David Showell

The Scottish Premier League may always be dominated by Celtic and Rangers, but the duel for each year’s title always seems to be interesting. In fact, the shortage of money in the SPL, at every club including the Old Firm, may lead to more shocks for the big two and the title race may yet again go to the wire.

Underneath the Glasgow clubs a group of teams battle to be the best of the rest, competing for the not insignificant prize of European football, the essential first step on any journey to eventually ‘do an Aberdeen’ and take the SPL title away from the Old Firm.

It should be another interesting season in Scotland.


A 5-1 hammering from Sigma Olomouc in their first Europa League game doesn’t bode well for a promising season for Aberdeen. However, optimism is high at Pittodrie after a well-deserved fourth place in last season’s league.

The Dons will be looking to hit the ground running with an opening day home fixture against Celtic. How they’d love to repeat the 4-2 hammering they dished out in January. Mark McGhee’s sides are always well-organised and tough to compete against. For this reason alone, they look more than capable of overhauling Hearts et al in the battle for third place this time round.

Last season: 4th
Key arrivals: None
Key departures: Lee Mair (St. Mirren), Scott Severin (Watford), Jamie Smith (Colorado Rapids).
Prediction: 3rd


If Celtic can avoid dropping points against lesser teams this looks likely to be their year. Scott McDonald knows where the net is, and the addition of Marc-Antoine Fortune will galvanise the Australian striker. In pre-season, the Bhoys were excellent against Al-Ahly and Tottenham, but poor against Dynamo Moscow in the first-leg, though later bouncing back well. Consistency needs to be the key.

In Tony Mowbray, Celtic have got a manager who plays the game the right way, and his influence on the team will need to be felt early on in the season. A better showing in the Old Firm games will surely lead to silverware.

Last season: 2nd
Key arrivals: Marc-Antoine Fortune (West Bromwich Albion), Daniel Fox (Coventry City).
Key Departures: Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink (end of contract), Bobo Balde (end of contract), Shinsuke Nakamura (RCD Espanyol).
Prediction: 1st

Dundee United

Craig Levein’s men approach the new season with a spring in their step and new-found confidence. A successful pre-season will only have added to the optimism. Away draws last season against Rangers and Celtic show the Arabs are moving in the right direction.

Last season: 5th
Key arrivals: Steve Banks (Hearts), Danny Cadamarteri (Huddersfield Town), Dusan Pernis (MZK Zilina).
Key departures:  Danny Grainger (St. Johnstone)
Prediction: 4th


An adventurous run in the Scottish Cup last season was a pointer to Falkirk’s hopes for the future. The loss of Yogi Hughes to Hibernian will be felt, but in Eddie May Falkirk have someone who knows the club, and the Scottish game, inside out. It’s highly likely that they’ll improve again.

Last season: 10th
Key departures: Michael Higdon (St. Mirren), Dean Holden (Shrewsbury Town), Patrick Cregg (Hibernian), Kevin McBride (Hibernian).
Key arrivals: Brian McLean (Motherwell), Marc Twaddle (Partick Thistle), Ryan Flynn (Liverpool – loan), Danijel Marceta (FK Partizan – loan), Vitor Lima (Piraeus).
Prediction: 8th

Hamilton Academical

The Accies will be hoping to build on an encouraging season and will almost certainly tweak one or two of the bigger noses in the league this time. However, the loss of key players like James McCarthy and Brian Easton will be hard to take. A relegation struggle looks likely again in the coming months.

Last season: 9th
Key arrivals: Tomas Cerny (Sigma Olomouc), Marvin Andrews (Raith Rovers), Izzy Iriekpen (Bristol City).
Key departures: Chris Swailes (Gateshead), Brian Easton (Burnley),  Joel Thomas (Colchester United), James McCarthy (Wigan Athletic).
Prediction: 10th


Heart of Midlothian have a long history of taking points from the big guys, but they also have a reputation for dropping points against the little ones. An excellent third place last time looks unlikely to be repeated this season, as a resurgent Aberdeen, Dundee United and even, whisper it quietly, Hibs will fancy their chances of finishing above the Jam Tarts.

Last season: 3rd
Key arrivals: Suso Santana (Tenerife), Ian Black (Inverness Caledonian Thistle), Dawid Kucharski (Lech Poznan), Ismael Bouzid (Ankaragucu), David Witteveen (Red Bull Salzburg).
Key departures: Bruno Aguiar (Omonia Nicosia), Christos Karapidis (Omonia Nicosia), Robbie Neilson (Leicester City).
Prediction: 6th


Hibs will be looking to consolidate on some good performances in the last campaign. Although they’re going to find it tough, the squad has goals in it, and they’re more than capable of making a push for a European place. It may prove beyond them, but it won’t be for want of trying.

Last season: 6th
Key arrivals: Patrick Cregg (Falkirk), Graham Stack (Plymouth Argyle)
Key departures: Rob Jones (Scunthorpe United), Steven Fletcher (Burnley), Alan O’Brien (Swindon Town).
Prediction: 5th


Kilmarnock will need to be on their toes in 2009/10; a disappointing season saw them finish only seven points off the bottom of the SPL last time. It looks likely that they’ll struggle again this year. No Killie player managed 10 league goals last season; that needs to change this time.

Last season: 8th
Key arrivals: Graeme Owens (Middlesbrough), Mark Burchill (Rotherham United).
Key departures: David Lilley (Queen of the South), Willie Gibson (Dunfermline Athletic), Grant Murray (Raith Rovers).
Prediciton: 9th


Motherwell finished seventh last season, but with the loss of mercurial boss Mark McGhee to Aberdeen it’s difficult to envisage them bettering that in the coming campaign. A European place was a nice bonus, and a reward for good behaviour. If they can up a gear they may challenge for higher places, but their inconsistency may lead to worried backward glances through the season. Their supporters will be hoping The Well doesn’t run dry.

Last season: 7th
Key arrivals: Steve Jennings (Tranmere Rovers), Chris Humphrey (Shrewsbury Town), Giles Coke (Northampton Town).
Key departures: David Clarkson (Bristol City), Paul Quinn (Cardiff City), Graeme Smith (Brighton), Stephen Hughes (Norwich City).
Prediction: 7th


It’s been a quiet pre-season for Rangers, with little transfer activity and few clues to the confidence of the squad. Champions last year, they still stuttered on more than one occasion in the campaign. Kris Boyd found the onion bag 31 times last season, and if the Gers are to retain their title he may well need to do it again.

In Walter Smith, they have a wily campaigner who will be eagerly awaiting the challenge of the Mowbray era across the city. The battle between the big two looks set to be another close one.

Last season: 1st
Key arrivals: None
Key departures: Barry Ferguson (Birmingham City), Christian Dailly (Charlton Athletic), Charlie Adam (Blackpool.
Prediction: 2nd

St. Mirren

Survival by the skin of their teeth last season meant St. Mirren lived to fight another SPL day. However, the season ahead looks set to be just as tough, if not tougher. Gus MacPherson will have performed a Herculean task if he manages to avoid the drop this time around.

Last season: 11th
Key departures: Jim Hamilton (Partick Thistle), Chris Innes (Livingston).
Key arrivals: Lee Mair (Aberdeen), Michael Higdon (Falkirk), Paul Gallacher (Dunfermline Athletic).
Prediction: 12th

St. Johnstone

The SPL’s new boys have been busy in the summer transfer window, indicating a determination to stay at the top table. First Division champions by 10 points last season, the club have the structure, the players and the confidence to make a decent fist of it in 2009/10.

Last season: 1st (First Division)
Key departures: Kevin James (Ayr United).
Key arrivals: Dave Mackay (Livingston), Murray Davidson (Livingston), Kenny Deuchar (Hamilton Academical), Derek Holmes (Queen of the South), Graeme Smith (Rangers), Danny Grainger (Dundee United), Felipe Morais (Inverness Caledonian Thistle).
Prediction: 11th

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