The SPL once again produced a lively, if not predictable season – at least that is on the pitch. The Old Firm, as usual, left the rest of the field behind, and in the process conjured up a title race that ebbed and flowed and took us down to the final day of the season. Nonetheless, it was off the pitch, with an unprecedented strike by Scottish referees in response to undue criticism from Scottish clubs, unsavoury scenes at the Old Firm derbies and death threats made against Celtic manager Neil Lennon, which produced the biggest talking points of the season.
Rangers (1st Position, 93 points)
The King’s of Scotland (again): What a fitting finale for manager Walter Smith in his final season with The Gers: a League and Cup double. Allan McGregor tremendous in goal; 41 year old Captain David Weir a rock in defence; Steven Davis instrumental in midfield and upfront Croatian Nikica Jelavic has been lethal in front of goal. Smith’s assistant and Rangers legend Ally McCoist will take over the reins and with a new owner in Craig Whyte, the future looks bright for the Glasgow Club.
Celtic (2nd Position, 92 points)
Mad About The Bhoys: For the third year in a row, Neil Lennon’s team play second fiddle to their Old Firm rivals. Left-back Emilio Izaguirre has been a real revelation this season – winning the SPL Player of the Season Award – whilst striker Gary Hooper has been in fine goalscoring form. Speculation will continue to surround Lennon’s position following a string of threats made against him this season, nonetheless next season The Hoops will hope to stop their rivals from winning a fourth consecutive SPL title.
Hearts of Midlothian (3rd Position, 63 points)
Mambo Jambo-s: After years of instability both on and off the pitch triggered by majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov and disgruntlement at the appointment of Jim Jeffries at the beginning of the season, his shrewd transfer dealings have helped to bring Europa League football to Tynecastle, albeit with the club beginning in the Second Qualifying Round. With an exciting, talented squad and youngsters such as David Templeton already showing great promise, they’ll hope to push on next season and close the gap to the Old Firm.
Dundee United (4th Position, 61 points)
The Future is Bright, The Future is Tangerine: Peter Houston has continued from where he left off last season, consolidating United’s place in the top half of the SPL, providing formidable opposition to Hearts in the race for 3rd position and giving both Old Firm clubs reasons to worry when visiting Tannadice this season. Houston is building a young and progressive team with the likes of top-goalscorer David Goodwillie and midfielders Craing Conway, Danny Swanson and Morgaro Gomis all putting in impressive contributions this season.
Kilmarnock (6th Position, 49 points)
Free Killie: With many predicting a tough season for The Rubgy Park outfit, Killie have found themselves lying comfortably in mid-table. Alexei Eremenko has shone this season doing his best to fill the boots of striker Connor Sammon who left in January. Despite a less than successful spell at Hibernian, Mixu Paatelainen – named SPL Manager of the Season – rebuilt his reputation with the club, eventually taking charge of the Finnish National Team. The club’s first priority in the summer will be to appoint Paatelainen’s successor.
Motherwell (7th Position, 46 points)
Well, Well, Well: Having succeeded Craig Brown, former Bradford City manager Stuart McCall has had a good start to his managerial life at Fir Park, guiding the club to a solid mid-table position with striker John Sutton having a particularly impressive season upfront. The season is by no means over for The Steelmen as they go in search of silverware – the last coming back in 1991 – as they take on Celtic in this weekend’s Scottish Cup Final at the home of Scottish football, Hampden Park.
Inverness Caledonian Thistle (5th Position, 53 points)
You Know When You’ve Been Butcher-ed: Following their promotion back into the SPL from the Scottish First Division, it has been a terrific season for manager Terry Butcher. The club produced their best ever finish to a season in Scotland’s top flight division which included remaining unbeaten away for the entire 2010 calendar year. The addition of St Mirren defender Chris Innes has proved to be a shrewd bit of business, whilst Caley’s very own Rooney, Adam Rooney, has been a goal threat all season.
St Johnstone (8th Position, 44 points)
Steady As She Goes: Since their arrival back into the SPL in the 2009-2010 season following a seven year absence, The Saintess’s priority has been survival and that’s exactly what Derek McInnes’s team have delivered. Goals have been hard to come by and McInnes will be hoping to address this problem in his summer transfer dealings. The club will be further boosted by the news that last week McInnes turned down the offer to cross the border and manage Npower Football League One side Brentford.
Aberdeen (9th Position, 38 points)
Not so Dandi-es: Having been the only club outside the Old Firm to have achieved any level of domestic or European success in recent years gone by, fans at Pittodrie have set unrealistically high standards which haven’t been met – this season being no different. Following a record 9-0 defeat at the hands of Celtic earlier on in the season, Craig Brown stepped in and has since steadied the ship. He recognizes the need for changes so expect a huge turnover of players over the summer.
Hibernian (10th Position, 37 points)
Poked in the Hibs: Tipped at the beginning of the season to be challenging for 3rd place with the likes of Dundee United and Hearts, Hibs have struggled all season long. Unlike last season, they’ve been unable to make Easter Road a fortress and their away record has been equally poor. Losing defender Sol Bamba to Leicester City in January added to their defensive frailties however the performances of striker Derek Riordan and the exciting young Scottish midfielder David Wotherspoon will provided Calderwood some comfort.
St Mirren (11th Position, 33 points)
Best of Buddies: He’s one of the rising young managers in Scottish Football, having previously steered Cowdenbeath to promotion in successive seasons, and Danny Lennon has done what was asked of him at the beginning of this season, namely to guarantee St Mirren’s future in the SPL for another season. Their home and away form has been poor and Lennon will be worried by the lack of goals from his team who have relied far too much on the outstanding form of striker Michael Higdon.
Hamilton Academical (12th Position, 26 points)
It’s all Academic-al: Despite Billy Reid’s Accies finishing comfortably in 7th place last season, the loss of midfielder James McArthur to Wigan Athletic over the summer has been a huge loss – a player who they’ve been unable to replace. Goals have come at a premium and their heavy reliance on weaker clubs around them at the bottom of the league slipping up simply hasn’t materialized. Nonetheless Reid is a talented manager and his Lower League experience with Clyde should stand the club in good stead.
Team of the Season: Rangers
Player of the Season: Emilio Izaguirre (Celtic)
Manager of the Season: Walter Smith (Rangers)
For all the intrigue surrounding the action on the pitch, it’s been a season overshadowed by the events off it and you feel that the Scottish game must now take a long hard look at itself in the mirror over the Summer months. However the final word of the season must go to Walter Smith. Despite being beset by financial restrictions, a protracted takeover of the club and with a small squad at his disposal, his success this season must be ranked amongst the greatest achievement in his managerial career. At least for now Walter, it’s Good Night, and Good Luck.