It’s been a fascinating season in Scotland with a number of teams going through big changes. We predict how things will pan out when it all kicks off again…
Celtic v Hearts, Sunday 19 May, 2.30pm, Sky Sports Football/HD (CH 513/503)
With Steven Gerrard taking his first foray into management with Rangers, Brendan Rodgers deciding to leave Celtic mid-season to take the reins at Leicester, and the national team plummeting to its darkest depths in recent memory with a 3-0 defeat to Kazakhstan, it’s fair to say it’s been quite an eventful season in Scotland.
With new managerial appointments expected at Celtic Park and Hampden, not to mention a mooted expansion of the Championship to 12 teams, there’s certainly the feeling of a transitional period for Scottish football at the moment. And with such big changes on the horizon, we’ve asked (and indeed answered!) five of the big questions eating away at Scottish football fans...
Who will be the new Scotland manager?
Following Alex McLeish’s disastrous 12-game second spell in charge of Scotland, which featured defeats to the likes of Costa Rica, Peru and Israel as well as Kazakhstan, Kilmarnock boss Steve Clarke, current Under-21 coach Scot Gemmill and ex-Everton boss David Moyes are thought to be the strongest contenders. Former England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson has also been linked with the job but his recent unimpressive stint as manager of the Philippines, coupled with the fact he’d want to be paid a king’s ransom, makes it unlikely. We think Clarke will be offered the post following his superb 2018/19 and his refusal to rule himself out… but where would that leave Killie?
Will Kilmarnock lose their manager?
As fans of most teams will know all too well, success will always lead to the vultures circling around your most valuable commodities. This now appears to be the case for Kilmarnock, with Steve Clarke’s name constantly cropping up when it comes to who’s going to be the next Scotland manager. As we, er, just did above. His refusal to publicly decline the job only added fuel to the fire and if he was offered it we couldn’t see him turning it down – who knows if or when he’d get the chance again? Killie fans will certainly be praying that the SFA look elsewhere.
Who’ll be next season’s Kilmarnock?
Killie were bottom of the Premiership when Clarke took over in October 2017 and not only did he lead them to safety, he took them to a European qualification place a season later. So which team is best placed to emulate such a rise? Ross County, who bounced back from relegation with a convincing march to the Championship title this season, could well transfer that winning mentality to the Premiership. Top scorer Billy McKay bagged 17 goals in 24 games before injury curtailed his campaign and we predict he’ll continue his exploits back in the top flight, having previously played there with Dundee United and Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Midfielder Josh Mullin could also come to the fore next year, following an impressive nine goals and ten assists this season.
Who will be in charge at Celtic?
They say you should never go back, but after Brendan Rodgers left for Leicester Neil Lennon did just that, returning to the Celtic hot seat he’d left in 2014. Unfortunately things haven’t quite gone to plan since. The Hoops still won the league, of course, but rather limped over the line leaving many unconvinced that he’ll be there for the long term. A number of glamorous names have already been bandied about – including Roberto Martínez, André Villas-Boas and Rafael Benítez – and the lure of leading the team out in front of 60,000 fans every week would make it an attractive proposition for many. We think Celtic’s board could do a lot worse than former Everton, Manchester United and Real Sociedad man David Moyes.
Where next for Steven Gerrard?
When Rangers were punished for financial irregularities by being dissolved and readmitted to Scotland’s fourth tier, comedian Kevin Bridges said: “Scottish football is famously a two-horse race and we’ve now lost a horse. Scottish football has become showjumping.” And although Rangers have been back in the big time since 2016, the appointment of managerial novice Steven Gerrard last summer was viewed by some as a sprinkling of stardust to cover up the fact that they still lagged miles behind city rivals Celtic. But there’s no doubt Rangers have improved under Gerrard – and although Stevie G will fancy a return to Liverpool at some stage, a certain Jürgen Klopp is currently doing rather well at Anfield. As such, it looks likely Gerrard will continue honing his craft in Scotland and attempting to bridge the gulf between the Old Firm clubs.
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