The new Scottish Football League Championship season, kicks-off on Saturday with Dundee looking for a quick return to the top flight and Greenock Morton (Cappielow Park pictured above) looking to go one better after missing out to last seasons champions Partick Thistle. We also welcome newcomers Queen of the South and Alloa Athletic to the division after promotion.
Here we take a look at who bookmakers feel are favourites for the title and subsequent promotion, plus who will be the side to fill the automatic relegation spot
Relegated Dundee, are 15/8 to win the division with Coral and thus bounce back into the Premier League at the first attempt. It was a hugely disappointing performance last campaign, finishing an embarrassing eleven points adrift of St.Mirren at the foot of the table, where they spent the majority of of their time. Just seven wins and a whopping sixty-six goals conceded, was a platform for disaster.
They start this season, full of optimism and got off to the perfect start, with a 2-1 away win against Alloa Athletic in the Scottish Challenge Cup last week. The transfer window has also been fairly kind to them so far, with the only real losses being, Gary Harkins to St. Mirren, Brian Easton to St.Johnstone and Mark Kerr to Partick Thistle. They have strengthened with the signings of Gavin Rae from Aberdeen and the prolific Arbroath striker, Steven Doris, who has some fifty plus goals to his name in the last three seasons for the “red lichties”.
The first of two joint favourites are Falkirk, at 6/1 for the title with Paddy Power. The Stirlingshire side finished some twenty-five points adrift of Partick last season after a promising start, that tailed off towards the latter stages of the campaign. A 3-0 win against Clyde in the Challenge Cup, last week, was a much needed tonic for a squad that has been stripped of some of its biggest assets in the transfer window so far. The mainstays of Stewart Murdoch, Darren Dods and Sean Higgins have all left, with former Rangers junior, Rory Loy coming from Carlisle United to try and fill the void. More worrying is the loss of twenty-four goal leading scorer, Lyle Taylor to Sheffield United, with unproven teenage attacker, Phillip Roberts, coming from Arsenal on loan to try and fill the boots of the top scorer.
The other second favourites are Queen Of The South (6/1 with Bet365). They quickly returned to the second tier after winning, what is now the League Division 1 title, with a massive total of ninety-two points and losing just two games in the process. They will certainly have learnt lessons from their relegation, and will go into the new campaign in very optimistic mood. They won their Challenge Cup game 3-0 against Annan Athletic, but the main concern is the losses in the transfer window, especially first choice ‘keeper Lee Robinson who has gone to Sweden and Kevin Smith who played half of the season in the heart of the defence. Much will depend on how former East Fife ‘keeper Calum Antell will settle into the team.
I can see a good season ahead for QOTS but i feel a title win may just be out of reach.
The “battle” to avoid the automatic relegation spot is seemingly a two horse race with the rest 6/1 bar.
Cowdenbeath are 5/2 with Paddy Power to finish bottom and slip down to the third tier. The “blue Brazil” were fortunate to avoid the relegation play-off last season, due in part to Dunfermline Athletic’s fifteen point deduction for financial issues, which saw them finish two points adrift of the Fife based club. This season, they are going to need a similar miracle, as the side who have predominantly spent their days in the lower echelons of the Scottish league, are likely to struggle badly, despite an encouraging 5-0 thrashing of Berwick Rangers in the Challenge Cup last week, that sadly may be as good as it gets.
In the transfer market they rely on free transfers, but have managed to bring in former St.Mirren player, Grant Adam and Kane Hemmings back from Rangers. Its going to be a long haul and their best chance is a relegation play-off to secure their place in the division next year.
Alloa Athletic are the close second favourites to finish bottom at 3/1 also with PaddyPower. They won promotion via the play-offs, but will be heading for a long season and a fight with Cowdenbeath to avoid the automatic birth. They have made a couple of useful signings, including Declan McManus and veteran striker, Andy Kirk, but its unlikely to help the cause. A narrow defeat to Dundee in the Challenge Cup gives some hope, while they also beat Peterhead 3-0 in the League Cup.