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4 Dundee United player of the year candidates as event returns following relegation axe

Courier Sports casts an eye over the Tangerines quartet who could stake a claim for the top prize.

(Left to right) Kevin Holt, Louis Moult, Craig Sibbald and Kai Fotheringham in action for Dundee United
Are (left-to-right) Holt, Moult, Sibbald and Fotheringham United's top player of the year candidates? Images: SNS

Dundee United’s player of the year awards will soon return.

The ceremony was shelved last term after United suffered an ignominious relegation to the Championship.

Rather understandably, no-one of a United persuasion felt much like celebrating and dishing out gongs in the aftermath of a horror campaign across the board.

However, with the Tangerines on the cusp of an immediate return to the Premiership, the event has been scheduled for May 5 and, barring an inconceivable collapse, it will be a more festive affair.

Dundee United players celebrate
United hope to have plenty to celebrate next month. Image: SNS.

Below, Courier Sport analyses who is likely to be in the running for the top prize at Dundee’s Apex Hotel.

Craig Sibbald

If United had gone ahead with their awards night last year – and heaven knows they were right not to – then Sibbald would surely have claimed the recognition; one man attempting to hold together an imbalanced, ineffective midfield.

Only Aziz Behich and Steven Fletcher would have been in the conversation, but it is hard to make a case that either were better than the former Falkirk and Livingston man.

A delighted Craig Sibbald after making it 5-0 to Dundee United
Craig Sibbald has found the net four times this season. Image: SNS

And Sibbald has arguably been United’s most consistent performer this term, too.

His engine room partnership with Ross Docherty – whose time spent on the sidelines is the only reason he is not cited among these contenders – has been the best in the Championship by a considerable distance.

When they play together, United’s league win percentage stands at 74%.

Sibbald has racked up six goal contributions, rippling the net four times and teeing up another two.

During Docherty’s frustrating period battling calf, groin, and hamstring niggles, Sibbald has remained solid, and adapted his game at times, while alongside the likes of Declan Glass and Jordan Tillson.

Craig Sibbald celebrates his goal for Dundee United against Partick Thistle.
Craig Sibbald has been the picture of consistency this season. Image: SNS

With an option to extend his contract beyond its summer expiry due to the number of games he has played this season, it will surely suit all parties for him to stick around.

Louis Moult

“I think I have proved this season that there’s plenty of life left in the old dog.”

Those were the words of Louis Moult on March 25, fresh from scoring a staggering effort from the half-way line against Inverness – a strike that could very well be awarded goal of the season for its technique and audacity.

Louis Moult wheels away in celebration
Louis Moult wheels away in celebration. Image: SNS

Moult is currently enjoying a red-hot streak of 11 goals in 15 games, taking his tally to 19 for the campaign.

Should he find the net once in United’s final three fixtures, then the ex-Motherwell hero will hit the 20-mark for the first time in his career – a wonderful achievement given his injury woes of recent years.

Quite aside from his well-established finishing prowess, Moult’s link-up play has been superb, dovetailing brilliantly with Tony Watt and wingers Kai Fotheringham and Glenn Middleton.

Another player who is out of contract in the coming weeks, but – with 39 Premiership goals on his resumé – will surely be afforded the opportunity to lead the line for the Terrors in the top-flight.

Kevin Holt

Back on October 24, Declan Gallagher quipped, “I’ve never seen a guy win player of the year in October in my life — but Kevin Holt is giving that a good run”.

That came after Holt had become the first United centre-back in history to score a competitive hat-trick, putting Partick Thistle to the sword.

Kevin Holt of Dundee United with the match ball after scoring a hat-trick against Partick Thistle
Kevin Holt scored a hat-trick against Partick Thistle in a 5-0 win. Image: SNS

Allied with a rock-solid partnership with Gallagher, the former Dundee and Queen of the South defender was a revelation during the first part of the campaign.

Recency bias can be a natural factor when assessing the standout performers, but Holt’s efforts should not be discounted despite a couple of wobbles in 2024 and the fact injury has ended his season prematurely.

In his first 11 Championship games, he contributed to seven clean sheets. For a period, United boasted the best defence in British league football, and had one of the best away records in Europe.

Combined with his penchant for an important goal – he is the Tangerines’ fourth-most prolific scorer with eight – Holt deserves to be in the conversation, albeit unlikely to be favourite.

Kai Fotheringham

If an attacker’s job is all about output, then Kai Fotheringham cannot be ignored.

With an uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time, the Tannadice academy graduate has scored 14 times and teed up another seven strikes this season.

Kai Fotheringham took his goal tally to 14 for the season.
Fotheringham took his goal tally to 14 for the season against Queen;’s Park recently. Image: SNS

Twenty-one goal contributions in 38 appearances – in what, it should be remembered, is Fotheringham’s first full season as a bone fide United first-team regular – is a laudable tally.

By his own admission, Fotheringham could affect games on a more consistent basis; be more involved during lulls. That is an issue that afflicts many wingers and, as he matures and develops, will no doubt be addressed.

As such, he is more likely to be named young player of the year (indeed, he would seem a shoo-in for that award).

Regardless, it has been a fine campaign for Fotheringham AND his fellow wide man Glenn Middleton, who has racked up 19 goal contributions to date and should also be recognised.