Next weekend sees the majority of Scotland’s teams beginning the league campaign. However, for the vast majority of Scottish football fans, their teams campaign will kick off on Saturday, 3 August 2013, looking to have strong seasons in which there is more up for grabs.
This season sees the introduction of the play-off spots in the Scottish First Division (SD1) or as its now known, the Scottish Championship. I view this as a step in the right direction as I think that this will boost attendances in the later stages of the campaign and will also keep the players on their toes towards the end of the season.
Being a Morton fan myself, you’d think that I would be keen to see the play-off spots introduced as my team narrowly missed out on promotion last season to winners Partick Thistle. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks that there should be more of a prize for the runners up. I’ve recently spoken to some fans in the second (SD2) and third divisions (SD3) who view the play-offs as a way of boosting attendances as well as the clubs revenue. A possible encounter with St Mirren sounds tasty to me doesn’t it?
As for Scotland’s top tier of football, Celtic look to have what it takes to come out league winners again under Neil Lennon, however based on some poor pre-season performances, it might not be so much of a walk in the park. With Hooper and Wanyama off to England, will Celtic have enough to perform well in the league as well as in Europe? Your guess is as good as mine!
In my view, closest contenders to Celtic would be Motherwell now that Rangers have gone to the lower leagues. They seem to have that edge to them every year, and Steelmen boss Stuart McCall is the driving force behind that. He rebuilds his team year in year out and always seems to pull it off come the business end of the campaign.
SD1, in my opinion, is the tightest league in Britain. There are no clear favourites this year, but Dundee look to have the best squad so far, however, I would say that my local team Morton do have a chance. I think we proved a lot of people wrong in our league position last season, and early signs are good this term. Young players have been brought in from English teams such as Joe McKee and Reece Hands and have gone for a bit of foreign talent in two formidable centre halves from Slovakia, one of them ( Michal Habai ) who had been chased by Rangers early this season, and fellow countryman Tomas Pecier looks to be a good find too with both players to be rumoured on wages of £300 per month in Slovakia.
Alloa might have a strong season too under Paul Hartley after they signed an experienced figure in Andy Kirk as their talisman and full backs James Creaney, former Dumbarton defender. They have also re-signed Jonathan Tiffoney on amateur terms who looks to steady the Wasps ship.
One team who are set to have a tough season are Cowdenbeath. Colin Cameron, who has done an excellent job on keeping his players for the last few seasons, knew that it would be a challenge to keep his team grounded for the new season after losing Scott Linton to Dumbarton. They have filled in his spot with Jordan Morton however I see this as a poor replacement for Scott Linton. Also with Colin Cameron edging closer to retirement, the Fife club will be struggling for leadership in the side. Now they will look to former Rangers front man Kane Hemmings to provide the firepower in the final third for the Blue Brazil.
Rangers look set to wrap up the title in the SD2 as they see new signings Cammy Bell, John Daly and Nicky Law move from the SPL into Scottish Footballs third tier. Will Rangers find life a little more difficult than first imagined however, to teams such as recently relegated Airdrieonians or even East Fife who look to be a decent outfit this season.
I see the SD2 as being tight at the top but I still see Stranraer being relegated as I can’t see them being able to compete with the level that everyone else seems to have got in the league.
In my opinion the SD3 title is going to Peterhead this season as I think that they have the best striker in the third division, Rory McAllister. Also having former Ton gaffer Jim McNally in the dug-out it looks like they could have a real go at the league and may even pick up a few scalps in the cups!
As with every season I see East Stirling struggling to find form due to troubles building on their first team. However, one team that has surprised me a little was Annan Athletic, who knocked Morton out in the Ramsdens Cup at Galabank. They possessed a good quality of football and for me they are the team to watch this season. With Harry Cairney in the hot seat now, and bringing in Peter Weatherson to his squad along with other youngsters, maybe they can have a go at the title?
So get along and support your team next season, because they need you!