By Christopher Russell:
With every new season comes fresh optimism. Supporters have scoured the new squad lists and convinced themselves that the new defensive line-up will keep it tight, and last years mis-firing striker can hit 20 goals this year with the right service.
On Saturday the grass will be lush and green, team scarves rescued from the cupboard looking that bit more vibrant, and the sun may even shine. By Sunday evening, every team will have completed their first 90 minutes and for some fans the harsh reality of the upcoming campaign will have set in. But for now, lets focus on the positives we can look forward to in 2012-2013.
Clubs are looking inwards as they seek to boost their first team squad. There is a real opportunity for youngsters to break into the first team and make a name for themselves. At Hearts, there is a buzz about the potential of Jason Holt and Jamie Walker. Hibs fans will be hoping Sam Stanton lives up to his famous namesake and Ryan Gauld has been tipped for big things at Dundee United. Aberdeen are also set to unleash another set of youngsters with Nicky Low, Ryan Fraser, Declan McManus and Joe Shaugnessy all featuring in pre-season. These players, and their contemporaries at every SPL club, will initially be looking to make a name from themselves in cameos from the bench. A slightly older group of players, who were in that position a couple of years ago will have an onus on them to step up from being promising talent to vital members of the team. Jonny Russell, David Templeton, Gary Mackay-Steven and Paul McGowan will have an opportunity to stamp their name across this season. I’ll also be interested to see how Darren McGregor recovers from the ligament damage that kept him out for most of last season.
It won’t have escaped your notice that there was a bit of a brouhaha over the Summer, the outcome of which means two promoted teams instead of one. Dundee are no strangers to the SPL, although it has been a while since they competed in the top flight. Ross County will provide a completely unknown challenge to most SPL teams. They lost only one league match last season and Derek Adams encourages his team to play a bit of football to win matches. The two new teams join their local rivals in the top flight leading to an increase in the number of derby matches. Dundee and the Highlands, along with Edinburgh, will have at least three local tussles for bragging rights.
During the rather ugly and protracted contretemps of the close season it was heartening to see fans of all clubs unite in the name of sport. Bullying tactics and quick fixes with the promise of financial incentives were rejected and clubs were put under pressure by their own supporters to follow a certain course of action. They got what they wanted and there seems to have been a shift from passive spectator to an active participant in the club. The 'Sell Out Saturday' campaign, launched by this very website, is ticking over nicely and Scottish Football has a feeling of rejuvenation about it. Over the country fan bases had become increasingly disillusioned with their own club and the SPL as a whole. The chance of a fresh start has captured the imagination, long may it continue.
Sharing of success
Last season the three major trophies were shared between three teams, two of which were from outside the usual Glasgow stranglehold. This season, it’s expected Celtic will pick up the league title again but every team will have taken heart from Kilmarnock overcoming Celtic in the league cup final. The Scottish cup final may have ended up a one-sided stroll but the all-Edinburgh clash was a fascinating prospect for the neutral. Hopefully more trophies find a home outside of Parkhead and Ibrox over the next few years.
All Summer the governing bodies and tabloids have warned football fans about financial Armageddon, social unrest and repeatedly told everyone that Scottish football is terrible. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Take in some matches this season. Support your team. Enjoy the football. Always look on the bright side of life.