Friday, November 20, 2009

Back To business

Another international break and it all went a bit medieval. After being slain in a distant land we embarked on a spot of regicide. So it's bye, bye George and hello .... ? God save the king, whoever he might be.

We don't know. Walter Smith and Mark McGhee have already said they don't want the job. Jim Jefferies won't talk about it, Craig Levein is hotly tipped but United are extending a half threatening, half protective arm around his shoulder. And Csaba Lazlo, inevitably, wants the job.

And the other seven SPL managers are no doubt praying that they don't pick up the paper to find their names thrown into the hat.

The SPL holiday may be the moment when normal order is restored and Rangers and Celtic - suffering, like lovestruck teenage boys, the pain of rejection - reestablish themselves and take control of the league once and for all.

Or maybe not. It seems unlikely that either Tony Mowbray or Walter Smith has found the key to reinvigorating sides that are back pedalling quickly towards the chasing pack. Although we must always point out that it is the big boys from Glasgow who continue to sit atop the league table.

So what does the weekend ahead have in store?

Falkirk v Hamilton

A six pointer in the early season relegation skirmishes. Things would look even grimmer for Falkirk if Hamilton were to sneak a win here although the Bairns should be boosted by their thrilling draw with Celtic last time around. And they've signed Pele. Hamilton haven't signed Pele but they look a far more cohesive outfit despite their struggle for consistency. Despite that I'm going for a home win. It's the law of averages and all that.

Hearts v St Johnstone

A goalless draw with Hibs last time out was the least Hearts deserved but it was a performance that highlighted their inability to score goals. St Johnstone have scored 17 goals to Hearts' nine in the first eleven games. But they've conceded 23 to Hearts' 17. It's Hearts defence that has them a point ahead of St Johnstone as things stand. I expect a spot of leapfrogging on Saturday though as the Saints get their second away win of the season.

Motherwell v Aberdeen

Fifth play sixth in another of Saturday's six pointers. Aberdeen have been blowing hot and cold which, I fear, makes them rather tepid. Motherwell have bounced back from a couple of setbacks to remain very much in the mix at the top of the table. It would be remiss of me not to mention the spice added by the return of Mark McGhee who seems to have found it far harder to settle in Aberdeen than he did at Fir Park. More glumness for him this weekend as I back the home side for a win.

Rangers v Kilmarnock

Rangers can sneak ahead of Celtic in the overnight table if they beat Kilmarnock, a team that have often huffed and puffed to very little avail against both sides of the Old Firm. We've already seen how difficult what Mr Craig Burley would insist on calling the "provincial sides" can make it for Rangers this season. More of the same on Saturday. For sure. But the Ibrox masses will still be rewarded with a home win.

St Mirren v Hibs

The goalless draw at Tynecastle was proof that, impressive as it has been, John Hughes' Hibernian revolution is not yet complete. They'll be looking to bounce back but can expect some stubborn resistance from St Mirren. That said Gus McPherson will still be disappointed with their home form as they struggle to turn St Mirren Park into a fortress. I'll tip Hibs but wouldn't be shocked with a draw.

Dundee United v Celtic (ESPN, Sunday)

We have to wait for Sunday for the pick of the games and United will be desperate to take advantage of the stuttering Celts. Tony Mowbray will be just as keen to get a decent performance and kick start a decent run of form. I've got reasonably high hopes that this will turn into a watchable clash, perhaps a bit low on true class but intriguing nonetheless. I'm going to back a United win. The SPL might be back but it's still going to be a topsy turvy season for a few weeks yet.

The form book: 23 out of 59. If I was an SPL team I'd be in sixth and half place. Exactly mid table. A platform to push on or a slippery slope?

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