Scottish Premiership 2020-21 season: Club-by-club analysis and predictions

Celtic are Scottish football’s Marlon Brando while Rangers more like Sharon Stone

Celtic manager Neil Lennon with the Ladbrokes Premiership trophy at Celtic Park, on June 19, 2020, in Glasgow, Scotland. Pic: SNS Group

With the new Scottish Premiership season now less than a week away, we analyse the prospects for each of the 12 clubs, and ask, if they were an actor, who would they be?

ABERDEEN

Sign up to our Football newsletter

Sign up to our Football newsletter

Manager: Derek McInnes

Last season: 4th

In: Jonny Hayes (Celtic).

Out: Greg Leigh (Breda, loan ended), Jon Gallagher (Atlanta United, loan ended), Danny Rogers, Frank Ross, Sam Jackson, Luc Bollan, Lloyd Robertson, Sebastian Ross, Jack Chessor, Sean Linden, Chris Antoniazzi, David Dangana, Kieran Shanks, Kyle Dalling.

Game changer: Much will depend on whether they keep Sam Cosgrove or how they replace him if he does go.

Prospects: By their own high standards they struggled at times last season. There were too many draws and they will have to find a way to turn them into victories if they are to move up the standings this term. The return of Jonny Hayes is a boost and will offer greater creativity and mental dig and in Cosgrove they have one of the league’s most prolific scorers. They need to hold on to the big striker or recruit well to ensure a decent goal return.

If they were an actor, they would be: Glenn Close. Like the Fatal Attraction star, Aberdeen peaked in the 80s. Still highly regarded by peers but whether it’s Oscars – where Close has been nominated seven times without winning – or Aberdeen with titles and silverware, they tend to get close, just not close enough.

Odds: 50-1 (all odds from Betfred)Prediction: 3rd

CELTIC

Manager: Neil Lennon

Last season: 1st

In: Mohamed Elyounoussi (Southampton loan).

Out: Eboue Kouassi (Genk, £1.35m); Craig Gordon (Hearts); Jonny Hayes (Aberdeen); Jozo Simunovic, Calvin Miller, Jack Hendry (Oostende, loan), Fraser Forster (Southampton, loan ended); Daniel Arzani (Manchester City, loan ended); Moritz Bauer (Stoke City, loan ended).

Game changer: Odsonne Edouard’s status is pivotal. If he is prised away, it instantly closes the gap they hold over Rangers.

Prospects: As it stands, Neil Lennon has lost and not replaced a clutch of valuable members of his squad – keeper Forster the biggest in every respect. Even allowing for that, the serial trophy snarers retain the talent and strength in depth to repel their Ibrox rivals in their quest for an historic tenth consecutive title. Not least because they rediscovered their mojo following the turn of the year to produce form up with their commanding best of the past decade.

If they were an actor, they would be: Marlon Brando. The Godfather of the game in this country with 11 straight honours, the nine-in-a-row winners continue to make an offer to Scottish football it can’t refuse.

Odds: 4/9

Prediction: 1st

DUNDEE UNITED

Manager: Micky Mellon

Last season: 1st in Championship

In: Jack Newman (Sunderland).

Out: Paul Watson (Dunfermline Athletic); Rakish Bingham; Sam Wardrop; Osman Sow.

Game changer: Lawrence Shankland’s prowess in front of goal was a major factor in Dundee United topping the Championship and, along with Nicky Clark, he will need to maintain a goal threat to give the Tannadice team any chance to shine. Shankland scored 24 league goals in 26 games to propel United to the title. Clark chipped in with seven goals in 15 starts before injury ended his season.

Prospects: A return to the top flight has been too long in coming but the circumstances are hardly ideal. Closed-door games and other coronavirus restrictions have placed a strain on the budget, while there is uncertainty surrounding a new management team, following Robbie Neilson’s departure and the arrival of Micky Mellon. Safeguarding their place in the Premiership is the priority and it could be a struggle.

If they were an actor, they would be: Robert Downey Jnr. Both spent a few years struggling in the doldrums, away from the limelight. But having overcome their demons, they are now back on the main stage.

Odds: 1000-1

Prediction: 10th

HAMILTON ACCIES

Manager: Brian Rice

Last season: 11th

In: Ross Callachan (St Johnstone); Charlie Trafford (Inverness Caledonian Thistle); Callum Smith (Dunfermline Athletic).

Out: Alex Gogic (Hibs); Aaron McGowan (Kilmarnock); Mickel Miller (Rotherham United); George Oakley (Pirin Blagoevgrad); Liam Scullion (Fauldhouse United); Blair Alston; Steve Davies; Johnny Hunt; Jack Breen; Niyah Joseph; Jay Blair; Ciaran McAndrew; Charlie Reilly; Sam Woods (Crystal Palace, loan ended); Andy Dales (Scunthorpe United); Luke Southwood (Reading, loan ended).

Game changer: Rice has said he has confidence in his ability to dip into his academy to plug the gaps created by departures.

Prospects: Every season Accies’ impending demise is predicted; every season they prove defiant in extending their longest unbroken stay in the top flight – which is now entering a seventh season. Yet, the meagreness of reinforcements following a 15-player exodus in the summer allows for no conclusion other than they will be unable to resist the gravitational pull.

If they were an actor, they would be: Danny DeVito. Like the Accies, his diminutive status should have precluded his life among the glitterati, but it never did.

Odds: 3000-1

Prediction: 12th

HIBERNIAN

Manager: Jack Ross

Last season: 7th

In: Alex Gogic (Hamilton), Kevin Nisbet (Dunfermline), Drey Wright (St Johnstone)

Out: Adam Bogdan (Ferencvaros), Steven Whittaker (Dunfermline), Kosovar Sadiki, (Finn Harps), Stephane Omeonga (Genoa, loan ended), Greg Doherty (Rangers, loan ended), Jason Naismith (Peterborough, loan ended), Marc McNulty (Reading, loan ended), Vykintas Slivka, Jack Hodge, Matthew Yates.

Game changer: Alex Gogic. Last term Hibs were either not scoring enough or conceding too many but the former Accies man will give them more balance, freeing up creative players, while protecting the backline.

Prospects: After a poor start last season they gathered some steam and were still in the hunt for a European place when the league was curtailed. They have lost some quality but there appears to have been some astute recruitment in key areas and added pace. But much could still depend on whether they can hold on to Martin Boyle.

If they were an actor, they would be: Tom Holland. Considered the fashionable choice for artsy types and those who crave entertainment. Not considered true A-listers but can still be box office.

Odds: 1000-1

Prediction: 4th

KILMARNOCK

Manager: Alex Dyer

Last season: 8th

In: Aaron McGowan (Hamilton); Mitch Pinnock (AFC Wimbledon); Danny Whitehall (Maidenhead); Brandon Haunstrup (Portsmouth); Zeno Rossi (Bournemouth, loan).

Out: Dom Thomas (Dunfermline); Jamie Walker (Stranraer); Stephen O’Donnell; Stephen Hendrie; Jan Koprivec; Jamie MacDonald; Adam Frizzell; Iain Wilson; Harry Bunn; Devlin Mackay; Laurentiu Branescu (Juventus, loan ended); Dario Del Fabro (Juventus, loan ended); Harvey St Clair (Venezia, loan ended); Connor Johnson (Wolves, loan ended); Niko Hamalainen (Queens Park Rangers, loan ended).

Game changer: After the managerial upheaval last year, the Rugby Park club appear settled and secure, with Dyer graduating from six-month caretaker to permanent manager in June.

Prospects: Having provided Dyer with a clutch of new signings – as few others have been able/willing to do – Killie are well placed to pitch for mid-table.

If they were an actor, they would be: Morgan Freeman. As the oldest top-flight club but one that now requires to settle for a largely supporting role, they fit with the august silver screen presence.

Odds: 750-1

Prediction: 8th

LIVINGSTON

Manager: Gary Holt

Last season: 5th

In: Matej Poplatnik (Kerala Blasters), Jack Fitzwater (WBA), Alan Forrest (Ayr United), Salim Kouider-Aissa (Queen’s Park), Max Stryjek (Eastleigh), Robby McCrorie (on loan, Rangers), Ciaron Brown (on loan, Cardiff City).

Out: Ricki Lamie (Motherwell), Chris Erskine (East Kilbride), Steven Lawless (Burton Albion), Ciaron Brown (Cardiff City, loan ended), Ryan Schofield (Huddersfield Town, loan ended), Dolly Menga, Alan Lithgow, Steve Lawson, Craig Henderson.

Game changer: For a team that boasts a collective strength and a pitch that offers home advantage, the goals from Lyndon Dykes have also been pivotal to their high-achieving. Losing him could prove costly.

Prospects: Given their budget and small crowds, the West Lothian side have been over-achievers. Consolidated their top tier status in their first season back, then followed up with an impressive fifth place finish last term. The mid-table battle will be close so maintaining that could be tough but not impossible.

If they were an actor, they would be: Jason Statham – Fast and Furious and all action. Not the most artistically gifted but know their strengths and play to them.

Odds: 500-1

Prediction: 7th

MOTHERWELL

Manager: Stephen Robinson

Last season: 3rd

In: Ricki Lamie (Livingston); Jordan White (Inverness CT); Scott Fox (Partick Thistle); Mark O’Hara (Peterborough United, loan to permanent); Nathan McGinley (Forest Green Rovers, right); Jake Hastie (Rangers, loan).

Out: Mark Gillespie (Newcastle); Richard Tait (St Mirren); Peter Hartley; Christy Manzinga; Christian Ilic; Adam Livingstone; Rohan Ferguson; Rolando Aarons (Newcastle, loan ended); Mikael Ndjoli (Bournemouth, loan ended).

Game changer: If David Turnbull can recapture the superb form that had him bound for a £3m move to Celtic before his medical revealed a knee problem, then the potency of the Fir Park side could be profoundly enhanced.

Prospects: It might be asking too much to replicate their third-place finish. However, retention and recruitment gives their squad a balanced look and Robinson’s ability to blend styles and personnel fruitfully means they should remain in the upper reaches of the table.

If they were an actor, they would be: Stephen Graham. Maximising his talents while remaining a man of the people suggests the Liverpudlian could be a mascot for the fan-owned Lanarkshire club.

Odds: 250-1

Prediction: 5th

RANGERS

Manager: Steven Gerrard

Last season: 2nd

In: Ianis Hagi (Genk, loan to permanent, £3.15m); Jermain Defoe (Bournemouth, loan to permanent); Leon Balogun (Wigan); Jon McLaughlin (Sunderland); Calvin Bassey (Leicester, pictured); Charlie Lindsay (Glentoran); James Graham (Ross Co).

Out: Matt Polster (New England, £297,000); Jak Alnwick (St Mirren); Jon Flanagan; Andy Halliday; Wes Foderingham; Jason Holt; Jordan Rossiter; Robby McCrorie (Livingston, loan); Jake Hastie (Motherwell, loan); Stephen Kelly (Ross Co, loan); Flo Kamberi (Hibs, loan ended).

Game changer: If Alfredo Morelos is lost in this window, it is difficult to see how Rangers could sustain a title challenge without his goals.

Prospects: For two half seasons they have matched Celtic. Turning that into one, good full season in order to prevent their rivals claiming 10 in a row is another matter. But Rangers look in good shape to address the flaws that prevented them going the distance last season.

If they were an actor, who would they be: Sharon Stone. In her pomp in the 1990s, all manner of circumstances have prevented her ever enjoying such glories again.

Odds: 7/4

Prediction: 2nd

ROSS COUNTY

Manager: Stuart Kettlewell

Last season: 10thIn: Connor Randall (Arda Kardzhali), Carl Tremarco (Inverness), Regan Charles-Cook (Gillingham), Alex Lacovitti (Oldham), Stephen Kelly (on loan, Rangers).

Out: Richard Foster (Partick Thistle); Don Cowie (retired), Declan McManus (Dunfermline), James Graham (Rangers), Marcus Fraser, Lewis Spence, Sean Kelly, Tommy Dixon-Hodge, Jack Murray, James Wallace, Declan Hughes, Joel MacBeth, Gregor MacDonald, Jack Grant, Thomas Brady, Tom Kelly, Ruari Fraser.

Game changer: Having been part of a double act, there is a fascination in seeing how Stuart Kettlewell handles the team on his own now that Steve Ferguson has moved into the chief executive role.

Prospects: Last season was their first back in the top flight but they showed they had the character and the wherewithal to keep out of trouble. Good in spells, consistency was the issue and, like others, they will be content that the campaign was called before the post-split bunfight. The fact is the Dingwall side will again be eyeing survival as their initial target and then hoping they can build on that.

If they were an actor, they would be: Christopher Lambert. C’mon, that one is surely self explanatory.

Odds: 1000-1

Prediction: 11th

ST JOHNSTONE

Manager: Callum Davidson

Last season: 6th

In: Shaun Rooney (Inverness), Danny McNamara (on loan, Millwall), Isaac Olaofe (on loan, Millwall).

Out: Drey Wright (Hibs), Ross Callachan (Hamilton), Steven Anderson (Forfar), Matt Butcher (Bournemouth, loan ended), Isaiah Jones (Middlesbrough, loan ended), Euan O’Reilly (Airdrie); Danny Swanson, Callum Hendry, David McMillan, Max Johnstone, Shaun Struthers.

Game changer: Tommy Wright has left big managerial boots to fill. But Saints have a formidable reputation for making decent appointments and Callum Davidson and his sidekicks have all served under Wright.

Prospects: Never write off St Johnstone. They consistently punch well above their weight and have become regular top-six finishers. Wright will be missed but installing his proteges in his place should allow them to get the best from the players.

If they were an actor, they would be: Don Cheadle. Dependable and accomplished performer, who delivers time and time again. Although usually denied the lead roles, the ability to over-achieve means they occasionally grab the spotlight.

Odds: 750-1

Prediction: 6th

ST MIRREN

Manager: Jim Goodwin

Last season: 9th

In: Jak Alnwick (Rangers); Richard Tait (Motherwell); Joe Shaughnessy (Southend, right); Nathan Sheron (Fleetwood, loan); Isak Thorvaldsson (Norwich City, loan).

Out: Scott Glover (Albion Rovers); Vaclav Hladky; Tony Andreu; Stephen McGinn; Oan Djorkaeff; Ross Wallace; Gary MacKenzie; Cody Cooke; Danny Mullen; Conor McBrearty; Seifedin (Gaziantep, loan ended); Akin Famewo (Norwich, loan ended); Calum Waters (Kilmarnock, loan ended); Lee Hodson (Gillingham, loan ended); Alex Jukubiak (Watford, loan ended).

Game changer: Jonathan Obika was the only player at the club who broke double figures last season. It will fall to him to do so again to steer the club away from the drop zone.

Prospects: CEO Tony Fitzpatrick claimed his team will be good for a top-six slot and the nous Goodwin has demonstrated across his first year in charge suggests the season won’t be entirely centred on a desperate struggle to survive.

If they were an actor, who would they be: Steve McQueen (in The Great Escape). No one is championing the provincial club as the epitome of cool. Rather they always seek to scale heights beyond them.

Odds: 1500-1

Prediction: 9th