Relegation is painful. Each season, one or two Premiership clubs face the prospect of dropping…
Since their unlikely promotion to the Scottish Premiership via the playoffs, a lot has gone on at Livingston. Manager David Hopkin opted not to renew his contract after two straight promotions and after a lengthy hiatus the void was filled by Kenny Miller on a player-manager basis.
However, matters off the park soured, and the ex-Scotland international departed on Monday morning, following an alleged bust up with the club’s hierarchy over how well the dual role was working.
The grass pitch was ripped up in favour of a plastic bead-ridden 4G surface ahead of the season and with the youth academy also being scrapped, both the short-term and long-term ambitions for the club remain unclear.
Results had been by no means horrific for the Lions under Miller – who did not even spend a full half on the touchline during his seven-game tenure in charge – but their chaotic situation can certainly act as a cautionary tale for Championship clubs chasing promotion this season, particularly the more unfancied clubs with notably smaller budgets.
Rather than appoint someone with any managerial experience, let alone experience managing in Scotland, Livingston took a punt on Miller, in a move that could well prove costly to them down the line.
The season is still of course in its infancy but as the saying goes, “start as you mean to go on” and if Livi’s start is anything to go by, even more chaos is to ensue at the Tony Macaroni Arena.
With four points from their opening two games, two better than Livingston had at this point last season, it may not be so outrageous to suggest Ayr could sensationally follow in their footsteps and achieve a second straight promotion against the odds.
Ayr started their season with a bang by beating one of the title favourites in Partick Thistle 2-0 and followed it up with a respectable draw with Inverness, another side expected to be there or thereabouts. Ayr showed themselves as more than capable against yet another more fancied outfit than themselves as they dispatched of Dundee with relative ease in the Betfred Cup at the weekend.
Much of Ayr’s recent success has been down to one man, Lawrence Shankland. The 23-year-old has a recent goalscoring record unrivalled across Scotland and much talk has been made about his future with the club. Losing him could derail the Honest Men but keeping him could miraculously fire them back to the top flight for the first time in some 40 years.
Hamilton are an example of a small club in the top flight who have managed to survive despite their status among Scotland’s top clubs, but they have done little else other than survive in recent years.
The Accies achieved a sixth-place finish in the 2014/15 largely with thanks to the great work carried out by Alex Neil in the first half of the season but once Norwich came knocking, Neil was off and in came Martin Canning who has struggled to replicate Neil’s success at the helm. Since the defender-turned-coach has come in, Accies have finished no higher than 10 place and only just managed to avoid relegation in each of the past two seasons.
A small fan base and seemingly little in the way of money, Hamilton appear only able to survive year on year based on a club having a proper stinker of a season and could well just survive again this season with thanks to Livingston being in the league. They may offer hope to smaller clubs eyeing up promotion to the top division, but even they are undoubtedly limited in what they can do in the Premiership in the long and short term.
– Championship sides have once again shown that they can compete with top Premiership clubs, not just bottom-end ones. Both Dunfermline Athletic and Ross County ran their Premiership opposition close at the weekend in the Betfred Cup. The Pars were unlucky to lose out to Hearts on home soil while Ross County led Hibs twice and were just minutes away from taking them to extra time.
– Perennial banter club Dundee United have a perfect opportunity to demand respect this weekend when they welcome Partick Thistle to Tannadice. Both clubs have aspirations of getting back in to the Premiership next season and whoever wins his clash will undoubtedly project themselves up the league table with a clear sign of intent.
– Paul Hartley will be hoping to capitalise on a home tie against Queen of the South to stabilise his loose footing at the Falkirk Stadium at the moment. The Bairns have lost their first two league games and were knocked out of the League Cup after defeats to St Johnstone and Montrose. If defeats don’t start turning in to victories, the former Dundee boss may soon be looking for a new job.