After months of waiting, competitive football is making its return to Scottish shores. It has been months of controversy and turmoil within the game during the lockdown period, but now we’re all back to what really matters – football on the park.
With Hearts relegated after the 2019/20 season was cut short, Dundee United take their place in the top-flight. There’s many a storyline to be found, from the race for third to who’s going to survive at the bottom.
It’s set to be an action-packed term in what could be another historic season for Scottish football. Here is our preview for each of the ten Premiership teams we cover on NTOF.
Derek McInnes’ men go into this campaign off the back of a fourth-place finish last season. Fans were disgruntled at times by the style of play at Pittodrie and even McInnes himself has said it was tough to watch at times.
Despite that, as always, they will be in the running for the prestigious third spot and European football. Their early season ambitions have not been helped by an early injury to top striker Sam Cosgrove, who is likely to miss the first few months of the season through a knee problem.
They’ll play Celtic and Rangers in two of their opening five games with a trip to St Johnstone and home matches against Hamilton and Livingston in there too. It was one defeat in six from their opening six last season, they’ll be hoping for similar this term.
Last season’s Championship winners, United have found themselves characters in the SPFL court drama more by default than their own willingness. Factor in the shock managerial departure of Robbie Neilson, it’s fair to say their summer has been busy.
Under Micky Mellon though there is optimism at Tannadice. The winning feeling from the Championship is still there and, of course, goal-machine Lawrence Shankland remains at the club.
If United are to have success this term in their return to top-flight football, keeping him is a must after 24 league goals last season.
It was another successful season for Hamilton in 19/20 as they retained their Premiership status. They just seem allergic to relegation, despite arguably being the smallest club in the Premiership. This campaign could prove testing for Brian Rice’s men, however.
Losing key players like Aaron McGowan, Alex Gogic, Mickel Miller and George Oakley to name a few is a blow. A summer of financial uncertainty too has meant Rice, like most bosses in Scotland, has had to tighten the purse strings. There’s reason to be optimistic if you are an Accies fan, however. There’s good young talent like Jamie Hamilton, Lewis Smith and Andy Winter emerging, whilst David Moyo and Marios Ogkmpoe showed promise up top together last term. Don’t write them off.
Hibs have been hit hard by the financial ramifications of the football shutdown, but it hasn’t dimmed optimism in Leith ahead of the new campaign. Jack Ross showed flashes of what he can offer the Hibees as manager last term and has recruited smartly this term too.
Kevin Nisbet is an exciting signing for fans after two goal-laden years in League One and the Championship. Gogic fills a CDM-shaped void perhaps left open since Marvin Bartley and Mark Milligan’s exits whilst Drey Wright brings creativity on the wing. It is proven SPFL quality and promising kids like Josh Doig will get the chance to impress this season too as Ross runs a smaller squad. A good bet for third?
Alex Dyer’s at the wheel permanently now and it’ll be interesting to see how well he copes with his first full season at Rugby Park. It should be a more settled season this term following the upheaval that Angelo Alessio’s tenure last year brought to Ayrshire.
He has had a bit of recruitment to do, signing no less than eight players. McGowan from Premiership rivals Accies should fill the Stephen O’Donnell hole at right-back and Danny Rogers will be looking to seize his chance at top-flight football following his move from Aberdeen.
It was only a couple of seasons ago that Killie were fighting for Europe. They’d love to be back up there again fighting this term but it’s important Dyer is given plenty of time as permanent boss to get his ideas across fully.
Fifth-place last term set a new high for Livingston in what has been a successful few years following their rise from League One to stable Premiership outfit. It’s going to be hard for a club of their size to sustain such success, but they don’t mind playing the underdog.
Ciaron Brown and Robbie McCrorie are back on loan whilst Salim Kouider-Aissa is an interesting pickup from Queen’s Park. He’s gone from amateur football to full-time in a couple of years and it’ll be intriguing to see if he can make the grade in the top-flight.
Add into the mix big, bad Jon Guthrie at the back, newly appointed skipper Marvin Bartley in the middle and Lyndon Dykes’ physicality up top, The Lions will do just fine this season.
Last season’s major over-achievers, manager Stephen Robinson is doing his best to temper expectations at Fir Park. The outside noise at least will get louder this term following a superb third-place finish in 19/20.
Europa League football is something they can look forward to whilst they have been active in the market in order to improve on what’s been and gone. Ricki Lamie is a decent pickup from Livingston, Chris Long and Mark O’Hara’s respective returns are big and Callum Lang should add physical presence to the forward line too.
Add in the return to regular starting XI’s after injury for Trevor Carson and ‘Celtic-linked’ David Turnbull, Well have strength in numbers. A push towards that third spot again is not outside the realms of possibility.
The Staggies are set for another season in the top-flight after securing their status last term. It has been a summer of reshuffling, with Stuart Kettlewell now in sole charge of the first team as Steven Ferguson takes the chief executive role.
On the park they have signed some familiar SPFL faces in Carl Tremarco and Connor Randall, with Ross Doohan set to opt for Dingwall on loan. They’ve got a favorable start to the season too, only playing one of the top six, Motherwell, in their first five fixtures. Picking up points early doors will be valuable if the Staggies want to stay up again or push further up the league.
The Tommy Wright era in Perth has had its encore and now it is time for Callum Davidson to take centre stage. Having been highly thought of as a coach in his previous role at Millwall, St Johnstone are looking forward to life under his guidance.
A great end to the season allowed them to grab an unlikely top six position. They’ve got experience in the likes of new signing Craig Conway and long-serving midfielders Liam Craig and Murray Davidson. Youthfulness from your Ali McCann’s and Callum Hendry’s help balance the ship.
Another steady season is likely the case for the McDiarmid Park team.
The Saints have had a worrying time recently with a run of COVID-19 tests bringing back seven positives, including one for manager Jim Goodwin. Thankfully, many of these were false-positives, but it did take four valuable days’ worth of training ahead of the new season.
Their manager remains optimistic and confident. They have a backline who have all been captains at some stage whilst they will be hoping for the form of Jon Obika to continue into the new term. Jak Alnwick has the unenviable task of replacing the immense Vaclav Hladky following his Paisley departure.
There is ambition at the club to strive for the top six. An improvement on last year would be a start, but perhaps they will hope for something more.