish Premiership players who we feel could experience a breakout year during 2014.

    Statistics via Transfermarkt & Soccerbase

Danny Wilson

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    At just 22 years old, centre-back Danny Wilson has already turned out for Rangers, Liverpool, Blackpool, Bristol City and Hearts.

    He was made captain of the latter this seasonwhich they started with a 15-point deduction after entering administrationand has assumed that responsibility commendably.

    Leading the Jambos from the back, the youngster is once again beginning to show the talent which led Walter Smith to hand him a first-team berth at Ibrox and Liverpool to part with over £2 million for him back in 2010.

    Further improvement in his positioning, which can be suspect at times, and a consistent 2014 could mean a return to the Scotland national team may not be too far away.

Stefan Johansen

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    Composed, energetic and technically sound, Stefan Johansen could not have made a better first impression in Scottish football as he won man of the match on his debut for Celtic.

    Admittedly, St. Mirren at Parkhead is hardly the toughest of tests, but nonetheless, the Norway international won himself many admirers on Sunday.

    Of course, first impressions can be deceiving: Henrik Larsson would not have played the second of his 315 Celtic matches had his disastrous debut been used to judge his ability.

    But Johansen could offer the Hoops something they lack in midfield at times: the ability to retain possession effectively.

    The real test of that will come in European competition later in the year, so watch this space.

Iain Vigurs

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    The name Iain Vigurs does not immediately spring to mind when creativity is mentioned.

    However, the winger has become one of Scottish football's most potent creative outlets since arriving back at the top table with Ross County in 2012.

    Nine goals and 14 assists during the Staggies' stellar debut season in the Premiership led Stuart McCall and Motherwell to come calling last summer.

    He started the season slowly for the Steelmen, but with each passing month, McCall's investment has looked more and more to be a shrewd one.

    After a blistering start to 2014, and with eight assists to his name already this campaign, don't bet against Vigurs' name having become synonymous with creativity within the Scottish game a year from now.

Aaron Doran

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    Like Vigurs, Inverness winger Aaron Doran is a criminally underrated provider of goals.

    The Irishman's form will be central to any success new Jags manager John Hughes will taste at the helm of the Highland clubstarting with the League Cup final against Aberdeen on March 16.

    Doran began 2014 with a rare goal on New Year's Day. Since then, his form has been poor by his own standards, but it should prove no more than a temporary blip for one of the Scottish Premiership's classiest players. 

Leigh Griffiths

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    Celtic's newest recruit certainly divides opinion.

    Question marks may linger over his off-field attitude, but Leigh Griffiths has never been short of self-belief or talent on the pitch.

    Ultimately, the best way he can reply to the doubters is through his goalscoring ability.

    As long as he manages to keep his off-field issues to a minimum, the 23-year-old should be able to avoid becoming another Derek Riordan.

    His 28-goal haul may have propelled Hibs to league safety and the Scottish Cup final last season, but 2014 could be the year that truly makes Griffiths.