Celtic; Dundee; Hearts; Hibernian, Kilmarnock; Motherwell; Rangers; Ross County; St. Johnstone
PREDICTED LEAGUE POSITION: Twelfth
LAST SEASON: 11th, 35pts
NOTABLE INS: Ryan Fulton (Liverpool), Xavier Tomas (Lausanne)
NOTABLE OUTS: Blair Adams (Hartlepool United), Jack Breslin (Clyde), Gramoz Kurtaj (Danang), Sean McKirdy (Selkirk), Craig Watson (East Fife), Remi Matthews (Norwich City, end of loan), Martin Canning (retired), Eamonn Brophy, Alex D'Acol, Jesus Garcia Tena, Danny Seaborne
LAST SEASON'S BEST XI (Departed players crossed out):
Every year I tip Hamilton Accies for the drop, and every year they defy me.
Though how they managed it last season is beyond me; the 2016-17 vintage were surely the worst side of recent times to avoid relegation, doing so only because Inverness achieved a quite remarkable level of incompetence and because Dundee United were abysmal in the playoff.
This year, folks, this year.
Because Accies look even weaker than they did in May. Ta-ra went their only decent forward, Alex D'Acol. Their next best striker, Eamonn Brophy, has so far declined to sign a new deal. And Mikey Devlin, who had improved so much that some people were making daft comments about Scotland call-ups, has wrecked his knee and won't be seen for a good while.
And what have they brought in? Not much. They made a big song and dance about paying a fee for French defender Xavier Tomas...but given that transfermarkt had already listed him as having been released by Lausanne, I imagine that fee consisted of little more than magic beans. They've also signed promising young Scottish keeper Ryan Fulton, but Gary Woods was reliable enough between the sticks last season that it wasn't really an area of weakness. Everywhere else on the park, on the other hand...
Martin Canning has insisted that he is playing the waiting game, gambling that good players will reduce their demands and expectations to Hamilton's level as the end of August approaches. At the moment, it feels like a gamble.
As it stands, the erratic Rakesh Bingham is their only striker aged over 20. Creativity depends on David Templeton - if he stays fit, which is very, very unlikely - Ali Crawford, who traditionally plays well till the turn of the year and then dips dramatically, and Dougie Imrie, now a sprightly 35 years of age. Chances will be at a premium, goals even more so.
At the other end, Devlin will be badly missed. Canning will pick from Tomas, Alex Gogic and Zangief-lookalike Georgios Sarris in the centre of defence; the latter two showed flashes of quality at times last season, but only flashes. So too Scott McMann, the young left-back who is highly thought of but needs to step up his game. Getting Greek right-back Ioannis Skondras to sign a new deal is their biggest offseason success so far; it had initially seemed that he preferred a return to Greece over staying in Lanarkshire (I can't think for a second why).
In the middle of the park there are plenty of options, but it feels like quantity over quality. If Canning is lucky, Darian McKinnon will play like he did last season (when he was the club's player of the year) and not revert back to the thug of previous years that spent most matches prowling around the centre circle looking for a punch up. And maybe Greg Docherty, the hero of the relegation playoff, will blossom. But just as likely he will be the next Grant Gillespie, a guy who hangs around at the club as a fringe player forever, and wouldn't ever get a game for another top flight team. Oh, and 36 year old Massimo Donati is still here. He was okay last season, but he's not exactly likely to improve.
As it stands, Accies are going to be down with several games to spare. But obviously there will be a number of new signings in the next few weeks - at least half a dozen, I would expect. If they are successes, they might stand a chance. But since Canning is the mastermind who signed the likes of Nico Sumsky, Kemy Agustien, Oumar Diaby, Christopher Mandiangu and Richard Roy, I'm not holding my breath.
There's no Inverness to save them this time. This is Hamilton Accies' fourth consecutive top flight season; there won't be a fifth.
THE SQUAD (players born after 1 January 1996 in italics)
Goalkeepers: Ryan Fulton, Darren Jamieson, Gary Woods
Defenders: Michael Devlin, Alex Gogic, Jordan McGregor, Scott McMann, Georgios Sarris, Ioannis Skondras, Xavier Tomas, Shaun Want
Midfielders: Ali Crawford, Ross Cunningham, Greg Docherty, Massimo Donati, Grant Gillespie, Ronan Hughes, Dougie Imrie, Louis Longridge, Darren Lyon, Darian McKinnon, Daniel Redmond
Forwards: Rakish Bingham, Steven Boyd, David Templeton, Ryan Tierney
THE BEST XI?
Lawrie Spence (LS) has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly.