Despite the new Scottish League Cup format meaning the season got underway a couple of weeks ago, this weekend marks the start of a new Scottish Premiership season. After an entertaining campaign last time round that saw Celtic secure their seventh consecutive crown and a 49th overall and two sides get relegated for the first time, this season figures to be even better.
Here is my breakdown of each Premiership side’s transfer business and where I figure they’ll end up come next May. Let’s see if I fare any better at this prediction game than Seoras Lyall managed last season.
Transfers in: Lewis Ferguson (Hamilton, compensation), Chris Forrester (Peterborough, £200,000) Stephen Gleeson (Ipswich Town, Free), Tomas Cerny (Partick Thistle, Free), Dominic Ball (Rotherham, Loan), Tommie Hoban (Watford, Loan).
Transfers out: Kari Arnason (Vikingur, Free), Anthony O’Connor (Bradford City, Free), Daniel Harvie (Ayr, Free), Adam Rooney (Salford City, £375,000), Seb Ross (Stenhousemuir, Loan), Danny Rogers (St Mirren, Loan), Nicky Maynard, Joe MacPherson, Toby Wells (all released).
Aberdeen have been the league’s feel-good story over recent seasons, managing a fourth consecutive second-place finish in May. Scoring enough goals was an issue last season and the loss of Adam Rooney, top scorer in the league for the last four campaigns, to an English non-league side no less, is massive, and an indictment of the limited money in the Scottish system. The loss of Anthony O’Connor, almost ever-present last season, is a big blow and whilst Scott McKenna is a real talent, they look light defensively and I’m unsure as to whether Ball or Hoban are adequate replacements. Ferguson is a good addition for the future, but this looks to be the year the Dons slip back. Prediction: 3rd
Transfers in: Odsonne Edouard (Paris Saint-Germain, Undisclosed), Scott Bain (Dundee, Free).
Transfers out: Erik Sviatchenko (FC Midtjylland, Undisclosed), Stuart Armstrong (Southampton, Undisclosed), Sam Wardrop (Dundee United, Free), Jamie Lindsay (Ross County, Free), Nadir Ciftci (Genclerbirligi, Free), Jamie McCart (Inverness CT, Free), Joe Thomson (Dunfermline Athletic, Free), Ross Doohan (Ayr, Loan).
In many ways this season is the real test for Brendan Rodgers. His first season with the Bhoys was exceptional, achieving the treble whilst going unbeaten. Last year they also pocketed the treble but after that 4-0 loss to Hearts it became clear that some teams were finding them out. Many might have expected a big investment this summer and they did break their transfer record to sign Odsonne Edouard permanently, but aside from that there’s been nothing. That said, they have looked good in European competition thus far and still have more than enough quality to be front of the pack again, especially with the introduction of talents like Ryan Christie and Lewis Morgan. Prediction: 1st
Transfers in: Jack Hamilton (Hearts, Undisclosed), Jean Mendy (Lokeren, Free), Kharl Madianga (Lokomotiv Gorna Oryahovitsa, Free), Elton Ngwatala (Kidderminster Harriers, Free), Nathan Ralph (Woking, Free).
Transfers out: Scott Bain (Celtic, Free), Kevin Holt (Pafos, Free), Randy Wolters (NEC Nijmegen, Free), Jeremy Malherbe (Panionios, Free), Nicky Low (Derry City, Free), Mark O’Hara (Peterborough, Free), Ian Smith (Stranraer, Free), Faisal El-Bakhtaoui (Dunfermline Athletic, Loan), James Vincent (Dunfermline Athletic, Loan), Kerr Waddell (Greenock Morton, Loan), Kyle Gourlay (Elgin City, Loan), Calum Ferrie (Stirling, Loan), Marcus Haber (Falkirk, Loan), Jon Aurtenetxe, Julen Etxabeguren, Kostadin Gadzhalov, Jordan Piggott (all released).
It’s another season without a Dundee derby for Neil McCann’s side after Dundee United’s failure to get out of the Championship play-offs last season. Dundee got off to a dismal start last season, losing four of their first five and a start like that this season could see them get punished. The losses of Kevin Holt and influential midfielder Mark O’Hara are likely to be felt keenly in the opening weeks, but in Jean Mendy and Sofien Moussa they have two men capable of getting goals. I’m still to be convinced by McCann as a manager and I think they enter the season weaker than they did this time last year. They’ll probably have enough to beat the drop, but it’ll be another tough season for fans of The Dee. Prediction: 10th.
Transfers in: Alex Penny (Peterborough, Undisclosed), Lennard Sowah (Cracovia, Free), Ziggy Gordon (Pogon Siedlice, Free), Tom Taiwo (Falkirk, Free), Aaron Smith (Nottingham Forest, Free), Aaron McGowan (Morecambe, Free), Sam Kelly (Grimsby Town, Free), Mason Bloomfield (Norwich City, Loan), Adam Phillips (Norwich City, Loan).
Transfers out: Lewis Ferguson (Aberdeen, compensation), Kenny van der Weg (Roeselare, Free), David Templeton (Burton Albion, Free), Ali Crawford (Doncaster, Free), Danny Redmond (The New Saints, Free), Darren Jamieson (Arbroath, Free), Antonio Rojano, Georgios Sarris, Xavier Tomas, Jamie Boyd (all released).
Hamilton are perennial relegation favourites due to their limited budget and thin playing squad, but they’ve done some good business this summer. The loss of star player Ali Crawford stands out, but the midfielder-cum-striker missed a lot of last season with injury, making only 19 appearances across all competitions. Manager Martin Canning has added depth from the English lower leagues, but the star additions are those of Lennard Sowah and Ziggy Gordon. Both men have experience in the Scottish Premiership and they should bolster what was the division’s weakest defence last season. If Rakish Bingham can hit the ground running up front, Accies should have enough to record their best finish since 2015. Prediction: 9th
Transfers in: Bobby Burns (Glenavon, Undisclosed), Steven MacLean (St Johnstone, Free), Ryan Edwards (Partick Thistle, Free), Zdenek Zlamal (Zlin, Free), Oliver Bozanic (Melbourne City, Free), Ben Garuccio (Adelaide United, Free), Colin Doyle (Bradford City, Free), Peter Haring (Ried, Free), Olly Lee (Luton Town, Free), Uche Ikpeazu (Cambridge United, Free), Jake Mulraney (Inverness CT, swap), Kevin Silva (Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Free), Steven Naismith (Norwich City, Loan).
Transfers out: Jack Hamilton (Dundee, Undisclosed), Jon McLaughlin (Sunderland, Free), Harry Paton (Ross County, Free), Angus Beith (Inverness CT, swap), Conor Sammon, (Motherwell, Loan), Prince Buaben, Wojciech Gajda, Nikolay Todorov (all released).
With the Tynecastle renovations now firmly complete and Craig Levein having a full transfer window to get his team in place, you’ve got to expect the Jam Tarts will improve on last season’s sixth-place finish. Goals were the side’s biggest problem last season and they’ve moved to remedy that, bringing in Uche Ikpeazu and Steven MacLean alongside creative midfield talents like Olly Lee, Oliver Bozanic and Steven Naismith. I personally think Hearts have done the best business in the league this summer and look firmly poised to have a great season. Ikpeazu looked a real handful in the League Cup games and Ben Garuccio will be a threat from set-pieces. More than that though, I think Levein has managed to add depth and quality to a team that showed it in spurts last season. Prediction: 4th
Transfers in: Stevie Mallan (Barnsley, Undisclosed), Florian Kamberi (Grasshopper, Undisclosed), Adam Bogdan (Liverpool, Loan).
Transfers out: Simon Murray (Bidvest Wits, Undisclosed), Callum Crane (Livingston, Undisclosed), Dylan McGeouch (Sunderland, Free), Cammy Bell (Partick Thistle, Free), Andrew Blake (released).
Getting fourth in their first season back in the Premiership was probably even better than most realistic Hibs fans would have expected last season. They’ve also done some solid business, bringing in the impressive Stevie Mallan from Barnsley and tying down Florian Kamberi, who racked up the goals last season, on a permanent deal. The loss of Dylan McGeouch will be a disappointment but their biggest issues will lie around Neil Lennon. The rumours about his future at the end of last season clearly had an effect on the team and any instability this time round could well cost them with Hearts looking much improved. Prediction: 5th
Transfers in: Stuart Findlay (Newcastle United, Free), Ross Millen (Queen’s Park, Free), Mikael Ndjoli (Bournemouth, Loan).
Transfers out: Leo Fasan (Falkirk, Free), Youssouf Mulumbu, Steven Smith, Alex Samizadeh, Brad Spencer, Ursene Mouanda, Thomas Dempsie, Dean Hawkshaw (all released).
Steve Clarke was easily Premiership manager of the season last time round for the turnaround he masterminded at Rugby Park, yielding a record points tally and a top-five finish. That’ll be difficult to repeat this time round given their limited squad investment and the loss of Youssouf Mulumbu, who was superb in the team’s engine room. They’ll be very reliant on Kris Boyd and Eamonn Brophy for goals and whilst they’ve kept most of the side together, I just don’t think there’s enough quality to repeat last season’s heroics. Prediction: 8th
Transfers in: Callum Crane (Hibernian, Undisclosed), Liam Kelly (Rangers, Undisclosed), Craig Sibbald (Falkirk, Undisclosed), Kenny Miller (Rangers, Free), Ross Stewart (St Mirren, Free), Steven Saunders (The New Saints, Free), Ricki Lamie (Greenock Morton, Free), Cameron Blues (Falkirk, Free), Ryan Hardie (Rangers, Loan), Egli Kaja (AFC Wimbledon, Loan).
Transfers out: Dylan Mackin (Falkirk, Undisclosed), Josh Mullin (Ross County, Free), Jackson Longridge (Dunfermline Athletic, Free), Gregor Buchanan (Greenock Morton, Free), Neil Alexander (retired), Gary Maley (released).
Livingston’s promotion last season was a great success story for the play-offs system, as they beat Dundee United and Partick Thistle to return to the top flight for the first time since their demotion to the fourth-tier in 2009. Much of that success was down to the management of former Scotland international David Hopkin, who has subsequently left. His replacement is Kenny Miller, with the striker acting as player-manager. Staying up was always going to be difficult for Livi and ultimately their limited business this summer and Miller’s managerial inexperience means they must be favourites to make an immediate return to the Championship. Prediction: 12th
Transfers in: Liam Donnelly (Hartlepool United, Undisclosed), Danny Johnson (Gateshead, Undisclosed), Alex Rodriguez (Sepsi Sfantu Gheorghe, Free), Aaron Taylor-Sinclair (Plymouth Argyle, Free), Mark Gillespie (Walsall, Free), Conor Sammon (Hearts, Loan).
Transfers out: Deimantas Petravicius (Falkirk, Undisclosed), Shea Gordon (Partick Thistle, Loan), Ross MacLean (Greenock Morton, Loan), Ellis Plummer, Russell Griffiths, Luke Watt, Dylan King (all released).
Stephen Robinson recovered from his disappointing stint with Oldham last season, crafting a combative Motherwell side that reached the finals of both major cup competitions. They tailed off towards the end of the season but Robinson has done some good business, adding strikers Danny Johnson and Conor Sammon to complement the likes of Curtis Main and Craig Tanner. Likewise the addition of Alex Rodriguez, formerly of A-League side Wellington Phoenix, and Aaron Taylor-Sinclair add quality to his side. I think they’ll have enough this time to go one better and edge out St Johnstone and Killie to make the top six. Prediction: 6th
Transfers in: Connor Goldson (Brighton & Hove Albion, Undisclosed), Nikola Katic (Slaven Belupo, Undisclosed), Jamie Murphy (Brighton & Hove Albion, Undisclosed), Scott Arfield (Burnley, Free), Jon Flanagan (Liverpool, Free), Allan McGregor (Hull City, Free), Lassana Coulibaly (Angers, Loan), Ovie Ejaria (Liverpool, Loan), Ryan Kent (Liverpool, Loan), Umar Sadiq (Roma, Loan).
Transfers out: Liam Kelly (Livingston, Undisclosed), Michael O’Halloran (Melbourne City, Undisclosed), David Bates (Hamburg, Compensation), Bruno Alves (Parma, Free), Harry Forrester (Tractor Sazi, Free), Kenny Miller (Livingston, Free), Jordan Thompson (Blackpool, Free), Joe Dodoo (Blackpool, Loan), Ryan Hardie (Livingston, Loan), Eduardo Herrera (Santos Laguna, Loan), Jason Holt (Fleetwood Town, Loan), Carlos Pena (Necaxa, Loan), Fabio Cardoso (contract cancelled).
This season’s biggest storyline: Steven Gerrard’s managerial debut. Will the affable Scouser manage to do what Mark Warburton, Pedro Caixinha and Graeme Murty have failed to do and get some longevity in the role, or will he be another early casualty?. Gerrard appears to have done some good business, bringing in Allan McGregor to compete with Wes Foderingham in the nets and loaning in talented youngsters Ryan Kent and Umar Sadiq. None of the deals will set the world on fire or be enough to bridge the gap to Celtic, but they do look like solid and sensible additions and probably enough to edge them past Aberdeen. If Gerrard stays, that is. Prediction: 2nd
Transfers in: Matthew Kennedy (Cardiff City, Free), Tony Watt (OH Leuven, Free), Drey Wright (Colchester United, Free), Conor Mitchell (Burnley, Loan).
Transfers out: Steven MacLean (Hearts, Free), Alan Mannus (Shamrock Rovers, Free), Chris Millar (Greenock Morton, Free), Keith Watson (Ross County, Free), Jamie Docherty, Daniel Jardine, Cameron Lumsden, Ben McKenzie, Cammy Thomson (all released).
St Johnstone are an interesting case. After years of over-achieving under Tommy Wright, they tailed off last season, finishing eighth in the league and looking pretty uninspired in doing so. Their business this summer has been minimal, losing last season’s top scorer Steven MacLean to Hearts but adding winger Matthew Kennedy from Cardiff and strikers Drey Wright and Tony Watt. Watt will be one to watch as this represents probably his last chance to get what was a very promising career back on track, and he scored two in the League Cup group stage. With expectations lowered this season and some sensible business under their belt, I think St Johnstone will be better this year, narrowly missing out on the top six. Prediction: 7th
Transfers in: Josh Heaton (Darlington, £75,000), Cody Cooke (Truro City/V9 Academy, Free), James Kellermann (Aldershot Town, Free), Jeff King (Bolton Wanderers, Free), Cole Kpekawa (Colchester United, Free), Paul McGinn (Partick Thistle, Free), Hayden Coulson (Middlesbrough, Loan), Danny Rogers (Aberdeen, Loan), Matty Willock (Manchester United, Loan).
Transfers out: Harry Davis (Grimsby, Free), Stelios Demetriou (Ross County, Free), Darryl Duffy (Airdrieonians, Free), Nathan Flanagan (Raith Rovers, Free), Chris Henry (Alloa Athletic, Free), Myles Hippolyte (Dunfermline Athletic, Free), Andrew McDonald (Stranraer, Free), Gavin Reilly (Bristol Rovers, Free), Ross Stewart (Livingston, Free), Josh Todd (Queen of the South, Free), Darren Whyte, (Forfar, Free), Massimo Donati (retired), Jamie Langfield (retired), John Sutton (retired), Evan Horner, Gary Irvine, Robbie Leitch, Dylan McKendry, Conor O’Keefe (all released).
St Mirren won the Championship at a canter last season, and I was one of many looking forward to seeing young coach Jack Ross pit his wits against the Premiership’s best coaches. However, the lure of the rebuilding job at Sunderland was too appealing and Ross has since departed, being replaced by Alan Stubbs. Stubbs has experience of the Scottish game, taking Hibs to second and third place finishes in the Scottish Championship, but this is his first job in the Premiership. Last season’s top scorer and Championship player of the year Lewis Morgan has since returned to Celtic and Gavin Reilly, who scored 22 in all competitions, has left for Bristol Rovers. I think St Mirren will struggle for goals but are a better side than Livingston, leading to a finish in the relegation play-off spot. Prediction: 11th
My predicted Scottish Premiership table for the 2018-19 season
- St Johnstone
- St Mirren
In addition, this season’s Scottish Championship is a league to keep your eye on. Whilst it doesn’t have the standout names of Rangers and Hibs like in prior years, the relegation of two sides from the Premiership last year means that this season’s battle for promotion will be highly competitive.
Dundee United are known to be in financial bother and they have been this summer’s big spenders, giving Csaba Laszlo heavy backing to try and get them back up. They will start the season as favourites, having added well from across Europe and picking off the best players from many of their rival sides. Both relegated teams, Ross County and Partick Thistle, are good bets to make the play-offs, although Partick have lost several key players from last season. Dunfermline were very good last season under Allan Johnston and whilst Nicky Clark has since left the club, they’ve been very impressive in the League Cup and will be good money to finish in the top four come the end of the season.
Conversely, Alloa will start the season as favourites for the drop after coming through the play-offs last season, with Ayr probably having enough to avoid an immediate return to League One if they can hold on to star striker Lawrence Shankland.
Agree with my thoughts or think I’m totally mad? Let me know on Twitter at @AMSinclair97.