Who has been Scotland's top manager in season 2014/15?

John Hughes
John Hughes has taken Inverness into the Scottish Cup final

The best players of the season in Scotland have already been identified, but another accolade is still to be awarded. Who among the managers in Scotland has achieved the most from their own talents and the resources of their club?

Choices are always subjective, since Ronny Deila came to work in a new country when he joined Celtic last summer but he also has the benefit of a squad that is better stocked than those at the other clubs and a budget that far outstrips all rivals.

There are only three major domestic trophies to play for, so prizes alone are not a reliable guide. Here, then, are four potential candidates for manager of the year.

Derek McInnes (Aberdeen)

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes
Derek McInnes's Aberdeen side have amassed their most league points at this stage of the season since 1985

Last year's winner, having led the Pittodrie side to a League Cup triumph, McInnes has continued to improve his team. He signed shrewdly in the summer and has managed his squad with enough aplomb that the early European qualifying ties have not diminished the squad's energy or application through the season.

The three league defeats to Celtic will still rankle, but that is a measure of how far he has taken Aberdeen since for a spell they were considered title challengers.

It is the consistency of the side, its ability to overcome every other side in the top-flight with commanding performances, that have impressed - their last league defeat to a side other than Celtic was to Hamilton in October.

History weighs heavily on Aberdeen, but McInnes has risen to the challenge of restoring Aberdeen to a prominent place in Scottish football with a second-place finish already secured. There might have been another League Cup final, too, if Dundee United hadn't prevailed in the semi-final.

Ronny Deila (Celtic)

Ronny Deila
Ronny Deila has built a good rapport with the Celtic fans over the season

The title is expected every season, but there is still an achievement in the way that Ronny Deila has adapted to living and working in Scotland and imposed a different style of play on the team.

There was an initial difficult spell, and European displays were generally disappointing, but he has grown into the job in the same way that the side has grown comfortable with his tactics and methods.

Deila was unabashed in his pursuit of the treble, and responded with perspective when he chose not to dwell on the Josh Meekings handball that contributed to Inverness Caledonian Thistle's victory in the Scottish Cup semi-final.

Deila has personality, but his body of work this season suggests that there is also worth to his philosophy and ideals. Celtic need to improve further, but this was a debut season in Scottish football that suggested he is capable of developing his team while still being accomplished enough to guide Celtic to trophies.

John Hughes (Inverness Caledonian Thistle)

John Hughes
John Hughes has attracted plaudits for the entertaining football played by his team

An unheralded club and, at times, an unheralded manager. Hughes is an imposing figure in Scottish football, loud, animated, jocular, but he is proving again to be a wily manager.

He realised that emphasising the siege mentality at a club that is geographically remote from the Central Belt powerbases of Scottish football would be a powerful motivating factor for his players.

Even so, he insists upon a pleasing, attacking style of play that has delivered results this season.

Hughes took Inverness to the League Cup final last season, and now they are in the Scottish Cup final, an achievement that was in part down to a mistake by the match officials in the semi-final, but also to Hughes urging his players to keep attacking in extra-time.

It was typical of his approach that the two full-backs combined for the winning goal. He has brought better performances from his players, in particular Graeme Shinnie, and could yet be playing in European qualifiers next season if they finish third or win the cup.

Robbie Neilson (Hearts)

Robbie Neilson
Robbie Neilson's Hearts team have been the dominant force in the Championship this season

The Tynecastle side have been so dominant in the Championship this season that they have been overlooked in recent weeks. Yet the scale of Neilson's achievement is remarkable.

Heart of Midlothian Football Club plc only emerged from administration last summer, when Ann Budge's regime appointed Craig Levein as director of football and Neilson as head coach.

It was his first managerial job and the squad was still essentially made up of young players who came through the ranks.

Some shrewd signings later, Hearts went on a run that left the rest of the division in their wake. It was 24 January when they first lost a game in the league, the title was won in March, and their haul of 90 points with one game still remaining is a record.

Neilson has focused on the promotion campaign, so cup results have been poor, but he has proved to be an innovative young manager, utilising triple training sessions and implementing an impressive style of play while still generally fielding a young team.

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