One horse race?
August, month of mellow fruitfulness — and hurling abuse at myopic referees from the terraces (make that seats). Armchair hooligan Tom Lappin compiles his annual soccer almanac, sizes up the prospects of the Premier League hopefuls, and makes the usual daft predictions.
Six in a row? Who would bet against them? Will they have the title sewn up by February? These are the only real question marks against Rangers‘ title challenge this season. The champions‘ ﬁnancial resources are widening the already gaping chasm between them and their Premier League rivals at an exponential rate. Their unbeaten European campaign last year provided enough cash to purchase Dundee United’s Duncan Ferguson to bolster the strike force of Hateley and McCoist. who were demonstrably Europe‘s most potent partnership last season. Ferguson is still better known for his exploits in pubs and disco car-parks than penalty areas. but Walter Smith has the sense and approachability to bring the best out of the player. And if not. who cares, it‘s only £35 million.
league position: I
Other honours: European Cup semis — maybe the ﬁnal.
Club catchphrase: Loadsamoney!
Always the bridesmaid. never the bride — that‘s been the Aberdeen story. While tenaciously clinging to Rangers' coat-tails over the last few seasons. they've lacked the resources and strength in depth (and. let‘s face it. the cash) to mount a concerted challenge. They'll keep plodding away in the League. but ﬂair players like Eoin Jess and Scott Booth. and free- scoring Duncan Shearer suggest that the Dons’ more realistic hopes of silverware rest in the Cup competitions.
league position: 3
Other honours: League Cup. decent European campaign.
Club catchphrase: We're still in with a chance. mathematically.
Considering Celtic's disappointing showing last season. Liam Brady has been surprisingly absent from the transfer market this summer. With
boardroom rumblings still making it impractical for the Parkhead club to come even within commercial striking distance oftheir Govan rivals. the Bhoys look set to languish as also—r'ans for some while yet. Discontent has already affected the playing staff with John Collins still unsettled. That said. the unburdening of the weight ofespectations. and sheer fighting spirit could bring out the best in a club unused to being written-off from the outset.
league position: 2
Other honours: Scottish (‘up.
Club catchphrase: We see this as a rebuilding period.
()n the face of it lvan Golac is a very off-the—wall choice to replace surly Mr Tangerine Jim McLean. To what extent McLean will be back-seat driving from his position as chairman remains to be seen. and this will bean intriguing season for United. For the last decade or so they‘ve been developing superbly talented young players. then flogging them to wealthier sides. and bolstering their own team with eccentric European imports. It‘s not a system that has paid dividends. but you feel if (iolac could find a settled mix ofexperience and youthful flair. United could once again be a formidable force.
League position: 4
Other honours: Falling at the final hurdle.
Club catchphrase: In the circumstances Mr McLean has decided to return to the manager‘s job.
As a player Sandy Clark. like his managerial
predecessor Joe Jordan. always favoured the direct.
robust approach. As a manager he's inherited a
reasonable side. lacking strength in depth and
‘ without the financial resources to buy big. Since the Heartbreak season of 1986 when the League and Cup 5 were snatched frorn their grasp within a week. Hearts : have never achieved the degree of consistency
‘ required to make a concerted challenge for the title. a situation exacerbated by the constant speculation
about the future of the club. What they need is an eccentric millionaire.
league position: 5
Other honours: A decent UEFA Cup run tie. Second Round)
Club catchphrase: Anyone wanna buy a club‘.’
I Rangers lift the championship in May: will 1994 be six in a row?
They finished sixth last year. thanks to their ability to gobble up their fellow minnows regularly. and spring the occasional surprise on the big boys. Limited horizons and expectations mean that they begin their relegation struggle on 7 August. lightened only by the occasional cup-tie. Their modern stadium and reasonably enterprising style of play make them a nice day out for visiting supporters. but the huge gap that separates them from trophy contention won‘t be bridged overnight.
league position: 9
Other honours: Stuart (‘osgrove‘s continued devotion is about all they can expect.
Club catchphrase: Only one team in Perth.
This cltrb has been languishing in the mid-table doldrums for so long it‘s beginning to look mathematically suspicious. Their inability to hang on to their best players. and their corresponding fondness for padding out their squad with injury- prone veterans have made Hibs a side woefully unsuited for the long haul of the Premier League. On all-too-rare occasions they can play with verve and spirit. qualities that could help them repeat their League Cup triumph of l99l. Don't put your mortgage on it though.
league position: 6
Other honours: You what?
Club catchphrase: Hibernian is a sleeping giant.
Thistle surprised more than a few pundits with their plucky return to the Premier League last season. although once Christmas was past. survival football was mostly the order of the day at Firhill for John Lambie‘s team. The last time Thistle won anything of note was the League Cup victory of 1971 when they hammered Celtic 4-] in the final. A similar achievement seems unlikely. unless it's in the context of another Mayfest stage play.
league position: 8
Other honours: Tenth consecutive ‘butts of feeble jokes' trophy.
Club catchphrase: Only one team in. er. Glasgow.
52 The List 30 July—l2 August 1993