Partick Thistle fans will have been pleased with their club last year and the fact that they survived in their first season back in the top flight. It wasn’t the easiest of campaigns but Alan Archibald’s side showed in spells that they were more than capable of playing some very good football.
In the summer the club made half a dozen acquisitions to the squad to offset the similar numbers that left Firhill. Archibald and his staff had one season to bed in the Premiership so the work had begun to gradually improve on their 10th place finish.
The fans had to wait a little longer than most to see their side kick-off the new season as their first match against Celtic was postponed. Supporters will have been frustrated but their discontent would have vanished a few days later as Thistle demolished Ross County 4-0 in their first league match. Partick were excellent against County and they really showed just how good they can be on their day. The football produced by Partick when they are on form is excellent and they are one of the most pleasing sides to watch when they get into gear.
Results after that first match were as follows – draw, loss, win, loss, win, loss, loss, win. That reads like the form of an inconsistent team and it sums Partick up perfectly. When they are good they are very good but when they are poor they can be toothless going forward and easily bowled over. The results have settled down and form has improved over the past couple of months. Partick have only lost 2 out of their last 7 league games and have recorded impressive wins over Inverness (4-0) and Hamilton in the Scottish Cup.
Fans are happy with the way the team has developed defensively and they have the best defensive record in the bottom six. They have also scored the most goals in the same section of the table so things are moving in the right direction. There is a need however to strengthen in the attacking areas of the team as Partick do have a tendency to fall short in some of their matches.
A few good additions in January and the Partick Thistle squad should be aiming for pushing towards the top of the bottom six, which in their second season back in the top division would be a good progress.
In other news Partick Thistle now have an outstanding mural outside their ground courtesy of ‘Rogue-one Graffiti’. It really is fantastic and something that more clubs should get involved in.
Top Performer – With the system Partick play it is vital that they have someone who can control the middle of the park and cover for the team when they lose possession. Fans have been delighted at the form of new signing Abdul Osman and rightly so. He is strong in the tackle without being reckless and he always maintains possession by making the right pass and keeping things simple, allowing others to do the creative work ahead of him.
Must do Better – If you were to ask a Partick fan this question six weeks ago they would have instantly said Ryan Stevenson. The summer signing from Hearts started this season incredibly slowly despite being a very decent player. He has improved dramatically in the last few weeks so instead the who ‘must do better’ player is James Craigan. He is a regular under Archibald but fans feel as though he simply isn’t quite good enough to push Partick Thistle onwards. If they can find a suitable replacement he could fall out of the team quickly.
Promising Youngster – Partick’s standout youngster this season is someone who has endured a bit of a rollercoaster of a career despite only being 20 years old. Gary Fraser has already had a big move that didn’t work out and a very unsavoury situation with the Scottish football authorities surrounding an incident in an U-20s match. Everything has calmed down now and Fraser has finally been allowed to showcase his genuinely exciting potential. He has firmly established himself in this Partick side and he will be looking to go from strength to strength in the near future.
Christmas Verdict – If Archibald can make some good additions in January and add to the Thistle firepower then the fans can be very hopeful that they can consolidate their position in this division and start looking onwards and upwards in the table.
July Prediction – 10th
New Prediction – 8th
It is always quite difficult to predict what exactly might happen during a Ross County season. They won the old First Division in May 2012 then finished fifth in their first season in the Premiership. Last season the regressed and ended up as winners of the bottom six, which isn’t exactly a glamorous accolade. So would they bounce back or further regress during their 2014/15 campaign?
They started this season with something you can always rely on when it comes to County, a transfer extravaganza. No fewer than 14 players were signed during the summer transfer window, with 8 players leaving the Dingwall club. Manager Derek Adams had a history of signing high volumes of players and this season was no different.
The gamble of signing so many players did not pay off during the early weeks of the season and Ross County slumped to seven straight defeats in the league. Any run of bad results can put a manager under pressure but the nature of the performances on show from the County team meant that in late August Derek Adams became the first managerial casualty of the new season. That wasn’t the end of the changes at County though and the chairman took what we described as “the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make in football” by sacking Derek’s father George Adams from his role as Director of Football. The father and son combo of Derek and George had played a massive role in the rise of County both on the field and off it. Things were not always positive and fans had started to resent much of what the father and son had been doing at the club in the last few years.
Chairman Roy MacGregor wanted a fresh approach for the club and he moved to hire Queen of the South boss Jim McIntyre. The former striker had performed well in Dumfries and he was seen as being someone who could work well with a small squad and get the most out of younger players.
McIntyre had to wait a few weeks for his first victory (a 2-1 against Dundee) but it is not a feeling he is used to having won just another one league match since then. County are also out of both cup competitions having being put out by Hibs in the League Cup and St.Johnstone in the Scottish.
The aim for County between now and May is simple, stay in the Premiership. At the time of writing they have just fallen to the bottom of the table despite an impressive 0-0 draw against Celtic. Jim McIntyre has his work cut out for him if he is to keep the Staggies in the top flight this season.
County are actually still a team that needs to gel. The huge turnover in players almost year on year has meant no consistency in team selection and McIntyre has inherited a squad that still needs much work. In particular the defence needs to be sorted out as County have easily conceded the highest number of goals this season so far.
Top Performer – In a season that has been so poor it is a challenge to pick out anyone who has been really good. There have been a couple of bright spots though. The performances of reliable goalkeeper Mark Brown have been good despite him not actually holding on to the number one jersey all season. One player that most County fans do highly rate though is the versatile Graham Carey. He is a player who is comfortable with a football and can do a bit of defending as well as creating opportunities for others. Carey can fulfil a number of different positions across the team (something that this County team has needed so far this season!)
Must do Better – Where to start? Firstly there is a chance that many of the poorer performers will be shown the door in January so they can’t be picked. Therefore in a slightly different respect it isn’t a player but the Ross County board and management that must do better in terms of their player recruitment and player development. The ratio of successes to ‘duds’ over the past couple of years has been abysmal and that needs to change.
Promising Youngster – One aptly named youngster has made a real impact over the past couple of months. Tony Dingwall has been a breath of fresh air in this County side and he has shown an appetite and a hunger that fans appreciate. From the flashes that people have seen he has that good mix of hard work and trickery that makes attack minded players so dangerous and unpredictable. The 20-year old recently signed a new contract at County and he is the type of home-grown, club trained player that fans want to see rather than the haphazard signings that the club have been too eager to make in recent times.
Christmas Verdict – Things are looking bleak up north. Much of the blame for what is going on at County must lie with Derek and George Adams. They have recruited poorly and in such high volumes that McIntyre is now left with a patchy squad that still needs reinforcements despite the 14 signings in the summer. As things stand this could be a step too far for Ross County.
July Prediction – 11th
New Prediction – 12th
What a summer for St.Johnstone fans. Many of the club’s supporters were probably still working off Scottish Cup final hangovers by the time their domestic and European campaigns got underway. Whatever happened in the league last year was totally eclipsed by the historic achievements at Parkhead and the supporters will never forget that day in May.
Talking of May, Stevie May left the club over the summer and he was by far the highest profile transfer involving a St.Johnstone player for a number of years. A few others left Saints during the first transfer window but it is safe to say that fans were left more than a little underwhelmed at the business coming into the club. After such a success during the previous campaign it felt like very little money had been reinvested in club. Were St.Johnstone heading for a difficult 2014/15 season?
Stevie May was still with the club when St.Johnstone faced FC Luzern of Switzerland in the Europe League qualifiers in July. After two 1-1 draws it took a penalty shootout victory to see the Saints progress to the next stage. Despite that impressive result and more impressive performances against their next opponents Spartak Trnava it was a case of yet again so close but yet so far for St.Johnstone in Europe and they were eliminated.
Domestically the season started with incredibly inconsistent form that saw them win their first game, then lose their next two then win two after that. For fans it must have been a period of form that highlighted everything good about their team but also that their were frailties there that were not addressed during the summer when there should have been money to make improvements. The club then embarked on a five-match run of losing every single league match. The St.Johnstone team were losing and losing in very frustrating circumstances.
Miraculously on Halloween the team halted the rot and beat Motherwell at home. It was a gritty performance on a cold and blustery night but it was the sort of performance that can galvanise a team and it did seem to have an effect on the Saints. The Perth side have since been collecting points for fun and have been unbeaten in eight matches. That sequence includes seven wins and just to prove their grittiness and determination each of those wins has been by a single goal margin.
So, what St.Johnstone exists out there? Is it the one who meekly loses by the odd goal to teams they should be beating or is it the team that bravely wins by the odd goal against anyone and everyone? We have seen large instances of both this year.
Top Performer – The versatile, reliable and consistent midfielder is one of the more underappreciated positions in football. Someone who can win the ball, hold the ball up and ensure that others are brought into play. St.Johnstone have one of Scotland’s best at that role in Chris Millar. He is someone who in games can go unnoticed but in a good way as he is always doing the off the ball work that is needed for an effective midfielder. Saints are much poorer when he doesn’t play.
Must do Better – With a tight squad there is not much room for passengers in this team. In terms of the first choice eleven it has to be said that most Saints players are performing well but there are those on the fringes that have not taken their chances and might not actually be good enough to break through into the team. Two players guilty of that are Adam Morgan and defender Gary Millar. Morgan is only here until January on loan and he has made precisely zero impact at Saints so he can’t be considered for this. Millar gets the category because he has yet to make enough of an impression to reassure Saints that if any of their first choice defenders get injured or suspended that he can come in and do well enough to merit a place.
Promising Youngster(s) – The young players at St.Johnstone fall in to two categories. Firstly those that have a big future ahead of them but haven’t yet broken into the first team (for that you have striker Chris Kane). Secondly you have promising youngsters who have broken into the first team but haven’t quite pushed themselves enough this season. For that category you have midfielders Scott Brown and Liam Caddis. Both players have talent and both will hopefully fulfil their undoubted potential but they haven’t quite hit the heights fans would have expected of them this season.
Christmas Verdict – St.Johnstone have been two teams this year and it remains to be seen what side will show up after January. This squad is capable of great things and they have a strong identity that makes them hard to beat. However we have seen them go on a horrible run of form already this season and if they get two or three bad injuries it could stretch the squad further than it can go. Much depends on any transfer reinforcements over the next month or so.
July Prediction – 5th
New Prediction – 6th
St.Mirren fans ended last season with the news that manager Danny Lennon was leaving the club at the end of his contract. Lennon was someone who was never universally liked and he was on the brink of being sacked at various points during his tenure. He did however deliver St.Mirren a rare piece of silverware so he will always be remembered for that.
Supporters were interested to hear who the club would go for but it turned out that the board were keen to appoint from within, so coach Tommy Craig was given the job. Craig is a vastly experienced football man and knew St.Mirren inside out so it seemed like a relatively cheap but safe appointment.
St.Mirren actually finished in a reasonable position in 2013/14, ending the league season in 8th place. However fans have never seen their side finish in the top six so Craig was charged with the job of trying to make sure that the club finally started making progress towards the upper end of the table.
The Buddies were busy in the transfer market over the summer, bringing in eight players during the transfer window (half a dozen left the club). This meant that Craig had the opportunity to mould his new side in the way he wanted. Having been at the club for some time it was also hoped that Craig would blood more youngsters from the very successful youth setup at St.Mirren.
Lets try to sum up St.Mirren’s league form shall we? It is pretty easy. St.Mirren have been dreadful. They started the season with five straight defeats, only scoring one solitary goal in the process. No club can maintain that form without making changes but the St.Mirren board were standing by their man. To be fair the team did seem to pick up slightly at the end of September and into October as they only lost twice in six matches finally winning a couple of games along the way but that little burst of form was simply masking the deficiencies at the club.
Six straight defeats between November and December meant that the board could not stand around and do nothing so Tommy Craig was relieved of his duties. It is fair to say that everyone saw it coming as Craig looked more and more beleaguered, leading to a couple of run ins with the media as he found it all a bit too much. The fact that nobody from within the club (in particular players) came out to defend Craig spoke volumes about how this was always going to end.
The actual football on show from the side since his August has lacked any direction, any passion and any goalscoring threat. The club recruited very poorly over the summer and some injuries have meant that the frailties in the team have been highlighted on a weekly basis.
There is no permanent replacement for Tommy Craig yet as senior player Gary Teale has been put in temporary charge until that happens. Behind the scenes at St.Mirren there are still noises being made about takeovers and boardroom changes but chairman Stewart Gilmour is still in charge at the club.
What happens next is anyone’s guess. With the transfer window looming the club will need to make a change to ensure that they can recruit well if they get the chance. The fans too will need to know exactly what is going on at the club in the near future.
Top Performer – Slim pickings for this one. In a season of poor performances it is a challenge to single out individuals for this. At the risk of abuse and the wrath of other fans it has to be said that the player people love to hate Jim Goodwin is probably the player that St.Mirren need the most at a time like this. His disciplinary record is shocking but what he does bring is much-needed leadership and is someone who is always ready (sometimes too ready) to do the dirty work for his side.
Must do Better – Everyone at the club needs to do better. You can blame the manager for so much but the players themselves are playing for the fans and playing for survival so they need to get their act together, and quick. One area of the team that need to much better is the striking department. The Buddies have hardly scored all season and the strikers brought into the club like Callum Ball, Ross Caldwell and James Marwood have been terrible in front of goal.
Promising Youngster – One really positive thing about St.Mirren is that if you look through their starting eleven most weeks there are several graduates from their academy in each team. The club have a fantastic record of producing young players who have bright futures and that is set to continue. One young player that has only seen a little bit of action so far is young midfielder Stevie Mallan. The fans so far have seen the 18-year-old display energy, pace and trickery so they must be excited to see more of him as the season continues.
Christmas Verdict – Not much to say other than this season has been a disaster. The appointment of Tommy Craig was the wrong one, and the club are now trying to clean up the mess left behind. That has set the team back half a season so the task will be to try to salvage what is left and ensure that they don’t pay the ultimate price.
July Prediction – 7th
New Prediction – 11th
So that is that. Each Premiership team has been ranked and rated by Perennial Underachievers. Will the new predictions be more accurate than the old ones? Possibly not! All the best to each and every team as we move into 2015!