The Scottish Premiership has ground to a halt for a fortnight as the country gets behind the national team’s quest to reach next year’s World Cup.
So what better time to sit back and take stock of what we’ve learned from the opening eight games of the top-flight season?
Who are key to their club’s success? Whose goal threat makes them a first pick? And whose tenacity and leadership qualities make them a fans’ favourite?
There’s no standout star here at Record Sport Online where it’s very much a team game. But we’ve banged our heads together to form a shortlist of the eight most influential players in the Premiership.
Yes it could be argued that runaway leaders Celtic could occupy at least half of the top eight places but this is in relative terms and looks at those players who are absolutely crucial to their team’s hopes.
Based on form at this stage of the season – this is what we came up with…
8 – Christophe Berra (Hearts)
Lots of contenders for the final spot in our top eight – but it’s Hearts defender Christophe Berra who sneaks in for his leadership qualities and no-nonsense defending.
The Jambos had been accused of having a soft centre last season – something Ian Cathro attempted to remedy by bringing former Tynecastle favourite Berra back to Gorgie from Ipswich. It was a bold signing and ultimately did nothing to save Cathro from the sack.
However, Berra’s qualities in the centre of defence are shining through once more and under the leadership of Craig Levein the Scotland international will be a key man as Hearts chase success this season.
7 – John McGinn (Hibs)
The Easter Road midfielder showed once again what a top performer he can be with his stunning double against Celtic in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Parkhead.
A £5million price tag was put on the 22-year-old’s head by Neil Lennon in the summer – and the Hibs boss reckons his star man is now worth “a lot more than that”.
McGinn’s threat in attack is matched by his tenacity in the tackle making him not just a key element in the Hibbys’ engine room but also a favourite with the Easter Road faithful. His two goals at Celtic last weekend only reinforced his worth.
6 – Michael O’Halloran (St Johnstone)
If ever a club appeared to suit a player then it’s St Johnstone and Michael O’Halloran. The Rangers loanee returned to McDiarmid Park on a temporary basis in the summer after a turbulent 18 months at Ibrox and immediately was back to his best.
Five goals in his first six matches for the Perth men – including stunning strikes against Kilmarnock and Motherwell – helped Saints lead the table for a while and led to the 26-year-old being named player of the month for August.
O’Halloran limped off against Dundee three weeks ago and the Saints have only picked up one win since as the wide man’s influence is sorely missed.
5 – Graeme Shinnie (Aberdeen)
The Dons have a wealth of talent in attacking areas with Stevie May, Ryan Christie, Adam Rooney, Greg Stewart, Scott Wright, Gary Mackay-Steven … the list is almost endless.
But while each and every one of those players have made an impact on one or several occasions this season nobody has stepped up more consistently than captain and fans’ favourite Graeme Shinnie.
Whether it’s playing as a holding midfielder or, like on Saturday, at left back, the former Inverness star leads by example with his tenacious, energetic displays driving on his team-mates.
An ever-present for the Dons this season, Shinnie also has a nose for goal as he showed in spectacular fashion against Apollon Limassol.
4 – Alfredo Morelos (Rangers)
Ask the question of which Rangers player has been most influential this season and you get a scattergun of suggestions. That may be down to the inconsistency of the Ibrox outfit and the raft of changes in personnel rung by Pedro Caixinha in the summer.
But one player who can rightly claim to have had a positive influence is Colombian striker Alfredo Morelos. Not just his goal threat – and he’s proved it with eight strikes this season – but the variety and importance of those goals.
The 21-year-old has shown his danger in the air as much as on the deck and has struck at vital times in victories over Ross County and Dundee as well as the draw at Partick Thistle. He is also the top flight’s top scorer with six league goals to his name.
3 – Leigh Griffiths (Celtic)
Eight goals for club and country so far this season prove the Scotland striker has lost none of his threat in front of goal. Griffiths has taken advantage of Moussa Dembele’s summer hamstring problems to establish himself as the number one striker at the champions.
Griffiths’ remains one of the deadliest finishers in the Scottish game although his importance to Celtic is somewhat diluted by the wealth of talent in reserve.
But when it comes to the big stage Brendan Rodgers has opted for the former Hibs man to lead the attack and he once again proved he was up to the task with the crucial opener in last week’s huge Champions League victory away to Anderlecht.
2 – Louis Moult (Motherwell)
Eighteen goals for Motherwell last season. Eighteen goals the year before that. Nine already from just 13 appearances in the current campaign. There is absolutely no doubting Louis Moult’s importance to Motherwell.
No wonder the Steelmen booted out a £400,000 offer from Aberdeen in the summer. Moult was sensational against the Dons in the Betfred Cup two weeks ago, bullying their backline, tirelessly running them ragged and, of course, scoring a double.
Few clubs in the top flight could replace the talent that Moult brings to the Well side. The Englishman is in his final season at Fir Park and whether he leaves in January or for nothing in the summer there is no denying he will be a major player until then.
1 – Scott Brown (Celtic)
If ever a player epitomised the beating heart of a team then it is Scott Brown for Celtic. Love him or hate him there’s no denying Broonie is the driving force behind everything that Brendan Rodgers’ side achieve and his influence was sorely missed in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Hibs.
Whether it’s careering into a full-blooded tackle to change the momentum of a match or a lung-bursting charge forward to support the frontline the skipper can never be accused of giving less than his all.
His influence has also been felt by the national team since he came out of retirement to help reignite Scotland’s World Cup qualifying bid and his absence for the crucial double header against Slovakia and Slovenia is a hammer blow to Gordon Strachan.
Rodgers is on record saying Brown could play in the top flight in England but there’s little chance of the 32-year-old ending his love-affair with the Hoops any time soon.
Without doubt he is the most influential player in the side which swept the boards in Scotland last season.
Who is the most influential player in the Scottish Premiership?
500+ VOTES SO FAR