THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Top two for Celtic, Aberdeen to have a decent cup run and Rangers to resume “the world’s most tiresome duopoly” – what WSC contributors got right and wrong last season

24 July ~ “Should finish in the top two in the league,” said a perhaps intentionally pessimistic Graham McColl of Celtic. “In Europe the team could slip, slide or succeed anywhere across the continent. Nothing can be expected of the cups after three successive semi-finals have seen Celtic hampered crucially by arrogant, egocentric refereeing.”

Graham was right on Europe, at least, where Brendan Rodgers’ side lost to Gibraltan club Lincoln Red Imps in the first leg of the Champions League second qualifying round before scraping through to the group stages, where they failed to win a game. Domestically, however, it was a different story. Celtic were unbeaten in every competition, drawing just four games in the league to take the title on 106 points – 30 ahead of Aberdeen in second. They also beat Aberdeen in both cup finals to win a historic treble.

Second place was a bonus for Aberdeen fan Keith Davdson, who was expecting third. However, he was “hoping for the league form to be interrupted by a decent cup run”. In some ways, he got more than he wished for – Aberdeen did, after all, reach both cup finals. However, having lost the League Cup final 3-0, their hearts were broken when Tom Rogic scored Celtic’s 92nd-minute winner in the Scottish Cup final.

Alex Anderson was hoping for “Europe, a cup and generally resuming the world’s most tiresome duopoly” for Rangers. They struggled to keep up with Aberdeen in the league and lost to Celtic in both cup semi-finals – but did at least reach the Europa League qualifying stages…

Neil Edgar said Hearts “should be challenging for second with Aberdeen but I fear that with an over-cautious manager and the return of Rangers, fourth place is on the cards”. His fears proved to be optimistic and, after Robbie Neilson moved on and was replaced by Ian Cathro in December, Hearts slumped to fifth.

2016 17 Hearts

Taking fourth instead were St Johnstone. “‘Punching above their weight’ has become the club’s unofficial motto,” said Archie MacGregor, “with a series of top-six finishes in recent seasons. With the addition of another striker, there is no reason the spell can’t be maintained.” He was proved correct as Tommy Wright led the club to their second successive fourth-place finish.

At the bottom the rest of the division expected Hamilton to take the automatic relegation place, which was no surprise to Gilbert Mowat. “As usual, everyone will have us as the favourites for relegation and it’s hard to argue with that assessment,” he said. “This year I think the doom-mongers may well be right.” It was a close call, but a final-day 4-0 hammering of Dundee meant they got a chance to avoid relegation in the play-off with Dundee United. A single goal from Greg Docherty in the second leg was enough to ensure Hamilton remain in the top flight.

Relegated instead were Inverness. “With Scottish Cup-winning manager John Hughes departing in the summer, the main aim of rookie replacement Richie Foran will be to avoid relegation,” said Andrew Sutherland. Victories in their final two matches were not enough to save Inverness from the drop for the first time since 2009.

The other relegation favourites among our contributors were Kilmarnock. “I fear another struggle waits,” said Andy Wilson. But Killie performed better than expected, finishing eighth.

2016 17 ScotlandComparison

WSC 367 with the 2017-18 season guide is in shops on Thursday, August 3. Subscribe here to get it delivered to your door.

Photo by Colin McPherson/WSC Photos: Hearts fans bathed in evening sun at Tynecastle

Actual table provided by soccerstats.com. Please note that Partick Thistle finished sixth – the Soccer Stats table ignores the split

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