I’m not sure if Scotland’s Premier footballing league more closely resembles the chaotic fractal patterns of a Mandelbrot diagram, with repeating patterns that are similar yet infinitely different; or the oscillators that occur in a computer-generated cellular automaton, constantly flitting between steady states.
Or, to put it another way and be less of a Pat Kane/pretentious twat, we’re half a dozen games into the new season, and it’s the same-same, and just a wee bit different.
If you’d gone into the bookies pre-season and put money on the Old Firm being on top at the beginning of October, November, December, January, February, March, April, and May… you’d have got very short odds. And that’s why bookies make money. Having said that, the few Celtic supporters of my acquaintance are not exactly delirious with the state of their play (yet), though if I had a new manager at the start of the season I’d be happy with a four-point lead going into the first Old Firm match. On the blue side of the Clyde, three 0-0 draws in a row? I’d take that in the Champions League (dirty cheating robbing bastard Swedish referee) but against Motherwell, Killie, and Aberdeen? Not championship form, Walter. If Celtic were to come away from Ibrox with a seven-point lead, that would not be good.
Motherwell though… I had a sneaking suspicion Jim Gannon would get them back up into the fun part of the table; he turned his team from 1-0 Llanelli losers to 7-0 victors in a week and anyone that can work that magic with a few untried kids has got to have some idea what he’s doing. They might struggle through the long, hard, and depressing Lanarkshire winter but there’s a lot of promise in Fir Park, I think.
And also down Easter Road. I’ve just been re-reading Trainspotting – a masterpiece: “I’d rather see my sister in a brothel than my brother in a Hearts scarf.” Brought back many happy memories of driving round Pilton and Granton with my L plates on, while my instructor regaled me with tales of, well, driving to Inverness at the weekend with his wife and kid. Yogi Hughes has got his team off to a solid start, popping in goals like eckies with only the one blip against Accies to send him into a furious rage. Oh, that and Riordan’s nightclub antics. Though it has to be said most of their games have been against the lower end of the table and they still need to be tested against their challengers for third place. Why not second? Sure, and Rangers will play in the Bernebau in May.
Dundee United have quietly strengthened over the summer and Levein must be happy to see his team up in the Euro places too, having missed out by the proverbial bawhair in recent seasons. He’s had the advantage of continuity and the signing of Danny Cadamarteri is no bad thing – someone that’s been round the block and played at the top level; or at least against them. A draw at Parkhead shows they’ll continue to be hard to beat, and if they can tighten up against the wee-er teams they would be my favourites for third place.
Aberdeen. Well, at least you don’t have a League Cup run to distract you. “Ha ha”, as the kid from the Simpsons would say. But despite the shambolic loss to big-spending Dundee, the customary collapse against Celtic, and their embarrassing Euro exit, McGhee has got them off to a much more solid start than I expected and he’s blooding some kids in the process which bodes well for their future.
That completes my prediction for the top half of the table.
No jambos? I fear the Romanov years are catching up to Hearts, and even Czabo Lazslo cannot perform miracles year-on-year. It looked like he was ready for the off in August, when there were rumours of a Bundesliga role; possibly that’s been a distraction, or maybe not getting paid your wages on time means the mad Lithuanian can’t attract the quality of player he needs, or maybe the credit crunch means he can’t afford to go on financing the club with no foreseeable way of getting a return. I think, perhaps, Romanov has woken up and smelled the coffee, and it ain’t a rich aroma. So a team of cheap weans it is for the Hungarian maestro.
I met Kevin Kyle in Carnegie’s in Hong Kong in 2002 when he was with the Scotland squad; he was thick as a plank, and not in a fun Gazza way – my night ended when I removed my pal from the bar because Kyle was agitating to batter him. This plank is now the saviour of Kilmarnock, who had been gradually edging closer to the wrong end of the league year after year, but are now in the ascendant again; even if they’re not quite as Invincibile as the wonderfully-named Danny’s shirt would suggest. But, like Boyd and Naismith before him, if someone comes in during the January transfer window and figures Kyle could do a job down south – Killie would struggle again, and that’s a risk.
And that completes my prediction for mid-table.
I think no surprises in who is separating themselves at the lower end of the league. St Mirren were a goal away from having to visit Airdrie this season, and that thought alone should inspire them to avoid a final-day drama next May. They still haven’t got the hang of their new stadium though, and if they can’t start winning some home games they’ll find themselves in trouble.
Hamilton should be handicapped compared to last season having lost their most talented player, James McCarthy, and the effect may yet be seen, but so far they are surviving and again a few years’ experience in the SPL will definitely count, as will retaining a canny manager, and Martin Canning, and other such consonances.
The two contenders for the drop, in my expert view, are Falkirk and St Johnstone. I’d be telling porkies if I said I knew a lot about the Saints’ team, but I know they’re letting in goals left, right, and centre and they need to stop that now. Derek McInnes reckons dropping to the bottom of the league is ‘no bad thing’ – but if they don’t get off there quickly they’ll find their confidence dropping too and in no time they’ll be running out of games to fix it.
Unlike the Saints, the Bairns have gone through a managerial change and they haven’t fixed up their key problem last year – scoring goals. It might be that Eddie May set them a target of scoring as many goals as Rangers in September – a goal they have comfortably met without bursting the net once – but last year Falkirk were renowned for pretty football and they almost got relegated because they couldn’t translate that into goals. If Eddie’s disco pants don’t turn on the magic, he’ll be dancing out of New Brockville with only his jotters for company.
And that completes my predictions for the bottom of the table.
Oh and about my predictions: I’m with John Maynard Keynes on this one. When the facts change, I change my mind. So check back in later.