6 reasons why this is actually a poor Ladbrokes Premiership season

Scottish football is in great nick, isn't it? Celtic and Rangers are slugging it out in the first proper title race we've had in nearly a decade, each of them have slapped down some of Europe's elite en route to the latter stages of the Europa League, thereby restoring some much-needed respectability to a league that lacked any from outside our borders, and there's more money with a better TV deal about to kick in and clubs in better financial health after the long hangover from the late-90s, early-00s hedonism.
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Scratch beneath the surface, though, and you'll see that this isn't exactly a classic season. Sure, two clubs, our most famous clubs, have plenty to be happy about. But that's only two teams. What about the other ten? Other than Motherwell, Livingston and newly-promoted Ross County, everyone else is either frustrated, fearful or miserable this campaign. The football's not great and there aren't a lot of positive storylines. And there are plenty of reasons for that...

The fallout from poor managerial hires in Edinburgh

Kilmarnock striker Eamonn Brophy. The Ayrshire club are on their second manager of the season and are mired in a six-game losing streak in the league. Picture: SNSKilmarnock striker Eamonn Brophy. The Ayrshire club are on their second manager of the season and are mired in a six-game losing streak in the league. Picture: SNS
Kilmarnock striker Eamonn Brophy. The Ayrshire club are on their second manager of the season and are mired in a six-game losing streak in the league. Picture: SNS

The two capital clubs are still recovering from poor choices at manager which, as any Hearts fan can attest to (*cough* Ian Cathro *cough, cough*), has the potential to slow a team's momentum for several seasons.

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For Hibs, though there were encouraging signs to begin with, Paul Heckingbottom was the wrong man. He was too fastidious for Scottish football and his team constantly looked like they were playing with the handbrake on while opponents whizzed around at 100 miles per hour.

For Hearts, Craig Levein wasn't particularly the wrong man to begin with. The club needed a stabilising presence after the Cathro disaster and considering some of the other names mentioned for the job at the time, he seemed like a safe pair of hands. However, in an era where managers are routinely booted for an unfortunately timed three-game losing streak, the manner in which Hearts stubbornly stuck by the former Scotland coach, when it was abundantly clear for over a year that the team were only heading in one direction, was more than a little bizarre.

Aberdeen and St Johnstone are stagnating

Derek McInnes and Tommy Wright are two of the more respected managers in the country and have been for years, but this is not peak Aberdeen and it certainly isn't for St Johnstone, who look strong contenders for relegation after making themselves a perennial top-six outfit for a sustained period.

McInnes and the Dons still might take third place when it's all said and done, but they won't do it with the swagger of the teams who regularly finished second best to Celtic. Even the Pittodrie faithful is growing restless and a best-of-the-rest finish come May is going to be unlikely to placate them without a significant improvement in the entertainment factor.

Steve Clarke leaving Killie

It was always going to happen, but it means one of the best stories outside of Glasgow from the previous two seasons is no longer running. Killie haven't handled the transition particularly well - they're on to their second manager of the campaign and are currently riding a six-game losing streak - but it's hardly been a disaster either, as they currently sit seventh in the table. Considering the upheaval at the managerial position, including the startling unpopularity of Clarke's successor Angelo Alessio, and the fact they've got a dearth of exciting attacking options, it probably says a lot about the strength of the league that things haven't been more uncomfortable for them.

Lots of big clubs outside top flight

It's not the fault of Hamilton Accies or Livingston that they're in the Premiership. They've each punched tremendously above their weight in recent seasons and deserve credit for what they've achieved. They certainly don't deserve to be derided any time an ex-professional or media member decides they don't like seeing half-empty (or half-completed) stadiums among the elite. That being said, they are clubs with much smaller fanbases than the likes of Dundee United, Dundee, Dunfermline Athletic, and will even be crowded out in a typical season by others such as Falkirk, Partick Thistle and Inverness CT.

It's not the fault of Accies or Livi, but it doesn't help that there are so many traditionally bigger clubs struggling. Teams in the tier below the likes of Aberdeen, Hearts and Hibs tend to do their shopping in England's League One and League Two. Despite the increase in attendances and TV money from being among the big time, others still can't afford to do this with as much regularly and tend to go looking in League Two and the non-leagues down south. As a result, the average quality of player is going to be weakened.

Attendances are down

After a rise in each of the previous five seasons, this campaign looks set to buck that trend. Overall attendances are down almost six percentage. Swapping Dundee for Ross County hasn't helped the figure and explains part of the slide, but there have still been a reduction at six of the 11 clubs that also played in last season's top flight, while the Old Firm and Livingston have stood pat. Only Motherwell and St Mirren have shown improvement.

Lack of Old Firm banana skins

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Rangers have yet to be beaten by anyone other than Celtic. Celtic have dropped only five points to teams outside Govan. They're on course to hit over 90 points. They're each set to record a goal difference of at least plus-81. Neither of those things have happened before.

As we said at the top, it's great that we've got a title race. Scottish football has been starved off a genuinely thrilling battle for the most coveted prize in our game since 2011. It's a long time to pretend to be interested in a glorified procession. But it could be a better title race if they looked remotely fallible, and even within the duopoly it isn't great that they're pumping the rest of the opposition on an unprecedented scale.