Football: Local heroics are not enough: David McKinney on a season of challenges and changes for Scotland

STORM CLOUDS are looming over the dawn of a new season in Scotland. A new League structure of four divisions of 10 clubs, coupled with three points for a win, has been introduced, designed to enhance the game north of the border. However, the new format has its opponents already, while on the playing front several clubs have become punch-drunk even before the League action starts.

The Hearts defenders, Craig Levein and Graeme Hogg, have been disciplined by the club for exchanging punches in a pre-season friendly and, given their 2-0 defeat by AEK Athens in the European Cup in midweek, Rangers are beginning to realise that, however big they have become in Scottish and even British terms, the success they so covet in Europe continues to elude them.

The standing of Scottish football in Europe is so low that three clubs have been involved in preliminary ties this week, with only Motherwell recording a win in their first leg, and that against the amateur side, HB Torshavn, of the Faroe Isles.

Last term, the Ibrox club retained the strength to continue to dominate the domestic league although, despite his summer signings of Brian Laudrup and Basile Boli, Walter Smith, the Rangers manager, remains cautious.

'It's difficult for us every season and I don't agree with the statement that it's a foregone conclusion that Rangers will win things. We have to pick ourselves up from the European disappointment and start to boost our own confidence by playing as we can.'

The demands of the Taylor report have forced clubs to concentrate on building stands rather than squads, reducing the amount of transfer activity from those who would wrest the League crown from Rangers' grasp, with Aberdeen likely to provide the greatest challenge.

Willie Miller, their manager, has made three signings, breaking the club transfer record by bringing Billy Dodds, the striker from St Johnstone, for pounds 800,000, and also adding Peter Hetherston from Raith Rovers and Colin Woodthorpe from Norwich. The test of Miller's side will come not from their encounters with the Old Firm but in the matches against the smaller sides they will be expected to beat.

Celtic approach the season with more confidence than they have dared for the last few years with Tommy Burns, their former player, in the manager's chair. Already, in pre-season games, his players have provided evidence that the spirit has returned to a squad which had been drained by constant boardroom squabbles.

The title might prove beyond their means, but Burns will be hopeful that a trophy can be won after a gap of five years. 'Some of the players here have been allowed to forget how good they are, and they could surprise a few people, including themselves, this season,' he said.

Three clubs, Partick Thistle, Kilmarnock and Falkirk, are expected to contest the one automatic relegation spot from the Premier Division while, on the international front, Craig Brown, the Scotland manager, knows he faces an important year of European qualifying matches which will go a long way to deciding his future.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established managed services IT...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Advisor is r...

Recruitment Genius: Plant Fitter - Construction Industry

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This well established construction equipment d...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitm...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003