The new Scottish Premiership season is about to get underway on the first weekend of August. Champions Celtic will go in search of their eighth straight title this season and start the campaign as the favourites again. Last seasons runners-up Aberdeen as well as Rangers, Hibs and Hearts will all hope to put the pressure on them as they look to break the ‘Hoops’ stranglehold on the title.
Aberdeen: Last seasons runners-up Aberdeen will hope to put more pressure on Celtic at the top this season. The Dons finished just nine-points behind the eventual Champions as they defeated Celtic at Parkhead on the final day of the season. Derek McInnes’ side saw off the challenge of third-placed Rangers to maintain the second spot and they will hope to do at least as well again in the upcoming campaign. The loss of midfielder Kenny MacLean will be the most sorely felt of all the summer departures. McInnes has added Chris Forrester and Stephen Gleeson to cover for the departing Scottish International MacLean as he readies his squad for the new campaign.
Celtic: Brendan Rodgers Champions go into the campaign as favourites once again but have not avoided losses to their squad. Scotland’s Stuart Armstrong departed for Southampton in a £7 million deal in the most valuable transfer of the Scottish close season. In response to the loss of Armstrong Rodgers has looked to strengthen, spending the money received for Armstrong on Odsonne Edouard. The French striker impressed on-loan last season and became the clubs record signing as he made his loan move permanent. Although they are overwhelming favourites for the title, Celtic may focus on improving their Champions League record, which may lead to them taking their eye off the league fixtures.
Dundee: Dee boss Neil McCann will hope to improve on his sides ninth-place finish the last term as the Blues kick-off the new season. It was a disappointing campaign overall last-time out for the Dens Park side. The top six would be an excellent finish given last season’s form and McCann has cast his net far and wide bringing in striker Jean Mendy from Lokeren and midfielder Kharl Madianga from Lokomotiv GO as well as two new goalkeepers in Heart’s Jack Hamilton and Millwall’s Sam Jackson. Several players have left Dens including the end of the loan of Simon Murray and former-player McCann may well look to add before the transfer window closes.
Hamilton Academical: Martin Canning’s Hamilton pulled away of the relegation zone late last season and the manager will hope that his side doesn’t leave it so late this time around. It won’t be easy for Accies though and survival may well be the best that they can hope for again this time around. The loss of key-players in Ali Crawford, David Templeton and Lewis Ferguson will be keenly felt in Canning’s starting eleven. The club have looked to bolter their ranks with the loan signings of Norwich pair Mason Bloomfield and Adam Phillips as well as defender Ziggy Gordon returning from a spell in Poland.
Heart of Midlothian: Craig Levein will have overseen his first pre-season since becoming Hearts boss for the second time, following Ian Cathro’s sacking during the last campaign. Levein clearly believes in ‘strength-in-numbers’ as he has added 8 players within a month of last season ending. Steven MacLean and Ryan Edwards know the league well from their time at St Johnstone and Partick Thistle as Levein looks to improve on last seasons sixth-placed finish. Sixth will be the least that Jambo’s will be expecting from their team and they will hope to at least push for a top-three finish.
Hibernian: Hibs went into the split last season with a chance to finish second so manager Neil Lennon may well have felt his team deserved better than their fourth-placed finish. The Easter Road side’s strength lay in their midfield last season so the loss of Dylan McGeogh will be a hard one to take. McGeogh’s midfield partner of last season John McGinn is still attracting interest and it would be a huge statement if Lennon could hold on to his prized asset by the time the window closes. Stevie Mallan has been brought in to counter the departure of McGeogh and Florian Kamberi has made his loan from Grasshopper Zurich permanent after impressing in his time in Edinburgh last season.
Kilmarnock: Steve Clarke turned the fortunes of the Ayrshire side around spectacularly last season, leading Killie to a fifth-placed finish. The form of Kilmarnock was credited more to the new manager than any one of his players although a special mention must go to striker Kris Boyd. The former Scotland forward enjoyed something of an Indian-summer to his career as he ran out both the club’s and the league’s top goal-scorer. Clarke hasn’t yet been overly active in the transfer market with Stuart Findlay making his loan permanent and Ross Millen joining from Queen’s Park as the former Reading manager hopes to repeat his sides top-six finish of last season.
Livingston: Livi returned to the top-flight after a twelve-year absence by seeing off Partick Thistle in the Play-Off last season, after finishing second to St Mirren in the Championship. It was Livingston’s second straight promotion under the stewardship of manager David Hopkin but unfortunately for the club, Hopkin decided to leave after their Play-Off win. Kenny Miller has joined the club as player-manager following his departure from Rangers, taking up his first management role. It will be a difficult task to keep Livi in the league although the signings of Craig Sibbald and Ryan Hardie (loan) have been added to improve their chances.
Motherwell: The cup competitions are where ‘Well achieved most last season, making both the domestic cup finals although ultimately falling short of winning silverware. Stephen Robinson is sure to want an improvement to league form this time around and breaking into the top-six will be the aim of the Fir Park side. Robinson has been busy in the transfer market adding the loan of Conor Sammon to the permanent signings of Alex Gorrin, Aaron Taylor-Sinclair and Liam Donnelly.
Rangers: Another summer of change at Ibrox has seen former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard take on the role of manager, his first senior management role. The summer has seen large turn-around in playing staff as Gerrard looks to try and improve on last season’s third-place finish. Scott Arfield is the biggest of the summer arrivals, signing after ending his spell with Burnley. Former England midfielder Gerrard has also returned to his former side, loaning Ovie Ejaria and Ryan Kent from Liverpool.
St Johnstone: The McDiarmid Park side finished eighth last season and although Tommy Wright will be hoping to improve on that by making the top-six, there may be too many sides ahead of his in the race. A slow summer in the transfer market has seen striker Tony Watt arriving after his spell in Belgium. The Saints have seen lot of experience leave Perth this summer with Steven MacLean, Alan Mannus and Chris Millar all moving on to pastures new. Midfielders Matthew Kennedy and Drey Wright have been added to the squad as Wright hopes to fill the void left by the departing players.
St Mirren: The Championship winners return to the top-flight and similar to the other newly promoted side Livingston, take with them a new manager. Former Hibernian manager Alan Stubbs replaces new Sunderland boss Jack Ross at the helm for the Saints. Stubbs has used is knowledge of the English game by including Jeff King (Bolton), James Kellerman (Aldershot Town) and Josh Heaton (Darlington) amongst his summer recruits. A retention of top-flight status will be the first aim for Stubbs as he looks to re-establish the Saints in the Premiership.
Mark Gordon (@TheMarkGordon)