Posted on January 25th, 2017
THIS week sees two important dates in the Scottish Premiership season calendar.
Firstly, top flight action resumes after the winter break, giving players the chance to soak up some winter sunshine and come back refreshed for the gruelling last five months of the campaign.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, are the final few days of the January transfer window, where clubs are frantically seeking to strengthen their squads to meet their clubs ambitions, whether it’s to deliver a trophy, European football or survive the dreaded drop to the Championship.
Whilst the game up here won’t have the ridiculous over-dramatisation provided by Sky Sports to the over-hyped and very spoiled Premier League, chaired by Jim White sporting his “famous” yellow tie, there will be club managers anxious to boost their squad ahead of the challenges remaining between now and May.
So what are clubs shopping for in this January sale?
Aberdeen: The Dons have had to act quickly to bring in Ryan Christie on loan from Celtic with James Maddison heading back to Norwich. Out of sorts winger Wes Burns has also returned to his parent club, Bristol City, having made no real impact at Pittodrie. Another holding midfielder is the priority for Derek McInnes along with keeping talisman Johnny Hayes, subject of a move to Cardiff City, who have had two bids rejected so far. Keeping Hayes is central to Aberdeen’s ambitions for the rest of the campaign.
Celtic: Domestically, they don’t need anyone else as the League, bar the biggest miracle in history, is as good as in the bag for a sixth consecutive season. They’re aim is to have players in now to settle in ahead of the Champions League Qualifying campaign in July, and have began by signing holding midfielder Kouassi Eboue, subject to a visa being approved. The most likely positions they’ll look to strengthen are in central defence and right back in order to build a defence capable of competitive at the elite level of European football.
Dundee: Paul Hartley’s side were always going to struggle with the loss of Kane Hemmings and Greg Stewart, their prolific strike duo of last season, and have found goals hard to come by with only Kilmarnock netting fewer times than the Dens Park side. With a Scottish Cup run now extinguished following their shock exit by St Mirren, Hartley will be looking to add more firepower to pull his side away from trouble and push for a top six place.
Hamilton: Many people’s favourites to go down, it’s no surprise to see Accies currently occupying the playoff position in the table. However, it’s not so much the defeats that are costing Martin Cannings side points (they have lost the fewest matches of all the bottom six sides) but the lack of victories, just two all season, is severely hindering their chances of a record fourth term in Scotland’s top flight. Like Dundee, only one side have scored fewer goals than Hamilton this season, so they’ll also be looking for that hitman to fire them to safety.
Hearts: Rookie Ian Cathrine has his work cut out if he’s to make the successful transition from respected coach to manager (well, technically head coach at Tynecastle). Three defenders (Andraz Struna, Lennard Sowah and veteran Aaron Hughes) have all arrived to replace departed Igor Rossi and Alim Ozturk and covering for Faycal Rherras, representing Morocco at the African Cup of Nations, and the injured Callum Paterson. A striker will also be required following the return of Tony Watt to Charlton following a diabolical loan spell and to lend support to Bjorn Johnsen. A new hitman and bedding in a new back four could help rejuvenate the Jambos challenge to finishing best of the rest.
Inverness Caledonian Thistle: Richie Foran was always going to find life difficult in his first managerial position at a club who have been drastically cost cutting since winning the Scottish Cup nearly two years ago. Without a win in ten games, it’s no surprise that Inverness prop up, the division and they’ll need to find a winning formula quickly if they are to avoid the drop. Henri Anier has been added in hope that his goals are enough to keep Inverness in the Premiership although their defence, who’ve shipped the most goals in the League, will need to be bolstered if they are to survive.
Kilmarnock: With 17 new players arriving at the start of the season and five more so far this window, Kilmarnock have been, by some considerable distance, the busiest top flight club in the transfer market. Despite the wholesale changes, Killie have only scored 16 League goals this season, the fewest in the Division, and they’ve just sold top scorer Soulymane Coulibaly for £800k to Egyptian side Al Ahly. What Lee Clark needs to do is work with the many players he has to find a winning formula to keep their head above water for another season. He also needs to get Kris Boyd away from mouthing off about other managers in the media and back to what he does best, sticking the ball in the back of the net.
Motherwell: The Steelmen have been erratic this season, which sees them sandwiched between a fight for the top six and a battle to avoid relegation. Louis Moults goals have been key to their season but there may not be much activity at Fir Park with a lack of finance to bring in more quality to push for the remaining top six place.
Partick Thistle: The Jags are a strange lot, they go on a long winless run one minute then a good run of form the next, though their form before the break was encouraging and lifted them away from the bottom two. Out the bottom six sides, only Dundee have conceded fewer goals but they’ll be looking for more going forward. Like Motherwell, there isn’t a lot of money at Firhill to add to what they’ve got but they may still bring in a player or two to help them pull away from the relegation battle and push Ross County for the top six berth.
Ross County: For a while, it looked as though Ross County were going to be in a relegation dog fight as they propped up the Division. However, the return of Liam Boyce and his goals, making him top goal scorer in the top flight, have propelled them into the top six and their aim will be a second consecutive top six position. If County are to be playing the likes of Aberdeen and Celtic in the post-split fixtures, they’ll need to tighten up at the back, with only Highland rivals Inverness conceding more goals than Jim McIntyres men.
Rangers: Their transfer activity will be heavily scrutinised by the clubs hierarchy after the disastrous Joey Barton experiment and mixed results from their other signings. Only midfielder Jon Toral on loan from Arsenal has been added to Mark Warburton’s squad so far though there is time for Rangers to bring in players to meet the demands of the Ibrox faithful and finish second. Another striker may be required given the inconsistent form of their current front men if they are to pull away from Aberdeen and Hearts.
St Johnstone: Tommy Wright’s side have had another steady season, sitting comfortably in fifth and have been a nuisance to three of the sides above them in the table. They’ll be looking to keep their squad together though it’s unlikely they’ll add any players over the next few days.
With finances tight in Scottish Football, there isn’t likely to be much activity between now and Tuesday nights deadline, with clubs more focussed on keeping their main assets to help achieve their goals for the season.
Whatever activity does take place will affect where people place their bets on second place and the relegation battle, and punters can get Free Football Betting Tips from www.footballbets.tips.