Head Bhoys behind Celtic title masterclass

ANY league championship success has to be achieved as a collective, a team, indeed, a squad.

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However every campaign has its stand-outs, and Celtic's 45th title win was no different.

Since they kicked of with a victory over Ross County at Celtic Park on August 3 until they crossed the winning line with Wednesday's defeat of Partick Thistle, six players have been the Head Bhoys.

FRASER FORSTER

Appearances 30

There have been two contrasting ways of looking at the giant keeper's contribution to this season.

The critics will argue that, behind such a solid defence and playing for a team which enjoys so much possession and territorial advantage, Forster has spent much of the campaign as a detached spectator.

However the better judges will point to the fact that despite these long spells of inactivity, when he has been called upon Forster has responded superbly.

So much so that, during this season, the 26-year-old achieved his career ambition of playing for England and is now pushing hard to be included in Roy Hodgson's squad for this summer's World Cup Finals.

Like last season, when he first broke through to the England squad, Forster has been most closely observed in the Champions League.

However in contrast to then, he has reserved his best achievements for the league - as the Scottish shut-out record of 1256 minutes he set in games between November 23 and February 25 confirms.

Forster has also surpassed his own club record for clean sheets in a league season, and is not planning to let his guard drop any time soon.

Virgil van dijk

Appearances 28

Seldom has a player made such an impact in is first season at Celtic - certainly not one who, until his arrival from Groningen, was virtually unknown to the majority of the Hoops support.

But after a shaky start, exacerbated by an injury during pre-season, Van Dijk quickly confirmed his credentials as the pacey, ball-playing central defender Neil Lennon wanted at the core of his team.

With the full-backs required to bomb forward at every given opportunity, having centre-backs who can get across the ground quickly is essential.

But, Van Dijk has shown he brings much more to the team than that.

His composure has even helped Efe Ambrose become more reliable, and his reading of the game belies his 22 years.

Van Dijk's comfort when in possession marks him as the epitome of the modern-day centre-back.

As a bonus, the laid-back Dutchman has also shown he knows how to finish off his mazy runs deep into enemy territory and that his set-piece ability is also on a par with anyone else in the side.

EMILIO IZAGUIRRE

Appearances 28

After a couple of indifferent seasons following the leg-break he suffered at Aberdeen in August 2011, everyone at Celtic has welcomed back the Izzy of old this term.

The Honduran's confidence and pace - which carried him to multiple Player of the Year awards in his debut campaign - has returned and his contribution to the impressive defensive record the team has enjoyed is acknowledged by team-mates and management alike.

Indeed, Lennon's biggest problem has been persuading the man who played such a big part in getting his country to this summer's World Cup Finals to take a rest.

The 27-year-old's perpetual motion has lifted him into the top spot for assists this season, which might be a shock to those who still reckon his final ball is not always the best.

Izaguirre is the epitome of what Lennon describes as "low maintenance", getting on with his job week in, week out and seldom, if ever, missing games through injury.

scott brown

Appearances 30

Any captain worth his salt - and armband - has to lead by example. Brown (left) has done that, and more, from the first whistle this season.

Finally free of the inhibiting injuries which plagued him in previous campaigns, the 28-year-old has enjoyed his best year in the Hoops.

Lennon believes it is only Brown's consistency which allows people to overlook his contribution.

But, the manager knows his real worth to the team, as do the men who play alongside him.

The drive and energy he brings to the Green Machine drags team-mates along with him.

And, his long-awaited maturity has been reflected in his disciplinary record this season, all the more impressive given that he has lost none of his combative nature and an indomitable will to win.

Brown has grown into the captaincy of the club, a role which was perhaps more of a burden than a boost when first given to him by Tony Mowbray.

That said, he remains a free spirit and an irrepressible joker and everyone at the club remains fair game.

CHARLIE MULGREW

Appearances 23

When Lennon brought Mulgrew back to the club as a Bosman in the summer of 2010, he described his first signing as cover for the left-back position.

Four years on, and after moving around several positions in defence and midfield, the 28-year-old has finally become a first-pick every week.

His partnership with Scott Brown in central midfield has provided the solid platform for others to get forward, a function the pair also fulfil with aplomb for the rejuvenated Scotland team.

Watching Mulgrew in action for club and country, he now has the look of a man who truly believes he has earned the right to be there.

He carries the aura of someone who knows he is good enough to be playing alongside players who cost much, much more and competing against some who have much, much bigger reputations.

Lennon has continued to utilise his adaptability, but Mulgrew is now too important to be considered a jack-of-all-trades.

This season has seen his emergence as a master of his craft and the man who was for so long admired for his set-piece deliveries is now rightly lauded for so much more.

KRIS COMMONS

Appearances 26

The old man of the team, but the player who has enjoyed a new lease of life since his best pal Gary Hooper headed south last summer.

Commons has stepped into the breach created by the departure of the top scorer for the last three seasons.

The 30-year-old's efforts have rocketed him to the unlikely position of No.1 in the SPFL scoring charts.

However, while he is on course to finish with the highest tally of his career, Commons' contribution to retaining the league title has not just been centred on his strike rate. He has acted as a very effective conduit between midfield and attack, his intelligent use of the ball and eye for a space or a pass setting him apart from most other players on the park.

Commons would be the first to concede those playing ahead of him have been vital in linking up and creating the opportunities for him to show his shooting accuracy.

But his form has made him a strong contender for the Player of the Year awards and the new contract he is seeking.

Football

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