3 August 2012

2012/2013 Scottish Premier League preview

The Daily Transfer Request looks ahead to the 2012/2013 Scottish Premier League season - the first ever top-flight campaign in Scotland without Rangers.

Without their Old Firm rivals, it is as easy to predict Celtic running away with the SPL title as it is to predict that a major table tennis tournament will be won by a Chinese player. But there are some other interesting questions to be asked:
  • Who will finish in second place?
  • How will the two promoted sides fare?
  • Will any SPL teams go bankrupt as feared by some?
Today, we look at the 12 teams involved and predict how well (or badly) they'll do.

ABERDEEN
Veteran manager Craig Brown is preparing for perhaps his final season at Pittodrie.
 The 72-year-old knows that the Dons must do better after finishing a disappointing 9th last season. Two of his biggest decisions have been to sign midfielders Jonny Hayes and Niall McGinn after Aberdeen lost their brightest talent Fraser Fyvie to Wigan Athletic. It is of utmost importance to the team that captain Russell Anderson remains fit.
Key Signings: Jonny Hayes, Niall McGinn, Gary Naysmith.
Key Departures: Kari Arnason, Fraser Fyvie, Youl Mawene, Rory McArdle, Mark Reynolds.
PREDICTION: 8th. Brown heads off into retirement on the back of another poor campaign.

CELTIC
Every man and his dog knows that Neil Lennon and his charges are far superior to the 11 other SPL teams.
 It is almost impossible to see the Bhoys not retaining their title for at least the next three seasons. That said, qualification for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League will be of utmost importance if they are to further improve their squad - their only signing so far has been keeper Fraser Forster on a permanent deal. Expect plenty more goals from Forster's English compatriot Gary Hooper.
Key Signings: Fraser Forster.
Key Departures: Cha Du-Ri, Daniel Majstorovic, Glenn Loovens, Niall McGinn, Darren O'Dea, Mark Wilson.
PREDICTION: 1st (Champions). Only a choking of monumental proportions would deny Celtic their crown.

DUNDEE
Dundee were the beneficiaries of Rangers' liquidation, but Barry Smith faces a tough task to keep them up. 
 There won't be a lack of support at Dens Park for the Dee, but the fact that they finished 24 points behind Ross County in Division 1 is proof enough that they must improve their squad. They've made a few signings, such as former Aberdeen left-back Davide Grassi, but still lack in quality. Teenage midfielder Leighton McIntosh is one player to look out for in the future.
Key Signings: John Baird, Iain Davidson, Carl Finnigan, Davide Grassi, Mark Stewart.
Key Departures: Ross Chisholm, Mark Fotheringham, Craig McKeown, Rhys Weston.
PREDICTION: 12th (Relegated). Promoted with three weeks left until the start - and probably relegated with three weeks left until the end!

DUNDEE UNITED
Peter Houston's excellent work with United could see him and his team rewarded with a top-two finish.
 The departures of several players, in particular Paul Dixon and Danny Swanson, will be hard to swallow for the Terrors' supporters. But the prolific duo of Johnny Russell and captain Jon Daly remain to provide them with a dangerous attack. Houston has also made a few signings that, at the end of the campaign, could look like shrewd ones.
Key Signings: Radoslaw Cierzniak, Michael Gardyne, Brian McLean, Mark Millar.
Key Departures: Paul Dixon, Garry Kenneth, Robbie Neilson, Dusan Pernis, Scott Robertson, Danny Swanson.
PREDICTION: 2nd. No repeat of 1983, but United are best-placed to finish directly behind Celtic.

HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN
It's all change at Hearts, with ex-Raith Rovers boss John McGlynn taking over from Paulo Sergio. 
 The Jam Tarts have never lacked ambition under controversial owner Vladimir Romanov, but nor have they matched it. But with their financial problems becoming public knowledge, they have had to shed a lot of players, and find themselves relying on younger players like attacking midfielder Scott Robinson. McGlynn will also have to get the best out of strikers like John Sutton.
Key Signings: Good question. Nobody!
Key Departures: Craig Beattie, Ian Black, Stephen Elliott, Gary Glen, Chris Kane, Marian Kello, David Obua, Rudi Skacel, Ryan Stewart, Suso.
PREDICTION: 5th. It's looking like another season where the Tynecastle club flatter to deceive.

HIBERNIAN
Hibs found themselves in a relegation battle last season, but Pat Fenlon has got them back on the right track.
 Fans won't forget the Scottish Cup Final mauling by Hearts too quickly, but Fenlon has improved relations by securing a permanent deal for the brilliant defender James McPake. He also loaned in young striker Leigh Griffiths after top goalscorer Garry O'Connor went back to Russia. Things will slowly get better at Easter Road under their fairly new coach.
Key Signings: Paul Cairney, Tim Clancy, Leigh Griffiths, James McPake, Ben Williams.
Key Departures: Mark Brown, Ian Murray, Isaiah Osbourne, Garry O'Connor, Martin Scott, Matt Thornhill.
PREDICTION: 6th. No battle against the drop this time - instead, Hibees can hope for a top-half finish.

INVERNESS CALEDONIAN THISTLE
Caley fans must brace themselves for another tough relegation battle under manager Terry Butcher.
 The former England captain has made some strange signings, skirting the Scottish market and bringing in a host of players from lower-league clubs south of the border. Ex-Gillingham defender Simon King is one of those surprising recruits. Their talismanic captain Richie Foran perhaps holds the key to whether Inverness survive or not.
Key Signings: Ross Draper, Simon King, Jason Oswell, David Raven, Antonio Reguero, Gary Warren.
Key Departures: Jonny Hayes, Thomas Piermayr, Gregory Tadé, Greg Tansey, Ross Tokely, Jonny Tuffey.
PREDICTION: 11th. Butcher and his non-Scots might just keep their heads above water after a long struggle.

KILMARNOCK
Sadly, if an SPL team does go to the wall this season, the most likely candidate is Kenny Shiels' Killie. 
 With the Rugby Park outfit still in choppy financial waters, Shiels has had to slash his squad, and he even lost his son Dean to new Rangers. There is a bright light, though, in the club's youth system, which has produced players like League Cup hero Liam Kelly. Fellow graduate Cammy Bell is one of the league's top keepers, and at 17, Matthew Kennedy is an exciting prospect.
Key Signings: Rory Boulding, Lee Johnson, Jeroen Tesselaar.
Key Departures: Danny Buijs, Zdenek Kroca, Dean Shiels, David Silva, Dieter van Tournhout.
PREDICTION: 10th. Killie play good football at times, and have the talent to get out of a relegation dogfight.

MOTHERWELL
Stuart McCall's Well were shock qualifiers for the UEFA Champions League but don't expect a repeat. 
 Motherwell are largely dependent on youth, more so now that key midfielder Steven Jennings has left and defender Stephen Craigan is retired. Among the young faces at Fir Park are Mark Hateley's son Tom in midfield and future Scotland right-back Steven Saunders. McCall's squad is a thin one, so any sort of injury crisis could cripple them on the pitch.
Key Signings: Simon Ramsden.
Key Departures: Tim Clancy, Stephen Craigan, Ross McKinnon, Jamie Pollock.
PREDICTION: 4th. Another top-three finish would be excellent if surprising for Motherwell.

ROSS COUNTY
It's a warm welcome to the Scottish Premier League for Derek Adams and Ross County.
 The Staggies have only been a senior club for 18 years but look like they can not just survive but thrive in the SPL. If Adams can do with Gary Glen what he did with Colin McMenamin, County could have two excellent strikers. The return of the club's midfield icon Martin Scott on loan will also spur the club on as they aim to establish themselves as top-flight regulars.
Key Signings: Jonathan Bateson, Gary Glen, Mihael Kovacevic, Martin Scott, Ross Tokely.
Key Departures: Johnny Flynn, Michael Gardyne, Gary Miller.
PREDICTION: 9th. The team from Dingwall in the Highlands are moving on up in Scotland's top flight.

ST JOHNSTONE
I've got a hunch that Steve Lomas is going to surprise many people with St Johnstone this season.
 The young manager has made plenty of signings to compensate for the Saints' exodus, which has been typical of every club in the division. Out went Jody Morris and Francisco Sandaza, but in came Patrick Cregg and Gregory Tadé, who are both worthy replacements. And while Rowan Vine has never lacked goalscoring talent, the SPL is a great place to get himself back on form.
Key Signings: Patrick Cregg, Nigel Hasselbaink, Gary Miller, Gregory Tadé, Jonny Tuffey, Tam Scobbie, Rowan Vine.
Key Departures: Jack Compton, Peter Enckelman, Carl Finnigan, Marcus Haber, Michael Hart, Jody Morris, Francisco Sandaza.
PREDICTION: 3rd. This looks like potentially one of the best seasons in living memory at McDiarmid Park.

ST MIRREN
Fans of Danny Lennon's charges will have optimism after a promising start to the last campaign.
 A team that looked on course for a shock top-half finish after Christmas struggled when 2012 began, but now they are geared up for a fresh challenge. Prolific striker Paul McGowan has interested English clubs, and another player to keep an eye on is goalkeeper Grant Adam, who is Charlie's brother. But the key to finishing in the top six is improving on their home form.
Key Signings: Grant Adam, Lewis Guy, Sam Parkin, Jon Robertson.
Key Departures: Nigel Hasselbaink, Jon McShane, Aaron Mooy, Hugh Murray, Graeme Smith, Jeroen Tesselaar.
PREDICTION: 7th. The Buddies won't make their breakthrough just yet, but they're getting closer.

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