The state of play in the Scottish Premiership as the first round of fixtures nears completion

With the 2021/22 cinch Premiership season about to complete its first round of fixtures tomorrow night, Craig Fowler goes round the houses to see what’s been happening over the first ten games.

Rangers defeated St Mirren on Sunday to move three points clear at the top of the cinch Premiership table. Picture: SNS

Let’s begin at the top. Rangers are reigning champions, current leaders and will most likely win the title again, especially if they can remember how to get out of second gear again for domestic matches. The impending return of Ryan Jack (aka, Ibrox MVP) should help.

The beginning of the Ange Postecoglou era at Celtic has lurched from potential disaster to promising future at varying points under the Aussie head coach after he was dropped into the deep-end with a tattered squad as his only life preserver. Given they’ve now won four games on the bounce, we’re surely due another slip-up that will result in extreme knicker-wetting from observers in the media over a rebuild job which was always likely to take months rather than weeks.

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Hearts have inadvertently gave perspiring chairman everywhere an easy excuse for sitting on their hands while a manager flounders in the dugout. Just a few months after the majority of supporters wanted Robbie Neilson chased from Tynecastle for losing to Brora Rangers and Queen of the South in successive games, the club are second in the league with an unbeaten record following their promotion from the Championship. Sitting as the favourites to finish best-of-the-rest after ten games, having just returned to the division, is no mean feat, even if their unbeaten record (which includes five draws) is a little overhyped.

Their Edinburgh derby rivals will likely have something to say about that before the campaign is done. Hibs have hit the skids recently, but they’ve been hamstrung by the loss of three interconnecting pieces: Ryan Porteous linking defence to attack, Kyle Magennis doing the same for the midfield and forwards, and Christian Doidge as the glue which holds the front-line together. They’ll all be back before the end of next month and MLS import Chris Mueller will arrive in January, so don’t count them out just yet.

You can probably do that for Aberdeen, though, who already trail Hearts and Dundee United by nine points. Stephen Glass came in with the promise of making the Dons a more expansive and exciting team and fans of their opponents would certainly agree it’s been a nice change. It certainly beats the Derek McInnes era, where they had this really annoying habit of consistently picking up results (they’ll definitely beat Hearts on Saturday after writing this).

Thomas Courts was the name on everybody’s lips when the season got underway as many onlookers sat and waited gleefully for Dundee United’s decision, which saw them dispensing of the experienced Mickey Mellon in favour of a tactics analyst with limited time in the senior game, to blow up in their face. Instead, Courts has slowly evolved United’s team from the grim, negative tactics on show last campaign to a unit who can both defend and play some attractive football, all without making too many additions. If the season stopped today, it’d be between the former Kelty Hearts boss who’d be first in line for manager of the year.

Murderball is back on the menu at Fir Park as Graham Alexander has been known to play a midfield three of Liam Grimshaw, Mark O’Hara and Callum Slattery. Oh, and Bevis Mugabi at right-back. What they may lack in style, they more than make up for in endeavour. Besides, in summer signing Kevin van Veen and the continued rise of Tony Watt, they still have enough dazzle to win football matches at a rate which should keep Motherwell well away from the drop zone.

St Johnstone are having something of a post-2020/21 hangover, which was always bound to happen for a club who trebled their all-time trophy haul in the space of three months. What wasn’t supposed to happen was Ali McCann and Jason Kerr leaving within a matter of hours before the end of the transfer window for a combined fee which most supporters viewed to be derisory. The summer window was all a bit of a disappointment all-round for the Perth side as there’s been accusations of failure to build on the prior success, but at least they remain invincible in domestic cup competition.

For the third successive season, Jim Goodwin’s St Mirren were slow out of the traps but, true to form, they’ve started to pick things up and are now hunting down a spot in the top six. After trying the classic little-and-large strike combo of Eamonn Brophy and Curtis Main, the manager has dropped the latter to the bench and utilised two No.10s behind Brophy, which saw an upturn in results.

Both Dundee and Livingston fall into the category of ‘struggled initially but getting a grip on things’ as the pair have picked up a combined 10 points from their last two fixtures to put some distance between themselves and the club in real danger of getting cut adrift at the bottom of the table. Speaking of which...

Ross County drew the scorn of many supporters, and not just their own, when they decided to ignore all dissension and give the vacant manager’s job to Malky Mackay. Chairman Roy McGregor would’ve banked on the outcry calming down once his preferred candidate was in place and picking up points on a regular basis. Instead, they sit in 12th place and remain the only team not to win a game in this season’s top flight so far. Turns out Malky is about as useful constructing a defence on the field as he is when presented with an accusation of sending offensive texts off it.

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