Monday, 1 August 2011

Money's Too Tight To Mention

Click here or read below for my preview of the Scottish First Division for the 2011/12 season. It was published in the brand new Away End Magazine.

Money's Too Tight To Mention

If the First Division had a highlights package the opening credits would surely feature the song “Money's Too Tight To Mention”. The summer of 2011 has been a miserable period for many players in Scotland's second tier. Falkirk released eighteen players, Raith let fifteen go, twelve left Queen of the South, Morton saw off eleven and Dundee waved goodbye to nine.

However, there is one club bucking the trend. Highland outfit Ross County have been signing players like no tomorrow. Michael Fraser, Colin McMenamin, Grant Munro, Kurtis Byrne, Russell Duncan, Sam Morrow and Rocco Quinn have all made the journey to Dingwall forming what is expected to be a twenty-four man squad. It appears that Ross County are now finally prepared  to use the sizeable sum of money they gained when they reached the Scottish Cup final in 2010. Although it may take time for County's squad to gel they still have to be considered favourites for the title.

At the other end of the table it is expected that Ayr United will occupy tenth place for most, if not all of the season. United will remain a part-time club, despite Gareth Wardlaw joining from SPL side St. Mirren. In fact, they will be the only part-timers in the First Division and should find it harder to compete with the rest of the league.

Livingston are the other new arrivals from down below as they cruised to the Second Division title last season. Although they operate a full-time squad, the West Lothian side have yet to make a summer signing and may struggle to stay away from the dreaded relegation playoff spot.

Hamilton Academical are the other new side to join the First Division. They had a miserable campaign in the SPL last season, winning just one league game at home and scoring a measly twenty-four goals. Indeed, it looks like their goalscoring problems could continue for another season. The only striker Accies have on theirs books is Dougie Imrie. Therefore, it would be surprising if Hamilton were in a promotion battle come May 2012, especially considering the lack of experience they possess. A staggering nine of the twenty-one player squad are under the age of twenty.

The other six teams are much of a muchness. Having lost Gary Harkins, Craig Forsyth and Sean Higgins, Dundee are unlikely to be as strong as last season although they should be aiming for a top half finish.

As mentioned above, Raith Rovers made big summer cuts which included first team regulars Mark Campbell, Stephen Simmons and Gregory Tade. Therefore the Kirkcaldy side may struggle to go beyond mid-table this time around.

Greenock Morton have brought in a SPL strikeforce of Peter MacDonald and Andy Jackson along with four other players with similar experience and the Inverclyde club should be aiming for a promotion challenge. The loss of talisman Allan Jenkins however, will have been a significant blow for Allan Moore's men.

Falkirk's squad is still looking quite depleted despite the additions of Darren Dods and Bolton loanee Rhys Bennett. Important players such as Mark Stewart, Mark Twaddle and Robert Olejnik have left the Bairns recently and despite the departures, manager Steven Pressley is not sure if he can afford to bring in many more players to replace them.

Partick Thistle are in a transitional phase at the moment and should not be expected to be far above mid-table. They lost left back Paddy Boyle to SPL new boys Dunfermline Athletic, but have a decent squad who will be looking to make an impression on manager Jackie McNamara.

It is hard to predict how Queen of the South's season will transpire because the Doonhamers are still some way from having their squad completed. However, signings such as Simmons, Campbell and Kevin Smith are evidence of the club making a statement of intent to stay in the Division, despite their well known financial issues.

Ross County and Ayr United should, on paper, occupy first and tenth place, but depending on luck, injuries and tactical ingenuity the rest could almost be scattered in any of the remaining eight positions. The First Division has just become an even tighter league, who would have thought?

written by Will Lyon

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