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Scottish Premiership: Every club’s season assessed | Football News


Jun 5, 2023

With another dramatic Scottish Premiership season finished, Sky Sports assesses who earned top marks, who could have done more and who were the star men?

Aberdeen 7/10

ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND - MARCH 18: Luis Lopes celebrates making it  1-0 Aberdeen during a cinch Premiership match between Aberdeen and Heart of Midlothian at Pittodrie, on March 18, 2023, in Aberdeen, Scotland.  (Photo by Paul Byars / SNS Group)
Luis Lopes celebrates for Aberdeen

The wheels had threatened to come well and truly off this season for the Dons after the resumption of the Premiership following the World Cup in December, with Jim Goodwin’s team picking up one point from seven games, losing their League Cup semi-final to Rangers and suffering a shock 1-0 Scottish Cup defeat to sixth-tier Darvel.

Back-to-back hammerings at the hands of Hearts and Hibernian in late January may have seen Goodwin leave Pittodrie but Aberdeen have clinched third spot and a place in the group stages of Europe next season thanks to a remarkable turnaround, led by now-permanent boss Barry Robson.

The former Celtic midfielder led his team to seven straight wins, including a first victory over Rangers in the league since 2018, as Hearts capitulated, meaning there will be European football in the Granite City next season.

Mid-season rating 6/10

ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND - MARCH 29: Barry Robson is confirmed as Aberdeen Manager until the end of the current 2022/23  season at Cormack Park, on March 29, 2023, in Aberdeen, Scotland.  (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
Barry Robson was confirmed as Aberdeen manager

What do they need next season? Aberdeen fans crave silverware and either the League Cup or Scottish Cup remains their best bet. To be successful in either of those competitions they will need to hold on to their key men. Ross McCrorie has been linked with a move to Bristol City, while Duk has admitted that he is also eyeing a move south at some point. If they can hold on to Bojan Miovski and add a little more quality in key areas then Aberdeen will fancy their chances of being competitive in the domestic cups and securing third spot again next season.

Star man: Duk

Celtic 9/10

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Match highlights as Celtic lifted the Scottish Premiership trophy after easing to victory over Aberdeen.

Celtic were nine points clear of Rangers going into the World Cup break and never let that lead slip. The Ibrox side dropped just two points (a draw against Celtic) in their first 15 league games under new manager Michael Beale and still could not put a dent in that deficit.

Ange Postecoglou’s side were relentless before the World Cup and were equally as ruthless after it until the title was clinched. Their quest to amass a record points tally was brought to a halt after a sobering 3-0 defeat at Rangers last month but the title was virtually assured since November. A 3-2 win over Rangers at Parkhead in April snuffed out any hope the visitors may have had of reigniting a title race in the closing stages of the season.

A win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Hampden in the Scottish Cup final on Saturday clinched a fifth treble in seven years, although it may be the last time Celtic fans see their Australian boss leading their side.

Mid-season rating 8/10

Ange Postecoglou has won back-to-back titles at Celtic
Ange Postecoglou has won back-to-back titles at Celtic

What do they need? Rumours swirled around the future of Postecoglou every time a Premier League manager got the sack during the campaign – he always dismissed any notion that he would leave mid-season and has instead spoken about building on his success so far. However, the Celtic manager has emerged as the preferred candidate for the vacant Tottenham job and, this time, the speculation is not going away. If the Australian departs after two seasons in the east end then Celtic will look to act quickly to appoint a successor to minimise disruption to their summer plans. Whoever takes charge will also need to ensure complacency does not set in, with Michael Beale already overseeing a major overhaul to a stagnant Rangers side.

Star man: Kyogo Furuhashi

Dundee United 2/10

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Highlights of Motherwell against Dundee United in the Scottish Premiership.

There had been shoots of hope under new boss Jim Goodwin going into the split after three wins in a row towards the end of April but a damaging 3-1 defeat at home to Ross County in mid-May set United back in the battle to beat the drop. Defeats to Livingston, Kilmarnock and Motherwell on the final day sealed their fate.

After two seasons back in the top flight, Tannadice will play host to Championship football again next term.

It had promised to be such an exciting season, one in which the club could have built on an excellent fourth-placed finish under previous boss Tam Courts but devastating defeats to AZ Alkmaar in Europa Conference League qualifying and then Celtic at Tannadice set the tone for the campaign.

Damaging defeats to relegation rivals Ross County and Kilmarnock did not help Liam Fox before he was replaced by Goodwin, with the former Aberdeen boss just running out of time in order to beat the drop.

To add insult to injury, city rivals Dundee will be playing Premiership football next season after winning the Championship title this time around, meaning there will be no league derbies in the City of Discovery next term.

Mid-season rating 3/10

The Dundee United players at full time
Dundee United have been relegated

What do they need? United are now facing some key questions over the summer but there is certainty over their managerial position. Goodwin has been handed a two-year deal and tasked with the job of getting the club back to the top flight at the first time of asking.

There is, of course, a financial concern that comes with relegation and United may have to sell key players, including the likes of Dylan Levitt, in order to prepare for life back in the second tier. Steven Fletcher could move on as well but United have become adept at giving youth a chance and Goodwin should be able to call on some more exciting youngsters to try and get the club promoted.

Star man: Steven Fletcher

Heart of Midlothian 6/10

Hearts players celebrate Yutaro Oda's opening goal at Tynecastle
Hearts players celebrate Yutaro Oda’s opening goal at Tynecastle

A month is a long time in football – just ask Robbie Neilson. On March 8 Neilson declared that his side had played “some of the best football you’ll see from an opposition team” as Hearts lost 3-1 at Parkhead. On April 9 he was sacked following a 2-0 defeat at home to St Mirren.

Hearts’ campaign derailed spectacularly between February and March. After seemingly having third place sewn up for the majority of the season, Neilson’s side lost six of his last eight in charge and, with Aberdeen resurgent under Barry Robson, Hearts’ grip on third spot and guaranteed European football next season was decisively loosened.

Steven Naismith was in the dugout until the end of the season but Ann Budge and CEO Andrew McKinlay will now have to decide on who takes over full-time next term with third spot and the financial rewards of at least Europa Conference League football absolutely vital.

Mid-season rating 7/10

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Hearts goalkeeper Craig Gordon believes Steven Naismith impressed during his spell in charge, insisting the players would be happy for him to be appointed permanently.

What do they need? Naismith did his chances of taking over permanently no harm after ensuring Hearts beat Edinburgh rivals Hibernian to fourth spot and a place in Europe on the final day. The loss of skipper and No 1 Craig Gordon to a double leg break on Christmas Eve undoubtedly had an impact on Hearts’ season and the club will be keen to see how his recovery is progressing ahead of the new campaign.

Star man: Lawrence Shankland

Hibernian 6/10

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - APRIL 15: Hibernian's Kevin Nisbet celebrates after making it 1-0 during a cinch Premiership match between Hibernian and Heart of Midlothian at Easter Road, on April 15, 2023, in Edinburgh, Scotland.  (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)
Hibernian’s Kevin Nisbet celebrates

It has been an inconsistent first season in Leith for boss Lee Johnson, with his Hibernian side showing real signs of progress before being knocked back on their heels by a couple of poor results. Such was Hibs’ campaign.

However, they have secured European qualification thanks to Celtic’s Scottish Cup win, despite Johnson being adamant earlier in the campaign that this was a squad in need of rejuvenation, and they did pick up their first Edinburgh derby win since 2019 in April.

Brian McDermott has been appointed as director of football with the aim of helping the club improve on recruitment over the summer – something that Johnson has been keen on.

Hibernian’s season was also rocked by the passing of owner Ron Gordon, who died in February at the age of 68, three weeks after revealing he had been receiving treatment for cancer.

Mid-season rating 5/10

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Highlights of the Scottish Premiership match between Hearts and Hibernian.

What do they need? Johnson spoke candidly about improving recruitment and the appointment of McDermott should help in that regard. A more settled and balanced squad, potentially with the return of key man Martin Boyle from long term injury, should also see Hibs make a more concerted run for third spot and European football against Aberdeen and Edinburgh rivals Hearts.

Star man: Kevin Nisbet

Kilmarnock 6/10

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Highlights of Kilmarnock against Ross County in the Scottish Premiership.

Kilmarnock’s first season back in the top flight was always going to be a challenging one but Derek McInnes has passed the test and the Ayrshire side will be a Premiership team next time around.

It has not been without its difficulties – Kyle Lafferty’s 10-game ban deprived McInnes of a genuine goal-threat and his departure from the club, alongside Oli Shaw, in January left Killie needing goals up front.

Despite being one of the lowest scoring sides in the league they managed to win the key games – Dundee United away and Ross County at home in the final two games of the season defined their campaign. Their brilliant form at Rugby Park saved this side after they picked up just two wins and scored 11 goals away from home all campaign.

For now, those figures are irrelevant but McInnes knows that the hard work of recruitment – especially finding a striker to hit double figures next time around – continues in the summer.

Mid-season rating 6/10

KILMARNOCK, SCOTLAND - MAY 28: Kilmarnock's Kyle Vassell celebrates scoring to make it 3-1 during a cinch Premiership match between Kilmarnock and Ross County at Rugby Park, on May 28, 2023, in Kilmarnock, Scotland.  (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)
Kilmarnock’s Kyle Vassell celebrates scoring to make it 3-1 during a Premiership match between Kilmarnock and Ross County

What do they need? McInnes will want guarantees that Kilmarnock will build on their first season back in the top flight rather than be satisfied with it. Killie are not yet expected to reach the heights of European qualification achieved in Steve Clarke’s tenure but they will be keen to ensure that they don’t become a club that flirts with relegation every year.

The former Aberdeen boss will want to be backed in the summer with the idea of pushing for a top six spot as opposed to constantly looking down. McInnes signed a three-and-a-half-year extension to his contract in October and appears to be in it for the long haul.

Star man: Danny Armstrong

Livingston 7/10

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Highlights of St Johnstone against Livingston in the Scottish Premiership.

Livingston’s form since the turn of the year has been a concern. David Martindale’s side finished where they realistically should have in the table but the manager has exceeded expectations plenty of times in the past and his side were in with a chance of a top-six finish again just before the split.

However, Livi have won just six times since the start of 2023. Martindale said recently that either new players needed to be brought in or he would have to think about his position if results continue to be a concern but the club would surely focus on actioning the former. Martindale has been a revelation in West Lothian.

Despite that, Livi have not been scoring enough goals – they were the lowest scoring side in the division with 36 – and have gone from having one of the tightest defences in the league to the joint-fourth worst for conceding.

Livingston had reasonable aspirations of challenging for a European spot going into 2023 but the drop off is perhaps not unsurprising given budgets and squad depth. Indeed, Martindale was happy to have secured Premiership safety after top six hopes were extinguished.

“To be honest, I’d have bit your hand off to not be in a relegation battle at the start of the season,” he said. “I spoke to folk at Ross County who said ‘keep your head up, you’ve had a great season’ and the same at Kilmarnock. I’m going home absolutely devastated after defeats. It hurts. It really hurts, and I’ll do absolutely everything within my power to turn the corner.”

Mid-season rating 8/10

LIVINGSTON, SCOTLAND - APRIL 15: Livingston's Joel Nouble (L) celebrates scoring to make it 1-0 with teammate Bruce Anderson during a cinch Premiership match between Livingston and St Johnstone at the Tony Macaroni Arena, on April 15, 2023, in Livingston, Scotland.  (Photo by Roddy Scott / SNS Group)
Livingston’s Joel Nouble (L) celebrates with teammate Bruce Anderson

What do they need? A trip to Almondvale used to be a real concern for both halves of the Old Firm but that trepidation has disappeared over the past 12 months or so. Livingston have become easier to play against and, while they have never been a side that scored freely under Martindale, they were always difficult to break down. The Livi boss needs to freshen the squad and quite possibly get back to being that team that no one wants to play again.

Star man: Jon Nouble

Motherwell 7/10

Motherwell's Kevin van Veen celebrates scoring to make it 1-1
Motherwell’s Kevin van Veen celebrates scoring to make it 1-1

Stuart Kettlewell’s name did not appear among the nominees for the PFA Manager of the Year award – understandably so, given he was only appointed in February – but few bosses have impacted upon a side’s fortunes the way he has this season.

Motherwell had not won in the league since October before Kettlewell took charge on a temporary basis in February with the club slipping into the relegation battle under previous boss Stevie Hammell.

Kettlewell got the job full time after initial back-to-back wins and has not looked back – Motherwell have finished as best of the rest outside the top six, becoming one of only two Scottish teams to stop Celtic winning at Parkhead this season in the process, and their manager has stated his desire to start challenging for Europe as opposed to flirting with relegation.

They had the best defensive record in the league outside of the Old Firm and, with Kevin van Veen finishing with 25 goals for the season, it is no surprise in the end they secured their top flight status with plenty to spare.

Mid-season rating 5/10

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Highlights of the Scottish Premiership match between Celtic and Motherwell.

What do they need? The likelihood is that the prolific Van Veen will depart North Lanarkshire in the summer and who knows where Motherwell would have been this season without his goals. He will not be easy to replace but Motherwell need to add quality throughout the squad to meet Kettlewell’s ambitions of challenging for Europe. Promising right-back Max Johnston has also been linked with a host of clubs on the continent.

Star man: Kevin van Veen

Rangers 5/10

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Rangers manager Michael Beale is looking forward to a summer reset before trying to offer a stiffer challenge to champions, Celtic.

A league season that had promised so much off the back of an unbelievable European adventure had largely crumbled into dust by November. Giovanni van Bronckhorst had no luck with injuries but a disastrous Champions League campaign coupled with being booed off the pitch by their own supporters following stale domestic performances meant an exit was all but inevitable for the Dutchman.

Michael Beale did steady the ship, going on an unbeaten 15-game run after taking the reins but he could not stop Celtic’s march to the title, even if Rangers did secure a morale-boosting 3-0 win in the Old Firm at Ibrox in May. That will count for little as Celtic pick up another treble after two Hampden wins in the League Cup final and Scottish Cup semi-final over the Gers but Beale at least has something to work with over the summer as the likes of Ryan Kent and Alfredo Morelos bid farewell, probably a year too late.

The January additions of Nicolas Raskin and Todd Cantwell have given supporters hope that summer recruitment will be a marked improvement on what has come before but Beale has a major rebuild on his hands, with the club in transition on and off the pitch.

Mid-season rating 4/10

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Rangers say goodbye to departing players including Ryan Kent and Alfredo Morelos after their last home game of the season.

What do they need? Beale has suggested that Rangers could be looking at a dozen in and a dozen out over the summer. Off the pitch it may be a similar story. Director of Football Ross Wilson has already departed for Nottingham Forest, John Bennett has replaced Douglas Park as chairman, with Stuart Robertson and academy director Craig Mulholland also leaving in the summer. James Bisgrove will take over as CEO in July, with the club going through a period of evolution off the pitch in the hope that it breeds success on it.

Rangers have already completed the Bosman signings of Chelsea academy graduate Dujon Sterling and Kieran Dowell from Norwich in what promises to be a very busy summer.

Star man: James Tavernier

Ross County 5/10

Ross County's George Harmon sent their Scottish Premiership play-off to extra time by completing a stunning three-goal comeback at Dingwall
Ross County’s George Harmon sent their Scottish Premiership play-off to extra time by completing a stunning three-goal comeback at Dingwall

Malky Mackay was never really expected to improve upon Ross County’s top-six finish last season but avoiding relegation this term will ultimately be viewed as a real achievement, especially given the dramatic circumstances in which they secured survival in Dingwall on Sunday.

One win from their opening nine Premiership matches saw County flirt with the relegation places early on but they always seemed to pop up in the key moments against the teams around them, with a decent track record over Kilmarnock and Dundee United throughout the campaign.

Indeed, a 3-1 win over Dundee United in mid-May – building off the back of a victory over Livingston – seemingly set the Staggies up for the final three games of the season but just one point from those matches saw them dip into the relegation play-off spot.

Mackay’s side deserve credit for overturning a 2-0 first leg loss to Partick Thistle in the play-off final but the battle against relegation this season will have been a little too close for comfort for everyone at Victoria Park.

They had the lowest number of shots and shots on target throughout the league. Jordan White bagged 11 goals and Yan Dhanda scored six, including one in the play-off final, but Owura Edwards and Alex Iacovitti were next on the list, only managing three each in the league. This is something Mackay will look to address over the summer.

Mid-season rating 5/10

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Highlights from the second leg of the Scottish Premiership play-off between Ross County and Partick Thistle.

What do they need? With survival assured, thoughts may turn to Mackay’s future. Another top six finish does seem unlikely given that the likes of Aberdeen and the Edinburgh sides are set to strengthen, so would the 51-year-old be content to continue at the lower end of the Premiership?

Mackay would not be short of offers if he decided to step back from the Highlands side but the fit between both parties seems to have been a largely positive one.

Star man: Jordan White

St. Johnstone 6/10

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Highlights of the Scottish Premiership match between Ross County and St Johnstone. 

At the turn of the year St Johnstone were back in the top six, had beaten Rangers in the league for the first time since 2017, and had put together a decent run of form, including going six unbeaten.

By mid-April, double cup winning manager Callum Davidson was gone after the Saints picked up just two wins from their 13 games since the turn of the year to slide right into relegation trouble they thought they had been clear of.

Steven MacLean was appointed in the interim initially but has been given the job permanently after just one defeat in his six games in charge ultimately secured the club’s safety but St Johnstone came a lot closer to relegation than many supporters would have cared for.

The decision to sack Davidson, the club’s most successful manager, would have been a difficult one but MacLean just about managed to keep the team above water thanks to a couple of positive results after the split.

Nicky Clark’s absence through injury would not have helped but St Johnstone simply didn’t score enough goals to have that extra breathing room that Motherwell enjoyed in the final weeks of the season.

Mid-season rating 7/10

Steven MacLean is in interim charge of St Johnstone
Steven MacLean has been appointed as St Johnstone boss

What do they need? Steve MacLean will now be charged with taking the Perth side back into the top six in the Premiership. It will not be easy, given that the top six sides and Motherwell will likely strengthen over the summer, but this is a team that won the cup double not so long ago – St Johnstone fans will be keen to avoid relegation battles year in, year out.

Star man: Stevie May

St. Mirren 8/10

 St Mirren's Mark O'Hara celebrates after scoring to make it 2-0 during a cinch Premiership match between Heart of Midlothian and St Mirren at Tynecastle,
St Mirren’s Mark O’Hara celebrates after scoring to make it 2-0 during a Premiership match between Heart of Midlothian and St Mirren at Tynecastle

Stephen Robinson’s difficult return to the Scottish Premiership with St Mirren in February 2022 is well documented – he lost seven of his first eight matches before ultimately guiding the club to safety.

Relegation has never been a concern for the Buddies this time around. Robinson and his team have been one of the success stories of the season, with St Mirren deservingly securing their first Premiership top-six finish and the Northern Irishman nominated for the PFA Manager of the Year award.

Robinson guided Motherwell to Scottish Cup and League Cup finals in the past – perhaps he has ambitions to lead St Mirren to big Hampden days in the future as well.

Mid-season rating 8/10

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Highlights of the Scottish Premiership match between Celtic and St Mirren.

What do they need? Can St Mirren push on in the cups while challenging for a European spot? That is the test ahead of Robinson now. They lost Ethan Erhahon and young prospect Dylan Reid in January but Robinson will be determined to hold on to Australian World Cup star Keanu Baccus while adding quality to his squad over the summer.

Star man: Mark O’Hara

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