Saturday, 15 August 2009

The Season Does Start Here!

After one of the most traumatic and dispiriting close seasons in Scottish football history, the Scottish Championship starts today in a climate of economic collapse. It is a symbol if this that the Champions Rangers have so far not added to their squad, despite the “Champions League” millions coming their way. On the plus side for Rangers they retain Walter Smith as manager, who has won 8 championships in total for his team. Rangers though have seen 5 players leave the club.

On the other hand Celtic had their most turbulent close season since Martin O’Neil’s appointment, when they lost Gordon Strachan within 24 hours of losing the Championship. Strachan’s successor was identified as Tony Mowbray. However a protracted period of negotiations ensued, which eat into valuable preparation time. Celtic have actually managed to bring some players in, Landry N'Guemo, Marc-Antoine Fortune and Danny Fox being the summer signings while Lukasz Zaluska signed on freedom of contract in January. Celtic though have lost Nakamura from last year. Celtic’s chances of overtaking Rangers depend on how quickly they can pull together as a team, and whether they are mentally tough enough. In this respect, I would make Rangers slight favourites to retain the league championship, very possibly on the last afternoon of the season again.

Elsewhere it’s a case of the more things change, the more things stay the same. Aberdeen replaced Calderwood with Motherwell’s Mark McGee, who’s attempts at teambuilding have so far proved less successful than his work at Fir Park, the 8-1 European aggregate defeat at the hands of Sigma Olomic at the will have been a hige psychological blow. Motherwell appointed former Stockport manager Jim Gannon, and suffered their own European humiliation at the hands of Steua Bucharest. HIbs saw Pattelinen leave and replaced him with Falkirk’s John Hughes, who took a couple of his Cup finalists with him. Falkirk brought in rookie manager, and former player Eddie May. Their European nightmare came at the hands of Luxembourg’s very own FC Vaduz. The combination of rookie manager and former player is not a good combination for a new manager. This probably makes Falkirk favourites for the drop, but in truth they will probably fight it out with Hamilton and Kilmarnock, with promoted St Johnstone, St Mirren and Motherwell just being too good to go down, but not by much.

Not that very much of this will be seen by the general public. The demise of Setanta has seen the rights for the SPL split between BSkyB and newcomers ESPN. BSkyB appear to have already decided to show Scottish football in the graveyard slot of Saturday lunchtime. Highlights will be shown on the BBC on Monday nights, 50 hours after the action has taken place. One of the stated aims of the SPL was to “improve the product”. Can someone tell me how a product is being improved by being priced out of reach of most people, and being shown at insane hours?

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