The Dons’ instrumental Gavin Rae.

The dramatic, and somewhat surreal, absence of Rangers from the SPL surely leaves the path clear for Celtic to dominate Scottish football for seasons to come and indeed odds on the Bhoys winning the next five titles in a row can be sourced at an astounding 1/5 on. For them to lift the trophy next May meanwhile you’ll be lucky to find better than 1/33 which for the uninitiated means a profit of just three quid on every hundred you bet.

As to whether another team can mount a serious challenge and take Rangers’ place remains a rather moot question at this point in time but with a Champion’s League qualifying spot now lying vacant and attainable the likes of Motherwell and Hearts will be viewing second place as their own title success.


Craig Brown will be looking to improve upon a disappointing 2011/12 and secure a top six finish with a young but talented squad. He has certainly started in the right fashion bringing in two shrewd recruits in Jonny Hayes from Inverness and Niall McGinn who can count himself unlucky not to cement a regular berth at Celtic.

Key player – Gavin Rae

Offers vital experience and assurity in the Pittodrie middle.

League prediction – 9th


Celtic have virtually been crowned champions before a ball has even been kicked and indeed most of the talk has centred not on if they will but by how much of a margin. Such arrogance however has not infiltrated – publicly at least – into the club itself and with Neil Lennon in charge there is unlikely to be any shred of complacency for the campaign ahead. It is a campaign that will once again tackle the eternal disappointments of Europe and it will be interesting to see if Lennon feels he can now rest key players ahead of continental battle with the shadow of Rangers gone.

Celtic were weighed down by a huge squad last term so this summer has mainly been about moving on the deadwood and with a number of fringe players departed the squad looks all the leaner for it.

Key player – Victor Wanyama

Retaining this energetic and enterprising midfielder from the clutches of Manchester United and Arsenal is a must, particularly if the Hoops want to succeed in Europe.

Prediction – 1st (of course)


After a summer of uncertainty matters were finally resolved three weeks ago and Dundee were officially installed as Rangers’ replacements in the SPL. But having finished an astounding 24 points adrift of champions Ross County last season manager Barry Smith has his work cut out to forge a squad capable of holding their own in the top flight and with very little money available to strengthen following their administration in 2010 it unfortunately looks bleak for the dark blues.

Key player – Ryan Conroy

The former Celtic flyer has the trickery and ability to light up dens Park

Prediction – 12th

Jon Daly’s goals will be vital for the Arabs.


Dundee United

A number of free transfer departures have hardly helped Peter Houston’s cause after yet another summer of coming and going. The club needs stability but will once again flourish thanks to their fantastic front trio of Daly, Mackay-Steven and Russell and Houston’s shrewdness in the market. Indeed they’re many people’s choice as a dark horse to top the ‘league of 11’.

Key player – Michael Gardyne

The Arabs’ new recruit from Ross who was arguably the best player in Division 1 last term. If the midfielder comfortably makes the step up then United have every chance of proving their believers right.

Prediction – 3rd


New boss John McGlynn will wonder what he must do to remain in employment considering his predecessor was sacked despite the Jambos winning the Scottish Cup. Certainly working for the mad as mustard Vladimir Romanov is never a straightforward task and it is one made all the more difficult now the Russian has demanded that the wage budget be slashed. Cue an exodus of players including the influential schemer Ian Black who will be greatly missed.

Despite this though they retain a strong squad with some highly promising youngsters on the precipice of prominence.

Key player – David Templeton

The bag-of-tricks winger has been compared to Davie Cooper which is high praise indeed.

Prediction – 4th


The loss of goalscorer Gary O’Connor will be keenly felt at Easter Road in a pivotal season for the Hibees who are wounded from both a relegation campaign and a cup final humiliation to rivals Hearts. To that end manager Pat Fenlon has overseen a huge turnover of personnel this summer which makes Hibs a somewhat unknown package. Certainly the securing of James McPake to a permanent deal following his successful loan spell suggests an improvement is ahead. Quite frankly there is much to improve upon.

Key player – James McPake

Hibs will rely on his defensive nous and strength.

Prediction – 10th

Butcher has baffled some with his transfer targets.


Inverness CT

With Ross County’s promotion Terry Butcher’s side can no longer be sure of their king of the Highlands crown this time out and there’s genuine concern amongst Thistle supporters that the year ahead could be one of doom and gloom. New signings from such outposts as Newport, Macclesfield and Gillingham have hardly lifted the pessimism but this has been counter-balanced with tentative reports of a ball being passed in a pre-season friendly. On the ground and everything.

They will miss the goals of Jonny Hayes dreadfully though no matter what style of play Butcher entertains.

Key player – Andy Shinnie

A creative outlet that makes the Thistle tick.

Prediction – 11th


Assuming striker Paul Heffernan can remain fit and firing then Killie have a front man to dispatch the numerous chances Kenny Shiels’ passing side creates. The gaffer may only have a small squad to pick from but he commendably remains defiant on the type of football he favours and Kilmarnock will once again attract plaudits for their open style of play. The loss of the manager’s son, Northern Ireland international Dean, to Ranger however will be sorely felt.

Key player – Phil Heffernan

Offers Killie a much-needed end product.

Prediction – 6th


Higdon, Murphy and Ojamaa will continue to fire Well to the higher echelons of the SPL but in midfield boss Stuart McCall will miss the scope of Steve Jennings who has jumped ship to Rangers. It is very much a case of quality over quantity for McCall once again as he embarks on the onerous task of matching last season’s superb third place with a paper-thin squad. Crucially however – Jennings aside – he has retained the nucleus of his over-achievers and with the return of highly rated defender Steven Saunders from long-term injury the Well look set to impress once again.

Key player – Nicky Law

The ex-Bradford and Rotherham schemer has excelled in the SPL picking out passes for fun.

Prediction – 2nd

Colin McMenamin and Steven Craig celebrate yet another goal for County.


Ross County

The Staggies romped to the Div 1 title last term stringing together an imposing 34 match unbeaten streak and it will be fascinating to see how far that momentum and collective belief takes them. They have goals from all areas, strength in depth and players determined to prove themselves at this level with most having been released from bigger clubs. The Dingwall side might well be a force to be reckoned with.

Key player – Colin McMenamin

With 19 goals last season the 31 year old will be hoping to repeat the feat amongst the big boys.

Prediction – 5th

St Johnstone

Having spent last season learning the ropes this will be rookie boss Steve Lomas’ first full campaign in charge at McDiarmid Park and the ex Manchester City midfielder has spent the break using his contacts wisely and recruiting some impressive signings. Unfortunately last season’s mid-table finishers have also lost key personnel in the form of captain Jody Morris and strike partners Sheridan and Sandaza.

Key player – Rowan Vine

The former QPR hit man should excel at this level.

Prediction – 8th

St Mirren

A poor home record will have to be rectified if the Saints are to have any hope of improving upon last season’s 8th place finish. The summer has seen plenty of outgoings but dare we say none that will dramatically weaken the starting XI whilst Danny Lennon has brought in a couple of potential crackers in Sam Parkin from Killie and the free capture of MK Dons front man Lewis Guy. Together they could form an impressive partnership that fires St Mirren to mid-table safety.

Key player – Lewis Guy

After a nomadic few years Guy will be looking to establish himself north of the border. Should he do so St Mirren have a real player on their hands.

Prediction – 7th