The Scottish Premier League is wide open this season. Hearts lead the way with Rangers, Hibernian and Livingston tied second. Aberdeen, the last team to be crowned Scottish champions who weren’t Celtic or Rangers in 1985, are sitting comfortably mid-table. And where is Celtic? Well we all know that. 6th. Its safe to say this is the most open start to an SPL year in decades and one in which will end with a champion crowned outside of Glasgow.
So who are the contenders?
Hearts lead the way after six games with 16 points and are now the only Scottish side undefeated. They were the first team to upset Champions Celtic and have annihilated Hamilton and St Mirren on their way to the top. Led by free-scoring Steven Naismith, who is top scorer with 5, this side has shown they can play amongst the big boys. They are favourites to take the title away from Glasgow for the first time in 34 years and be declared Champions of Scotland for just the 5th time in their history.
Aberdeen might only be mid-table, 7th in fact, one point behind Celtic and seven off the top, but they have three draws out of six, the most of any SPL side and are ready to pounce on any slip ups from the big sides. It is the manner of their draws and defeats that still make them a force to reckoned with. Conceding just 5 goals, Aberdeen have been unlucky in defeat and draws but also ill-disciplined at times costing them points. Notably Aberdeen has managed to earn worthy points against Rangers and Hibernian. It is not to be forgotten they are perennial silver medalists. They are always there or thereabouts. But is it their time?
Kilmarnock holds just one Scottish title to their name. They are rarely in this discussion for title-challengers. Could that change in 2018/19 under Steve Clarke? They’ve started the season well tied on points with Celtic and earned big scalps against Celtic and Aberdeen. They have faced all the big boys in the first six games and are still 5th in the table. They have a real opportunity to collect back-to-back wins against lower opposition and propel Killie to the top.
But why are Celtic and Rangers ruled out?
Well of course you can never rule out Celtic and Rangers completely. They are of course the dominant forces in Scottish Football. But its nice to believe that one-day a team outside of Glasgow will experience SPL glory, and 2018/19 is as good a time as any.
Rangers have a new sense of hope under Gerrard but are still finding their feet. Some days they look like winners, at times demonstrating football like it was 2010 with Kris Boyd and Kenny Miller upfront. But the amount of goals Rangers concede is a worry and ultimately what could cost them a chance at title.
The Rangers hierarchy would be deeply disappointed they missed an opportunity if Celtic were to fail as well. Speaking of which, Brendan Rodgers has a battle on his hands. He might have records galore to his name as Celtic manager but he’ll be remembered as the man who yielded the title after 8 years if they fail to win the SPL this season.