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Scottish Premiership 2015-16 Season Preview

Updated on August 6, 2015
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The 2015-16 Scottish Premiership season will soon be underway, so we have taken time out to look at each team’s prospects before it all kicks off. Who will fare well, who will struggle and what will be the exciting rivalries at the top end of Scottish football this coming year? Football is always unpredictable, but we have gazed into our proverbial crystal ball to and come up with what to look out for in the year ahead.

photo credit: Mehmet Free Kick via photopin (license)
photo credit: Mehmet Free Kick via photopin (license) | Source

Aberdeen

With Derek McInnes at the helm, the Dons have been on the rise for the last couple of years. He has guided them to their first silverware in nineteen years in the form of the league cup the season before last, and the achieved a very convincing second place in the league last term. Over the summer McInnes has made some good signings in the form of the very promising Kenny McLean and the always reliable Graeme Shinnie, which will both add bite to the midfield and solve the Dons’ long-standing problems at left back. With Scotland international Mark Reynolds out for with a shoulder injury for the first three months of the season, there is an opportunity for Andrew Considine and new-signing Paul Quinn to battle it out for a centre back starting place.

Look out for:

Expect Aberdeen to be solid at the back first and foremost and then rely on Johnny Hayes and Niall McGinn to break forward with pace to support the ever-goal-hungry Adam Rooney up front. Also it will be interesting to see how the young Ryan Jack gets on as the new club captain, after defender Russel Anderson retired.

Prediction: 2nd

Celtic

The incumbent are the elect, it would seem, as nobody would bet against Celtic retaining the league title. Manager Ronny Deila now has a fairly settled team with the ex-Dundee United duo Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven finding their feet at Celtic Park. Now they have been joined by a familiar face from Tannadice in the form of Nadir Cifci, who is a constant threat up front. Club captain Scott Brown in the middle of the park seems to always be getting better and will more than likely shine during the campaign to come, and with competition for places all over the pitch, Celtic have more than enough squad depth to overcome and challengers. New signing Dedryck Boyata from Manchester City will more than likely slot straight in to replace the outgoing Jason Denayer in central defence and he has looked good in his first competitive start for the Bhoys in Champions League qualification.

Look out for:

Celtic will look to hold on to the ball as much as possible in their premiership games, and they have the ability to break with speed at a moment’s notice. They will win the league, but the last few seasons have shown that Celtic are weaker domestically whilst still playing in Europe. Any would-be challengers will be looking to take as many points off the favourites while they attempt to carve out a European adventure.

Prediction: 1st

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Dundee

Under the management of ex-Scotland international Paul Hartley, Dundee looked a solid outfit last season. They did well with a new-look team in the premiership last time out as Hartley completely rebuilt the squad after gaining promotion. That team should be well settled by now which should bode well for their chances. They have strengthened a little for this year too, with the introduction of left back Kevin Holt from Queen of the South, and all eyes will be on the former Real Sociedad defender Julen Etxabeguren Leanizbarrutia to see what he has to offer after a season in the lower leagues with East Fife. Dundee relied quite heavily on David Clarkson to grab the goals last season, so his departure for Motherwell could be felt.

Look out for:

Paul Hartley is a motivator, so expect some determined and gutsy displays from Dundee. Someone will need to fill the goal scoring boots left by Clarkson, and it will be interesting to see who emerges to take on this role. Hartley wants to improve on last year’s sixth place finish, so Dundee will be pulling out all the stops.

Prediction: 7th

Dundee Utd

Losing the midfield pairing of Gary Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong to Celtic in January triggered a big run of poor form for the Terrors last season, and it is beginning to look like they will have to soldier on without any new players to fill the gaps they left behind. With Nadir Cifci also leaving for Cetic Park, Dundee Utd look like they are about to field a weaker side to start this season. Having said that the introduction of Coll Donaldson after his release from QPR and Mark Durnan from Queen of the South will give manager Jackie McNamara more options at the back. As usual, Utd will very probably look to their up and coming youngsters to provide some much-needed cutting edge, but it could be a long season for the Terrors.

Look out for:

It will be interesting to see how McNamara tries to solve the midfield problems that plagued the team towards the end of last season, but I would imagine that he is gearing up to make the team hard to beat. Expect some solid defensive displays from Dundee Utd this season.

Prediction: 6th

photo credit: St Mirren vs Peterhead via photopin (license)
photo credit: St Mirren vs Peterhead via photopin (license) | Source

Hamilton

Since the departure of the young, gifted manager Alex Neil for an already successful time at Norwich, Hamilton have struggled a little in the premiership. Filling the manager’s role is Marting Canning, who will be looking to make big improvements on the end of last season. The exit of Tony Andreu and Mikael Antoine-Curier in the last year are positions that really must be filled with convincing talent if Hamilton are to have a successful season. In fact Canning has recognised that the squad could really do with a new strong spine if they want to remain competitive in the top flight. With the introduction of Antons Kurakins from Ventspils and Christian Nade from Raith Rovers the boss might well have made solid moves in the right direction. Much will be expected of new midfielder Gramoz Kurtaj to be a strong presence in the middle, and help provide the much-needed stability.

Look out for:

It might take Hamilton a few games to get into the swing of things as their new spine of the team settles in, but, once they are fully up and running, expect gutsy performances from the team. Christian Nade has proved in the past that he is more than capable in the top flight of Scottish football, so it will be interesting to see if he can regain that level of performance after arriving from Raith Rovers.

Prediction: 10th

Hearts

After a dominant display in a Championship league that included both Hibs and Rangers, Hearts will be looking to carry their momentum into the coming Premiership season. Losing their captain Danny Wilson to Rangers will be a blow and the biggest miss of all their off-season player departures, they have recruited well. The capture of Polish defender Blazej Augustyn could very well be a shrewd move towards replacing Wilson, and the introduction of Spaniard Juanma Delgado from Greek side Kalloni is a statement of intent up front.

Look out for:

Hearts will not fear anyone in the Premiership, despite being newly promoted. They do have a team that is good enough to be competitive in the top flight and they have a point to prove. Expect Hearts to be more attacking than newly promoted sides usually are. Manager Robbie Neilson has been looking for a prolific striker and he will be putting his faith in Delgado. It will be interesting to see if the Spaniard can deliver.

Prediction: 4th

Watch Every Goal from the Scottish Premiership

Inverness Caledonian Thistle

Caley Thistle had a very impressive season last time out and they will be looking to capitalise on recent form. They have tasted success after their cup win and so they will begin the new campaign with a certain level of expectation. Manager John Hughes will have to cope with life without key players. Captain Graeme Shinnie has left for Aberdeen, Marley Watkins, who was impressive last season, has joined Barnsley and midfield mainstay Nick Ross has joined up with Paul Hartley at Dundee. So Hughes will be hoping that the young Nat Wedderburn can make the leap up, at some point, after joining from Cowdenbeath. There will be a lot of Highland faith being put in new signings Dani Lopez up front and Jordan Roberts in midfield.

Look out for:

John Hughes has proven he make a team consistently successful at this level, so expect Inverness to keep their good form going. They will probably manage to grind out results throughout the season, and if Lopez can become a regular goal threat then Thistle will do well.

Prediction: 3rd

Kilmarnock

Last time out Kilmarnock struggled, but manager Gary Locke succeeded in guiding the team safely away from the relegation zone. Since then Lock has welcomed experienced striker Kris Boyd back to Rugby Park, and he will be hoping that combining him up front with Kallum Higginbotham will solve Killie’s goal-scoring woes. After a disappointing season at Rangers, Lee McCulloch arrives in a player/coach role, perhaps with one of the manager’s eyes being on replacing Manuel Pascali in the heart of defence. Kilmarnock haven’t made any signings that will turn many heads, and they will probably line up with a similar looking side to last season’s.

Look out for:

The duo signed from Rangers, Boyd and McCulloch, will have to improve a lot from their performances last season. If they don’t, Kilmarnock will struggle again. Higginbotham may well prove to be a good signing and he will get some goals for his new side. Expect Kilmarnock to be a competitive team in the bottom six.

Prediction: 8th

Motherwell

Motherwell have embodied the ups and downs of a life in football over the last couple of years. Finishing second the season before, they only avoided relegation last term by overcoming a lacklustre Rangers in the playoffs. Boss Ian Baraclough will be determined to turn Motherwell’s fortunes around and he has already made progress in the transfer market. Bringing in four players in the form of striker Louis Moult from Wrexham, defender Louis Laing from Nottingham Forest, Goal-getter David Clarkson from Dundee and youngster Joe Chalmers from Celtic. All are good statements of intent, but whether they can prevent a decline in form from losing a lot of first team players including Lee Erwin, John Sutton and Stuart Carswell or not – only time will tell. Well fans can be encouraged by their retention of Lionel Ainsworth, though.

Look out for:

It will take a lot for Motherwell to regain their status at the top end of the Scottish Premiership and it will probably take a while for the team to get over the exit of many of their top players. Expect Motherwell to have to battle hard for wins in the first few months, but their performances should even out as the season progresses and the team settles.

Prediction: 9th

Motherwell v Rangers Playoff Highlights

Partick Thistle

Partick have been seen often punching above their weight in the Premiership with displays that have rattled some of the top teams over the last couple of years. They have, however, lost a good few first team players. With Stephen O’Donnell and Ryan Finnie leaving the club, manager Alan Archibald needs to strengthen his defence before the season begins. With the departure of Kallum Higginbotham and Lyle Taylor leaving after his loan spell, Thistle’s attack is looking a little light too. A lot of faith will have to places in former Carlisle winger David Amoo, while the fans will be looking to Callum Booth to shore up the back line. Keeper Scott Fox also needs to be replaced and Archibald will be hoping ex-Hibs Tomas Cerny can challenge for the number one shirt.

Look out for:

Partick are likely to find life in the Premiership a bit tougher this year, unless they can bring in some strong characters. If they stay injury-free then they have a chance against most teams, but with a lack of a cutting edge up front and certain weaknesses in defence, they could well struggle.

Prediction: 11th

Ross County

County have seen a complete overhaul in their squad since last time out. They had been performing quite consistently but Jim McIntyre seemed to have wanted to stamp his own mark on the team after replacing Derek Adams. No fewer than fourteen players have let the club since McIntyre took over and new signing from Bradford Andrew Davies has been named captain. County do have a safe pair of hands in goal with the introduction of Scott Fox from Partick Thistle, and Richard Foster from Rangers will give them a solid performer in the full back positions. Ian McShane is recruited from McIntyre’s old team, Queen of the South, and he will be hoping he can make the step up. It will be a difficult season of Ross County as they have a lot of factors, in the dugout and on the field, that are untested at this level.

Look out for:

With a lot of faith being placed on a lot of new players, expect County to find consistency hard to come by, at least early on in the season. A poor start to the season will set them up for a relegation battle that could take its toll on a squad that is just finding its feet.

Prediction: 12th

St Johnstone

With the veteran midfielder James McFadden failing to impress for the Saints, he has been released by the club, but another veteran, John Sutton, has been brought in to provide a more direct threat up front. With the departure of fellow-midfielder Lee Croft to Oldham, the team’s midfield might find the season hard going. St Johnstone have managed to compete relatively successfully in recent seasons and they seem to have maintained some consistency in their squad compared to other teams. The Saints will compete again this year and providing their new signings perform, and they avoid too many injuries they could do well.

Look out for:

First and foremost St Johnstone take to the field looking to be well-organised and solid. In recent seasons they have managed this very well, so expect this to continue and for them to be hard to beat. The addition of John Sutton as a target man up front could well be the very thing that manager Tommy Wright has been looking for to end the goal drought that the club struggled with last term.

Prediction: 5th

© 2015 Jonathan M J Henderson

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