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Review of 2015/16 Scottish Football Season

Scottish Professional Football League logo (via Wikipedia)As the dust settles on the 2015/16 Scottish football season, we can sit back, pour a small libation and reflect on the main talking points of what turned out to be a surprisingly eventful campaign...

 

Was Celtic’s fifth successive league title triumph the walk in the park we all anticipated?

Well, not really.  In the end Celtic won with a few games to spare, but Aberdeen hung on to their coat-tails for much of the season, unfortunately faltering at key moments when Celtic appeared vulnerable. 

In truth few really doubted that Celtic would ultimately triumph, but the main question concerning the champions was the manner in which they won the league.  Even the staunchest hoops fan would have been unimpressed with a number of relatively uninspiring performances during the course of the season, and it took late goals in a number of matches to spare their blushes.

What about Rangers – will they be satisfied with their season’s work?

Yes and no.  Manager Mark Warburton had insisted at the outset that promotion to the premiership was the Ibrox club’s priority, so in that sense it was a case of job done.  However, despite a tremendous start to the season, in which opponents were swatted aside with consummate ease and a barrage of goals, Rangers struggled to maintain that momentum at times, and like Celtic won a number of games narrowly as they sought to consolidate their position at the top of the table. 

Warburton’s men did lift the Challenge Cup, and did of course beat old rivals Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final.  However, the loss to Hibs in the final will have left a bitter taste. And the feeling remains that Rangers will need to invest heavily over the summer if they are to make a serious impression in the top flight next season.

Which players stood out?

An easy one.  One man dominated the headlines from start to finish – Celtic’s Leigh Griffiths.  The striker’s prolific season, in which he scored 40 goals, were clearly critical to his side’s success.  In fact, many have speculated whether Celtic would actually have fallen short were it not for the marksman’s telling contribution. 

What was the most memorable point of the season?

A close call between Rangers’ win against Celtic in the aforementioned semi-final, and Hibs’ triumph in the competition.  Given the 114 years that have passed since Hibs’ last win in the country’s premier cup competition, we have to go for that.  The final itself was a great match, and the chaotic scenes that marred the aftermath should not be allowed to take anything away from both the game itself as a spectacle, and Hibs’ glory in finally lifting the old trophy. 

The party in Leith is likely to last long into the summer, and the unfortunate departure of manager Alan Stubbs to Rotherham (as well as the team’s failure to achieve promotion from the Championship), will not be allowed to reduce the feel good factor that has attached itself to the Easter Road club since that emotional day at Hampden.

Any surprise packages along the way?

In a positive sense, Ross County’s League Cup win was unexpected and well deserved.  And for all Hearts had long since recovered from their administration woes, few possibly expected the Tynecastle outfit to make such an immediate impact on their first season back in the top tier.  A third place finish and European qualification was a more than acceptable return, and Hearts have quickly re-established themselves as a force in the game north of the border.

On a more downbeat note, Dundee United’s disastrous season ended in relegation to the Championship, something few could have foreseen last August.  That neighbours Dundee were the side to officially relegate their rivals would have done little to improve the mood at Tannadice. 

United’s return to the Premiership is anything but guaranteed next year, given how other clubs such as Hibs and St Mirren have struggled in recent seasons to quickly escape from what is a very competitive league. Add to that full-time clubs such as Falkirk, Raith Rovers, Morton and Queen of the South, all will be equally keen to assume a seat at the top table.

What was the biggest disappointment?

Ronny Deila will claim that his sacking as Celtic manager was perhaps unfair given his side won the league. But failure in the cup competitions, and perhaps more importantly an inability to restore Celtic’s Champions League group stage qualification aspirations, ultimately did for the Norwegian’s chances of extending his tenure into a third season.  (The defeat to Rangers was in fact the final straw for many, including major shareholder Dermot Desmond).

And, as far as the national side is concerned, the failed qualification bid for this summer’s Euro finals was a sore one to take, whatever progress has been made under Gordon Strachan.

What does next season hold in store?

Rangers’ return to the premiership after their four-year exile will certainly make things more interesting, and it remains to be seen whether they can present a credible challenge to Celtic as the pair renew their rivalry. 

 

That Celtic have appointed Brendan Rodgers as manager will have raised their fans’ hopes enormously, and significant investment is expected to follow.  Like his predecessors, Rodgers will ultimately be judged on whether he can make an impact in Europe, so we won’t have long to wait to see how he fares on that score.

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