Rangers evolution, Celtic patience, Aberdeen duo, Hearts boss, Hibs expectation - Joel Sked's 12 Scottish Premiership storylines to watch this season

The cinch Premiership gets under way on Saturday afternoon as Rangers welcome Livingston to Ibrox.
The cinch Premiership starts this weekend. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)The cinch Premiership starts this weekend. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
The cinch Premiership starts this weekend. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Over the course of the weekend, all 12 teams will be in action to kick odd a league campaign which is sure to be beguiling, baffling and downright bemusing.

We look at a storyline to keep an eye out for at each club:

Aberdeen’s strikers

A new manager in Stephen Glass. A new captain in Scott Brown. And a new strike pairing in Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Christian Ramirez. It would have been understandable if the forward duo were seen as too similar but they instantly struck up a partnership in the Europa Conference League win over BK Hacken at Pittodrie last week. JET dropped deep and linked play excellently, turning into a more creative option and facilitator. Ramirez was a penalty-box threat. He nearly scored with a header before he did get on the scoresheet. In addition, both have bought into being at Aberdeen and have already proven themselves to be engaging personalities.

Postecoglou time

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It is hard not to feel any sympathy for new Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou. He has been dealt a duff hand. A pair of 2s going up against Rangers' Royal Flush. He is having to rebuild a squad with fans understandably continuing to protest against the board. Celtic have got themselves in such an awful position that it requires a long-term fix. That's the only way they are going to get out of it. The Australian deserves plenty of time to get it right, but will he get it?

Adam-McGhee axis

Rangers will be aiming to defend their Premiership title. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)Rangers will be aiming to defend their Premiership title. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Rangers will be aiming to defend their Premiership title. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

The play-off semi-final in May. Charlie Adam and Jordan McGhee tore Raith Rovers apart at Stark’s Park. The former’s range of passing, mixed with the latter’s ability to get beyond the forward line proved to be a destructive force. For Adam, it is a step up in opposition. He will always be able to ping the ball about a pitch with ease but time on the ball may be at a premium compared to last season. Then there is McGhee, who has transformed into an influential midfielder but is untested in the top-flight playing there.

The youth factor

No team has made fewer signings than the Tannadice side. United are taking their time over which players to bring in but it also points to the club's strategy of promoting young players. Logan Chalmers, Lewis Neilson, Kieran Freeman, Chris Mochrie, Kerr Smith and Archie Meekison will likely get of plenty minutes. Some have already gained experience without making themselves key players. Can their progress continue to become a golden generation and keep United moving forward in a competitive top-flight?

Hearts fans’ patience

Jay Emanuel-Thomas and Christian Ramirez have struck up a partnership. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)Jay Emanuel-Thomas and Christian Ramirez have struck up a partnership. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Jay Emanuel-Thomas and Christian Ramirez have struck up a partnership. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

It’s not often fans protest against the manager when the team is at the top of the table, but that was the case with Hearts last season in the Championship following the embarrassing debacle of losing to Brora Rangers in the Scottish Cup. With fans in the ground, no one needs to tell Robbie Neilson, who knows the club so well as player and manager, that fans will display disgruntlement and anger if the season doesn’t start positively. The Championship win and solid start to the season in the Premier Sports Cup eased the pressure but there is an expectation amongst supporters that the club should be aiming for higher than top six.

Hibs handling expectation

Hibs are favourites to finish ‘best of the rest’. Jack Ross has strengthened his side, with only Jackson Irvine and Ofir Marciano as key departures. He has so far held on to Ryan Porteous, Josh Doig and Kevin Nisbet. The Hibees have an attacking arsenal which should be the envy of the rest of the league. On paper they are the third best team in the league, as they were last campaign. It is now a case of dealing with the pressure and expectation, something they struggled with in the cups last season.

Livi’s new look

Such has been the constant progress of Livingston, there are fewer players in the squad who have been part of the club’s journey from League One than ever before. Only Scott Pittman remains a key player, while Josh Mullin has returned. It is time for new talismen. Bruce Anderson fits the bill, having been signed from Aberdeen, with others in the squad required to step up, especially in defence.

Motherwell’s ‘Budget Bergkamp’

The transfer window in Scotland is fascinating. Each season new, unfamiliar and unheralded names arrival. One such player is Motherwell striker Kevin van Veen. The Dutchman earned the moniker ‘Budget Bergkamp’ during his time at Scunthopre where he played under Well boss Graham Alexander. With such a name, immediately you are excited. You want fun players in the league and Van Veen has the potential to entertain. He has to fill big boots in Devante Cole but on his day is capable of the spectacular.

The evolution of Rangers

Steven Gerrard's side are odds-on favourites to win the Premiership, and understandably so. Right now, it feels like a case of how comfortably Rangers will win the league rather than will they win it. What will be perhaps most intriguing is how the team can improve on last season. The squad depth and options within it gives Gerrard plenty to ponder. But one thing it will do is keep opponents, who will be looking to end their unbeaten league record, guessing. More and more we could see Rangers move away from the default 4-3-3 as they look to evolve.

Malky Mackay’s return to management

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There were plenty of reservations amongst Ross County fans and around Scottish football about their appointment of Malky Mackay as manager due to his misdemeanours from his time at Cardiff City. But regarding his management, it is almost a step into the unknown. The 49-year-old has not presided over a team, aside from a caretaker spell with Scotland, since 2015. That 25-game spell in charge of Wigan Athletic brought a 20 per cent win rate. He has proven himself before, steering Cardiff into the top-flight, but the Staggies have been bitten before by a manager – Owen Coyle – who had success in England.

St Johnstone’s opportunity

Come the end of the transfer window, if Callum Davidson has kept hold of all the club’s key players, it would be a feat up there with last season’s cup double. The Saints are on an upward trajectory under the former Scotland international. The team looked increasingly at home with the formation and what was being asked of them by Davidson, while having flexibility in the final third. With so much change and uncertainty elsewhere in the league, St Johnstone should sense an opportunity to finish top four.

St Mirren’s recruitment strategy

Jim Goodwin narrowly missed out on steering St Mirren to their highest top-flight finish since 1985 last season. The Irishman has sought to build on the squad of last season to bridge that gap to the top six. So far the Buddies have held on to key players Conor McCarthy and Jamie McGrath. With regards to summer signings, the club have gone down the tried and trusted route. Six of the players signed, including Eamonn Brophy’s permanent switch, have nearly 600 Premiership appearances combined.

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