Summary of last season – A very successful one. Ian Murray’s first full season in charge resulted in a very respectable 5th place finish. Murray continued to develop the team and Dumbarton were in with a shout for the playoffs up until the last few fixtures. With the club having one of Scotland’s best up and coming managers it was no surprise to see Murray linked with a few jobs over the course of the season but he remains at the Sons and signed a contract extension in May.
Players in – David Van Zanten (Defender, St Mirren), Lee Mair (Defender, Partick Thistle), Archie Campbell (Striker, Greenock Morton), Scott Taggart (Defender/Midfielder, Greenock Morton)
Players out – Paul McGinn (Dundee), Scott Smith (East Fife), Nicky Phinn (Free), Owen Ronald (Free), Alan Deans (East Stirlingshire), Michael Miller (End of Loan), Callum Thomson (End of Loan), Chris Kane (End of Loan)
What they still need – There is much debate amongst the Dumbarton supporters regarding the goalkeeping situation at the club. Many feel as though the quality of keeper they have is maybe not good enough and that the club should be looking for a proper first choice number one. Other than that the squad is actually looking quite balanced. Murray has brought in players for the positions that were short and there is generally a good amount of competition across the team.
Key player(s) – Every team needs an experienced leader at the back. Dumbarton have such a player in Andy Graham. Not the quickest player in the world he makes up for his lack of pace with his commitment and consistency at heart of the Sons defence. Another player that plays a massive role for the club is winger Mark Gilhaney. A very clever player who reads the game well, creates plenty of chances and also has an eye for goal.
Opinion on Dumbarton – The Sons play some lovely stuff under Murray. They are one of the best footballing teams in the Championship and it will be interesting to see how they match up against the new sides in the division. Yes they score a lot of goals, but they also concede too and this is a worry for the season ahead. Ian Murray will continue to work wonders with a small squad and tight budget and it might result in him leaving at some point in the near future. For now though, he is happy at Dumbarton and they are happy with him. The fans will have a season to look forward to and will be in no danger of being relegated. The one slight disappointment that Dumbarton might have this year is the fact that their stadium is smaller than the others in the division. With this Championship season guaranteeing clubs massive pay days with big crowds it is unfortunate for Dumbarton that they might not be able to make the most of this.
Prediction for this season – 7th
Summary of last season – Falkirk were always just about on the verge of winning promotion last year. They were in the hunt for the title right until the end, and they did have a crack at the playoffs but lost out to Hamilton. All in all it was a successful season with the team playing some great football during the campaign. When the Bairns were winning they were winning very well, but unfortunately a couple of really poor runs eventually cost them. Under the guidance of Gary Holt Falkirk’s young players put in some superb performances and they must have been looking forward to working with him again this year. However in June it was announced that Holt was to leave his position as manager to take up a first team coaching role at his old club Norwich. After a short search for a new manager Peter Houston was named the new number one at Falkirk.
Players in – Alan Maybury player/coach (Defender,Hibernian), Jamie MacDonald (Goalkeeper, Hearts), Tom Taiwo (Midfielder, Hibernian), Alex Cooper (Midfielder, Ross County), Peter Grant (Defender, Norwich)
Players out – Stephen Kingsley (Swansea City, undisclosed), Michael McGovern (Hamilton Academical), Johnny Flynn (Cliftonville), Steven Brisbane (East Stirlingshire), Connor Greene (East Stirlingshire), Kris Faulds (Free), Kyle Turnbull (Free), Mark Millar (End of Loan), Joe Chalmers (End of Loan), Mark Beck (End of Loan)
What they still need – Peter Houston has a strong squad to work with and has added a few new faces to the team so in general the side is in reasonable shape. However with departure of Stephen Kingsley to Swansea there is a need to sign a left back. Further forward the striking prowess of Rory Loy is impressive but Falkirk probably need another striker to provide competition and to allow Houston to change the shape if needed.
Key player(s) – There are a number of young stars at Falkirk and you would expect many of them to shine again this year. However it is two slightly more experienced campaigners that will make the difference this season. Replacing the ever reliable goalkeeper Michael McGovern was a huge task for Peter Houston but he has managed to do that with possibly the signing of the summer in the Championship. Former Hearts goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald has signed with the Bairns despite being linked with several Premiership teams. A very reliable and solid keeper, MacDonald will undoubtedly be one of the top performers in the division this year. At the opposite end of the park Falkirk are blessed with a prolific goalscorer in the shape of Rory Loy. Last seasons top goalscorer grabbed 20 league goals during the previous campaign and his goals will be vital again this year.
Opinion on Falkirk – Any other season then you would be looking for Falkirk to kick on and try to achieve promotion, or even win the title. However with the way the league is shaping up it will be very difficult for them to get themselves into the playoffs let alone win the league. A new manager always brings a bit of freshness around a club and it will be interesting to see how Peter Houston does in his first job since leaving Dundee United. A few changes in personnel and maybe a new system might take time to work. Falkirk will still be there or thereabouts but they might find themselves chasing Rangers, Hearts and Hibs this season.
Prediction for this season – 4th