Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The story so far...

The less than welcome international break gives us an early chance to take stock. We’re seven games in now and what have learned?

Celtic

Atop the pile and Tony Mowbray seems confident that they’ll be up there at the end of the season. That’s the positive. The negatives are he doesn’t yet have the players to play the kind of game he wants, he has not got any faith in the defenders Gordon Strachan bequeathed him and the natives are, as ever, getting restless. Little comfort has been provided by Europe either. I still think Celtic will win the league but it will not be the comfortable journey they’ve enjoyed in the past.

Rangers

The draw with Stuttgart and the Old Firm are the high points. A three game run of 0-0’s in the league and the hammering by Sevilla are the negatives. This is a poor Rangers side and the likely loss of Bougherra in January will rob them of their best player. The club is enduring a period of turbulent finances and there’s little cheer to be found on the pitch. The win over Celtic closes the gap for now but Rangers are a country mile short of where they need to be. Teams will go to Glasgow and come away with points this season as both sides of the Old Firm are there for the taking.

Hibernian

A pleasant start for Yogi at Easter Road. In true Hibs style it could/should have been better with a sub par performance at Hamilton meaning they missed the chance to enter the break joint top. Third is not out of reach although questions remain about consistency. Expect Hibs to get a few results that raise eyebrows – both good and bad – as the season progresses.

Dundee United

Always likely to be there or thereabouts. Craig Levein’s team have resilience and perseverance at their core and the 2009/10 version is no different. Danny Cadamarteri and Nicky Weaver both look like good signings and the team retains a physical presence. Third is a possibility and fourth should be a minimum return from a decent group of players working under a talented manager.

Motherwell

Jim Gannon’s arrival coincided with one of Motherwell’s periodic episodes of crisis. In less than promising circumstances he has built a young team that have continually impressed. This year’s surprise package, their excellent start might not be maintained as the season wears on but given how things looked in July and August even a run at making the top six would be considered quite an achievement.

Aberdeen

Hopes that Mark McGhee’s homecoming would end the Aberdeen soap opera have proved unfounded. Defeats in Europe and the League Cup suggest that a frailty in knockout tournaments remains. Their league form has been so-so with McGhee shoring up the defence but not quite making things click together going forward. The introduction of youngsters hints at a cash shortage but also offers hope for the future. A season of transition but the top six beckons.

St Mirren

Stuffy, hard to beat and capable of pulling off the odd surprise: Gus McPherson might be a one trick pony but he does it very well. After last year’s dogfight expect St Mirren to rise above the very bottom this year. The top six is not impossible but would seem to be a big ask although if they can start winning games at home they certainly stand a chance. Establishing themselves as a top flight fixture.

Hearts

Money is the root of all evil apparently. The Hearts fans would say being skint is fairly unpleasant as well. A team with some talent and a decent manager but also, alas, an absent but very much in control owner. Vlad the Mad isn’t backing Csaba Lazlo and the cracks are showing on the pitch. The last two results, a 2-1 victory over Hamilton and a 2-1 loss to St Mirren, indicate the company the Jambos will be keeping come the end of the season.

Kilmarnock

One win and three draws. Still a reasonably effective unit but not enough at their disposal going forward to have a sustained run of form and the lack of cash for new faces in the summer is obvious. Might be a few uncomfortable months before they rise above the relegation zone although they should survive with something to spare.

St Johnstone

The new boys have been free scoring but have also been quite generous at the other end. It’s an exciting combination for the neutral but a worry for the manager. They look, at this moment, to be better equipped than Hamilton and Falkirk but they lack the dogfight experience of those two teams. It is that group of three that I see the casualty coming from but I reckon a wee run or two isn’t beyond them and that should see them safe.

Hamilton

Billy Reid could have done without rebuilding his team in the summer. At the moment the changes are showing and there is a grim comparison to their great start 12 months ago. Difficult second season syndrome? Definitely and I think it will last right through until May. I don’t want to see them go down but that is the real danger.

Falkirk

Losing a manager, players and a great deal of self respect made Falkirk’s European summer rather less memorable than they would have hoped. Eddie May needs to change their fortunes quickly if they are to make a fight of surviving. Three goalless draws in a row before a narrow defeat at Motherwell point to a fighting spirit that is alive and well. Unfortunately they need points and for that they need goals. It’s hard to see them getting very many of either this season.