Sunday, August 31, 2008

So the first marker has been thrown down in the SPL title race - a big win for the Huns and now Celtic, with back to back away games to follow, are already playing catch up while trying to juggle European commitments as well, It's far too early to make judgments, but I wonder whether, come next Spring, the Ibrox hordes see the Kaunas fiasco as a blessing in disguise.

To be honest, though, I'm rather more interested in the rest of the league, where the form book and all the preseason predictions have gone out of the window quick style.

Take the relegation favourites at the start of the campaign. St. Mirren are, as expected, down at the bottom, not least because their strikers couldn't score in a brothel. While wearing a gallon of synthetic testosterone. When the whores are all uglier than Margaret Thatcher without her makeup on and haven't had it in ages.

That's how bad their strikers are!

But the other two teams tipped by everyone for the drop were Hamilton (reasonable because they'd only just been promoted) and Inverness (reasonable because their transfer activity was uninspiring but not for the main reasons given - namely, they've been in the league a few seasons and are due a struggle). The Accies, though, are no mugs and have made a pretty useful start. They have enough quality in the midfield and enough goals in Offiong to stay in the division, and their failure to repeat Gretna's sorry show from last year has plenty of managers biting their fingernails already. Caley, meanwhile, apart from a defeat to Hamilton, have also been pretty useful. I thought I'd see hell freeze over before we beat Aberdeen, but we managed it on opening day. And I tell you, it was sweet. And now yesterday's win puts us seven points above Falkirk. Who are bottom. With zero points.

Falkirk have been utterly screwed by the fixture computer - two out of their first three games were against the Old Firm, with Hibs away in between. But once you start losing then it can become a habit, and for all their good (on paper, anyway) signings in the summer, their start is a nightmare. Next they have a resurgent Hearts at home, followed by games against the Saints and the Accies. Anything less than about 4 points from those three games and they are in the cack.

In contrast, you would expect Well and Dundee United to get out of their early hole. United, for all the hyperbole about them being favourites to come third, have put in about one good performance - a home draw with Celtic. Losing to Killie at home is not the sort of result Craig Levein is looking for. Killie, on the other hand, are absolutely flying, helped by the fact that Alan Combe's goal seems to have a forcefield around it at the moment and that David Fernandez appears to have been hypnotised into thinking he's playing for Livingston again.

Who have I forgotten? Oh yeah, Aberdeen, who by all accounts have been the inferior team in every game they've played this season, yet come away with 7 points. Either they will get better (most likely) and the results will keep coming, or (less likely but with more scope for amusement) they will start getting the results they deserve for the performances they put in.

And last, but not least, Hibs, for whom the word "crisis" appears to be pretty appropriate right now, I can't help feeling that, by the time the transfer window closes tomorrow night, Steven Fletcher might be gone, and I'd like to see big Mixu revitalise things after that. Even with a half-fit confidence-less Derek Riordan back. Could they be dragged into it at the bottom?

Anyway, as far as I'm concerned, it's all very juicy indeed. And it will remain so, especially if Caley keep well adrift from it all. But we shall see...


Friday, August 1, 2008

Prediction time!

So the SFL season kicks off tomorrow and I hope to mark it with a trip to Victoria Park to see Ross County-Dundee, if I can take some time off from moving into my new house. So, therefore, this is a prime opportunity to look into my crystal ball and see how Scotland's lower divisions will look in May 2009...

Only brave, foolhardy people will have bet on who will get all the division 1 glory. St. J look strong, Dundee look strong, Dunfermline look strong. But they all looked strong last year at the beginning and instead the less fancied Accies nicked the spoils while they weren't looking. What Hamilton particularly proved is the importance of a good start - neither the Saints or the Pars got one and were adrift well before even one fan said "what, we're playing this bunch again already?"

It's a bit easier to say who should be at the wrong end of the table - Airdrie United only came up cos Gretna went bust, Clyde still have no dosh, and Morton have Davie Irons in charge, so the three of them are good candidates for a relegation dogfight. County have a decent squad and should be comfortably mid-table; both they and QOS (if they don't get distracted by Europe - I suppose they won't be there for very long, mind) could get themselves in the mix at the top if they avoid injuries. Ditto Partick, while how Livi and their new Italian bloke will fare is anyone's guess. If they turn out like Claude Anelka's Raith Rovers, though, I shall laugh till my belly is sore.

Div 2 should go Raith's way, since they're the only totally full time team. Expect Peterhead and Brechin to be in the playoffs, while Stirling and ambitious East Fife will compete too. In contrast, Arbroath, Stranraer and Queen's Park will be more worried about steering clear of the bottom.

And I'd love to predict Montrose for Div 3, to keep my Mo-supporting mate off my back. But apparently they've sucked in pre-season and so the smart money is on either Forfar (led by Dick "Uncle Fester" Campbell) or Dumbarton to go up as Champions. Dare I say it, apparently East Stirling could have a chance of a play off place. To quote General Melchett in Blackadder, "Bugger me with a fish fork"