We’re well into the season now, and as has become rather common over the last few years the league hasn’t really panned out as many people expected it to. Teams used to the high life at the top of the tables are coming to terms with different sorts of battles while newcomers and upstarts are proving to be doing great things and playing good football.
In the Premiership, the order of the teams has been radically shaken up from what people’s pre-season predictions would have you believe. Hamilton are blazing the trail at the top of the league playing brilliant football and having disposed of champions Celtic on their own turf. Considering the side have only just been promoted, after famously beating Hibs in the SPFL’s first promotion/relegation play-off, their achievements are even more spectacular. Alex Neil is proving himself to be an astute manager, with clever signings of Michael McGovern and Dougie Imrie over the summer adding nicely to what was a strong squad already. Dundee United are also going great guns towards the summit of the league, managing to overcome the Jekyll and Hyde problem they seemed to have last year where a different side would appear in tangerine each week.
As for the defending champions, The Hoops are languishing in a relatively poor position of sixth, as new manager Ronnie Deila struggles to get to grips with the pressures of running Scotland’s biggest club. Their Champions League exit, even though they enjoyed a stay of execution, has cost the club one of their main targets as a football team and as a club, so Deila will need to follow through with his promises to the faithful of domestic success and a good run in the Europa League to ensure he keeps the restless fans on side. Motherwell too are having their troubles, after doing so well in the last few years and outperforming the size and budget of the club, with Stuart McCall failing to get the team going. Ross County have been the league’s weakest outfit so far this season, only picking up their first win just over a week ago, and the failings of the team have seen Derek Adams leave the club to be replaced by Queen of the South’s Jim MacIntyre. Despite maintaining a good core of players, the side haven’t found a rhythm to their passing yet which means that their attacks are often being thwarted. County are only four points adrift of Motherwell and St Mirren, although with their next match against the wounded lions of Celtic the upcoming clash with the Paisley team is already looking like a six-pointer.
The Championship looked as though it would be more exciting than the Premiership in many ways this year, and the league hasn’t failed to disappoint. Despite undergoing major squad changes this summer, Hearts have managed to coalesce into a fantastic side – and top the league comfortably with the country’s only unbeaten record. Rangers follow in second, with boss Ally McCoist under fire for his side’s poor performances despite the return of striking duo Kris Boyd and Kenny Miller. The Glasgow giants have only lost in the league to what were perceived to be their main rivals, Hearts and Hibs, but performances against other teams have not lived up to the side’s billing as favourites. Hibs have only managed to achieve 5th place, after a poor start, and will face challenges from high-flying Raith Rovers and Queen of the South for places in the play-offs.
Forfar top League One as they hold off favourites Dunfermline and Ayr United. Strikers Dale Hilson and former Dundee and St Johnstone man Gavin Swankie have both netted four times so far in the league as they have managed to pull off close wins against the other sides to propel themselves to the top of the table.
Arbroath have opened up an impressive five point lead after just seven games at the top of League Two as they look to bounce straight back up to League One. The Red Lichties too have hit the top spot with narrow wins, bouncing back after being dumped out of both the Challenge Cup and League Cup at the start of the season.
Eyes now focus to the national team’s efforts, with the first double-header of the Euro 2016 qualification campaign starting against Georgia at Ibrox on Saturday followed by a visit to Poland on Tuesday. After a fantastic performance away to Germany last month, with a narrow 2-1 defeat against the recently crowned world champions, Gordon Strachan’s team will need to prove their ability against their real competition for a ticket to France in arguably the most important games for the national team for over two years. Four points would be a good haul from the two games, with Georgia at home being beatable and Scotland’s win in Warsaw back in March showing that they’re capable of getting a result over there as well.
So Scottish football, domestically at least, appears in rude health and there’ll be plenty more twists and turns as the season unravels. Will Hamilton and Dundee United be able to hold on or will Celtic pick up and overtake them? Will Ross County catch up to the rest of the pack and create another interesting relegation battle? Will Hearts be able to maintain their blistering form? We’ll have to wait and see.