Saturday, 1 August 2015

There's No Mistake, I Smell That Smell

Gadzooks! It's almost time for the season to start again (although with the European "Under 21" Championship, the Copa America and an Eastern European pre-season adventure with my beloved Staggies, it doesn't much feel like I've had a break). With that in mind, here's what to expect (or not) in the SPFL Premiership this season (also, if you want some EPL fantasy football action, join our free league at with code 738646-183823):

Celtic will win the thing. There, I said it

Aberdeen will once again finish 2nd, quite some way ahead of the rest but still some way off Celtic. Manager Derek McInnes didn't really need to change a successful team much, with Danny Ward and Graeme Shinnie providing the only necessary upgrades at goalkeeper and left-back respectively, and Paul Quinn (which incidentally means they signed the captains of both Inverness CT and Ross County) useful cover across the back line

Next up could well be St Johnstone. There may be more exciting teams in the league than Tommy Wright's battle-hardened bunch of thirtysomethings but they're a well-organised, disciplined mob with some decent wingers and, in the cumbersome but effective John Sutton, a proven goalscorer at this level. Young keeper Zander Clark impressed on loan at Queen of the South last season, and will provide genuine competition for regular number 1 Alan Mannus

One of those more exciting teams could be Dundee United, who were quite the Jekyll and Hyde proposition last season- spellbinding at times in the first half of the season, but utterly recalcitrant from January onwards, Jackie McNamara undoubtedly has some talented youngsters to develop before selling them to Celtic (taking a cut for himself in the process), but serious questions remain over them as a defensive unit (somewhat bizarre given McNamara's playing career as a sturdy full-back). That cost them last season and could do so again

Next up- don't be surprised if Ross County make an appearance in the top 6. Since arriving at the Global Energy For Make Benefit Glorious Republic of Ross-Shire Stadium, manager Jim McIntyre has transformed the Staggies into a direct, adventurous outfit. He has stuck with the County tradition of signing half a new team each transfer window, with this summer's most noteworthy additions being the impossibly blonde centre-back (and new captain) Andrew Davies, the Brobdingnagian centre-forward Brian Graham, the magnificent flowing locks of all-action Aussie Jackson Irvine, and Amy MacDonald's boyfriend

Where, you, ask, does that leave Hearts? One has to wonder, with a squad comprising many of the same players Gary Locke led to relegation 2 seasons ago, just how good Robbie Neilson's side really are, given how even a wretched Motherwell side comfortably dispatched with Rangers (2012-) to demonstrate the significant gulf between the Premiership and the Championship, and how the Jambos themselves were gubbed in both cup competitions by Celtic last season. A top 6 finish should be theirs, but that could be as far as they get in their first season back in the top flight

It'll be a close run thing with the 2 (or maybe even 3) teams directly above them, but Dundee could be the ones to narrowly miss out on a top 6 place. Manager Paul Hartley has again raided the lower leagues and has made some astute signings- Kevin Holt and Rory Loy should cope with the step up, although they do have a real lack of width, which could cost them points against the stuffier defences of the league

Another team set to be involved in the scrap for the top 6 are Inverness CT. Last season's Scottish Cup win covered up something of a drop-off in John Hughes' side's league results after the sale of Billy McKay- it remains to be seen if he, or captain Graeme Shinnie (or indeed the pacey Marley Watkins), have been adequately replaced

Let's file Motherwell and Kilmarnock together in 9th and 10th. Stayed up last season despite having a wholly unconvincing manager (Ian Baraclough and the Bonnyrigg Bielsa, Gary Locke)? Check. Have this summer re-signed a club legend portly centre-forward lethal in the 6 yard box but useless outside it (David Clarkson and Kris Boyd)? Check. A decent crop of youngsters who should get some game time? Check. Killie might have the edge come the season's end owing to having a goalkeeper who is competent (Jamie MacDonald) rather than the calamitous Dan Twardzik, but both are likely to be mired in the bottom 6 for the duration of the season

I really hope Kingsley isn't reading this, as I'm tipping Partick Thistle for 11th place. There was good news for the Jags today, as they completed the signing of Pogba: unfortunately for Kingsley and co, it's Mathias Pogba, the older, journeyman striker brother of the Juventus superstar. Key men such as goalkeeper Scott Fox, the under-rated rampaging full-back Stephen O'Donnell, the Brilliant When He Can Be Arsed Kallum Higginbotham and Lyle Taylor have all departed leaving Alan Archibald's squad looking a tad thin- he'll have to rely on youngsters to cover in certain positions, most notably at the back

That leaves us with Hamilton Accies finishing 12th, which looks plausible given the dramatic in their form after losing both manager Alex Neil and top scorer Tony Andreu to Norwich mid-season. Neil has at least sent them young striker Carlton Morris on loan, where he will be competing for a place with the rotund Christian Nade, who wasn't exactly a standout for Championship mid-tablers Raith Rovers last season- why manager Martin Canning believes he'll be able to find the net on a regular basis in a higher league is anyone's guess. At least he won't have lost any pace- he never had any to begin with!


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