October 06, 2011

SPL review after 10 games

All of the teams in the Scottish Premier League have now played 10 games with the exception of Celtic and Dunfermline but so far there are a
few points to consider. With the first stages of European football also completed and the league cup at the quarter final stage it is a good time to see if teams are matching their expectations.


With Ally McCoist in his first managerial post this was always going to be an interesting season for Rangers, after falling at the first hurdle in both European competitions there were early calls for the managers head and after they lost in the last minute to first division Falkirk in the league cup without the league McCoist could have enjoyed a very short tenure as Rangers manager. However after drawing the first game of the season at home to Hearts, Rangers have won 9 straight keeping 8 clean sheets, including a win in the first Old Firm game of the season. Super Ally is enjoying the best League start of any new manager since 1920 when Bill Struth started his reign by not losing in his first 23 league games in charge. I think at the moment rangers despite some off field issues with the Inland Revenue remain the favourites to win the title, which will be 4 in a row.


The surprise package of the year so far, they got off to an impressive start, winning 3 of their first 4 and they have only lost 3 games in the league Celtic, Rangers and St Johnstone. They went out of the cup on penalties to Hibs but if they can maintain the results then they will be in the challenge for the title of best of the rest they have to maintain their consistency as the defeats this year have been 3-0 to Rangers, 4-0 to Celtic and 3-0 St Johnstone. But with 6 wins they are showing the rest of the teams that they are there to compete.


They have lost 3 games in the league this year already, in comparison last year coming second by 1 point they only lost 4 games all year, with a game in hand they are currently sitting 10 points behind their biggest rivals Rangers and in third place behind Motherwell. After being knocked out of Europe by Sion and being re-instated when Sion were kicked out of the competition they are the last Scottish team in Europe, they are in the quarter finals of the league cup but face a tricky away tie to an improving Hibs team. While there has been little talk of Lennon being under threat unless he can start to get some better finishing from his team there may start to be talk of him being under threat.


The enigma that are Hearts, after losing their first home game of the season to Dundee United 1-0 they have won the last 4 home games without conceding a goal and yet away from home they have not won since February. Continuing the up and down form they lost to first division Ayr on penalties in the League cup and in the battle of Britain they were demolished by Spurs in the Europa League qualifier 5-0. If they can continue the home form and figure out how to play when the home support is not there to cheer them on, they will be challenging for the Europa League spot again. This will be a good result for Paulo Sergio who was brought in after Jim Jeffries and Billy Brown were surprising sacked after only 2 games of the league campaign. A long way to go for Hearts whose owner believes they should be challenging for the title and European glory, high aspirations.

St Johnstone

The Perth based team are currently the opposite to Hearts, struggling to find consistent form at home they have won 3 games away from home, including beating Celtic at Parkhead and Motherwell at Fir Park. When Hearts visited them they got their first home win of the season and the draw they got at home came against Dundee united when they were 2 goals up at half time and they lost it in 3 minutes near the end of the game. So another team searching for consistency but if nothing else if they can maintain their impressive away form they will surely make top six and will be in a position to challenge for third place. They lost to St Mirren in the League cup therefore have time before Christmas to concentrate on the league.

St Mirren

Sitting in the 6th spot that will see them at the end of the season joining the top half of the table when the split happens they are surely happy enough to be there. The only teams they can beat this year are those teams sitting below them with their wins coming against Hibs, Aberdeen and Kilmarnock. However on Saturday they lost to bottom side Inverness which was their opportunity to create a gap early on between the top and bottom halves. As they lost it keeps it real tight across the bottom with there only being 4 points between St Mirren and the bottom of the table. They are still in the League cup so there is still some chance of glory for them as they have a home tie against first division Ayr.


Kilmarnock started the season quite strongly by not losing their first 4 games, however there was only one win with 3 draws, their problem has been the last four games when they have not won any and have lost the last 3. They are still in the cup and face first division East Fife so have a good chance of making it to the Semi final and with several of the other SPL clubs already out they could have a real chance at a final. They need to stop the rot and with it being that tight in the SPL a couple of wins will propel them up the table and quite quickly they could be in the hunt for top six and possibly Europa League but they will need to find the consistency that all of the clubs in Scotland seem to lack.

Dundee United

As beaten finalists in the Scottish Cup last year they were granted entry to the Europa League at the earliest qualifying round but failed to make it past the first stage unlucky to lose on away goals. They are in the last 8 of the League cup and face a tricky tie away to first division Falkirk the conquerors of Rangers but as with Kilmarnock if they can negotiate that and get a good semi final draw they could be looking at a possible final in a cup. Their League form is poor and it currently comes down to the fact that they concede too many goals, they have already conceded 19 goals and while scoring 3 in 3 games, 2 of them came in 3-3 games against Hibs and St Johnstone. They have always had the ability to score goals and if they can stop conceding then they are close enough to the top half that a few results like at the end of last year will see them move up the table.


While they sit 9th they are only 1 point off the bottom and are yet to record an away win or even to score a goal away from home. And after losing to first division East Fife in the league cup it looks like it is going to be another long season for Aberdeen who have struggled in recent years to achieve the expectations of fans who saw their club climb the heights of Europe in the 1980's. While only 1 point off bottom they are only 3 behind 6th and therefore like everybody else a couple of results and they will be back in the hunt for top six and where their fans think they deserve to be. There is hope as their position is better now than after 4 games when they had only recorded a solitary point after 3 defeats and a draw, so if the improvement continues they may yet make the top six and challenge for Europe.


Another team on the rise after a poor start to the season that saw them bottom a couple of weeks ago, losing to Hearts in a lacklustre game which they never looked like challenging for they are in need of the improvement they have slowly been making. With Gary O'Connor returning and scoring 10 goals already this year they would be in desperate trouble without these goals. However at Ibrox on Saturday they could have pulled off a result against Rangers and were actually unlucky to lose 1-0, they are still in the League cup with a difficult home tie to Celtic and with Celtic struggling to achieve the league results they want perhaps there is an opportunity for Hibs to get a result. If the performances continue under Colin Calderwood and some more players can start to find the back of the net Hibs could yet still make top six.


The first division champions and newcomers to the SPL are finding it difficult to fit in, they have lost their last 2 games 4-0, against Rangers and Aberdeen, their star player was the September SPL player of the month, the goalkeeper Paul Gallacher and he has not yet had a bad game but some very poor defending has put them under real pressure. There was a confident start to the campaign when they started with 2 draws and 2 wins, however they are yet to get a home win and have now conceded 20 goals in 9 games with a trip to Parkhead the 10th game of the season. They also went out of the League cup to first division opponents and as with all newly promoted clubs their main aim this year is simply to stay up.

Inverness CT

A the bottom of the table they sit on 8pts which is 1pt behind 3 clubs and 2pts behind 2 clubs they are 2 wins away from the top half of the table. This indicates what a wee run of form can achieve. They have not had the best finishes to game with a 92nd minute winner from Hibs and a 90th minute equaliser from Dundee Utd costing them 3 points that would see them 7th in the league. However like so many of the SPL clubs out of the League cup it was lower division opposition that put them out.

Overall while there is a gap at the top to Rangers the bottom 9 clubs are only separated by 7 pts and therefore there is still a lot to play for and a lot that could happen in the final 28 games of the season.

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