After what feels like forever, the Scottish Championship returned last night for the 2020/21 season.
Scotland’s second tier is famously close and unpredictable, with just ten points separating third and second bottom last year, so naturally, here’s our preview and predictions for this season’s Scottish Championship!
Title Favourites – Heart of Midlothian
At a price of just 1/4, Hearts are heavy favourites to bounce straight back up, and by taking a look at their squad it’s easy to see why.
Craig Gordon, Liam Boyce, Andy Halliday, Craig Halkett, Steven Naismith, Michael Smith and Stephen Kingsley to name a few, this Hearts roster oozes premiership experience and has been put together with a budget dwarfing the rest of the division.
A 6-2 trouncing of second favourites Dundee last night proved the Jam Tarts are taking this division seriously as well, their odds are ridiculously low for good reason.
New Boys – Raith Rovers
Championship football returns to Stark’s Park after Raith Rovers defied the odds and pipped Falkirk to last season’s league 1 title.
The Rovers squad hosts a decent mixture of experience and young talent. Jamie MacDonald, Kyle Benedictus and Ian Davidson are the mature heads at the back, they will no doubt play a huge role in helping the younger players, including the highly rated midfield trio, to thrive.
New number nine Manny Duku appears to be the first choice forward and is already off the mark, but one to keep an eye on is the return of Lewis Vaughan. The 24 year-old is back after missing an entire year of action with an ACL injury, and Rovers fans will be keen to see him back to the form they’ve seen so many times during his nine years at the club.
Favourite for the Drop – Alloa Athletic
Yet again, the bookies favourite to face the drop are Alloa.
The Wasps are one of only two part-timers in the division so are often expected to struggle, but from the attractive brand of football deployed one perhaps wouldn’t realise this. Manager Peter Grant this far has intended to stay up in style.
However whilst playing attacking football is easy on they eye it doesn’t come without issues, last season Alloa allowed the most shots against in the league by quite some distance, whilst on-loan stopper Jamie MacDonald was made to save more shots than any other goalie, despite signing one month after the start of the campaign. At the other end the departure of top-scorer Kevin O’Hara is sure to be a sore one.
Alloa however should be optimistic, and will be encouraged by their start to the Betfred Cup, new signing Stefan Scougall was seen as a real coup for the club and has slotted into midfield nicely, with 27 year-old Robert Thomson having found the net in all three games thus far.
Dark Horses – Dunfermline Athletic
Last season was a fairly average one for The Pars in league competition, they ended up in sixth place, three points behind the last playoff place whilst playing two more games than Ayr in fourth. However Dunfermline’s summer recruitment should massively encourage fans ahead of the new season.
Of course, replacing Kevin Nisbet may be the hardest job anyone has in Scottish football, but a number of young options have been brought in. Dom Thomas, Fraser Murray and Kevin O’Hara are all exciting prospects at the top end of the pitch, whilst Declan McManus is a little older at 26, but has shown his worth at East End Park back in the 2017/18 season. The striker has a lot to prove after his disappointing spell in the highlands, and will be raring to go for the new season.
Fon Williams is a solid enough goalkeeper, Kerr McInroy, Iain Wilson and Steven Whittaker will add to the clubs defensive-midfield options, whilst Paul Watson and Lewis Mayo will look to fill the gap left by the defenders that departed over summer.
Add this to three wins from three in the Betfred Cup and the Dunfermline support should be excited for the new season, perhaps challenging Hearts may be a step too far, but keep an eye on Stevie Crawford’s young side.
- League Winners – Hearts
- This Hearts squad is too strong to not back whilst Robbie Neilson has already proven he’s more than capable in the second tier.
- Underachievers – Ayr United
- Allan Forrest is a massive loss for the honest men, his goal contributions will be difficult to replace.
- Top Goalscorer – Liam Boyce
- Boyce has previously and still could score goals in the top flight, he’s a top level striker and will play a huge part for the Jambos.
- Breakout Player – Robbie Deas
- Having been on loan at Alloa last season, the 20 year-old impressed massively, and was picked up by Inverness on a three-year deal. Should this form carry over Deas could play a massive part at the back for Caley.
- Relegation – Raith Rovers
- Relegation’s a tough one, the Rovers do look a decent side but it’s a tough step up. In all honesty there’s not much separating a few teams at the bottom so it’s hard to give a straight prediction, the relegation battle could be even closer than it was last year.
Featured Image Credit – Edinburgh Evening News