The Scottish Football Christmas and New Year Review

I, Dr. Grant Campbell of the ‘Campbell’s Footballs’ podcast and one of the presenters of the SPFL42 Show (a.k.a. Stato) return with my Scottish Football review.

I hope you all had an enjoyable Christmas break. A very Happy 2021 to each and every one of my readers. May this year be a special one for you all.

Since it has been a while since I did a review, it’s time for a change up. Hope you enjoy this Christmas and New Year review of the Scottish Premiership as we dissect through each team and rate them one by one.

Rangers F.C. - Wikipedia
St Johnstone (a)3-0 (w)
Hibernian (h)1-0 (w)
St Mirren (a)2-0 (w)
Celtic (h)1-0 (w)

It’s been a fruitful festive period for Rangers.

After being beaten in the League Cup quarter finals by St Mirren, Steven Gerrard’s team have returned to league affairs and won each of their four matches without conceding a goal. They have increased their lead at the top of the table and beat Celtic in the recent Old Firm derby to all but wrap up the title and end their bitter rivals ten-in-a-row aspirations.

Rangers have perhaps not been at their best in recent matches but I’m sure Gerrard, the players and supporters of the Ibrox club will not be complaining one jot as their quest to stop Celtic’s domestic dominance continues.

Stato’s Rating: A

Celtic F.C. - Wikipedia
Ross County (h)2-0 (w)
Hamilton (a)3-0 (w)
Dundee United (h)3-0 (w)
Rangers (a)1-0 (l)

Celtic had built some momentum heading into Saturday’s Old Firm derby with three regulation victories over Ross County, Hamilton and Dundee United.

However, after dominating much of the first half of the game at Ibrox, Neil Lennon’s team fell to a fatal 1-0 defeat courtesy of an own goal by Callum McGregor just after the sending off for Nir Bitton for a professional foul.

Celtic have now given themselves an almost impossible task in terms of closing the gap to Rangers.

Yes, it was a brilliant display by Allan McGregor that thwarted Celtic yesterday. However, it’s the dropped points away at Easter Road, at Pittodrie and at home to St Johnstone as well as losing the reverse game to Rangers earlier in the season which have ultimately been Celtic’s downfall.

Celtic will probably still finish second but a significant rebuilding job across all sectors of the club awaits the likely outgoing Champions come the summer.

Stato’s Rating: B-

Aberdeen F.C. - Wikipedia
Motherwell (a)0-0 (d)
St Johnstone (h)2-1 (w)
Livingston (a)P-P
Dundee United (h)0-0 (d)

On the face of things, going unbeaten through the festive period for Aberdeen is decent stuff.

It’s hard to criticise a team who have gone unbeaten during the toughest period of the season but if it something it is Aberdeen’s level of performances especially in the two goalless draws. Yes, the Dons have increased their advantage in third place on nearest rivals Hibernian and have two games in hand to play against Livingston and Celtic. However, McInnes has admitted his team do need to string together more complete performances in matches.

The Dons also need in my view a couple of reinforcements in this window too, notably a centre half and a striker. Third place and a deep run in the Scottish Cup has to be now the major focus of McInnes’ and Aberdeen’s season moving forwards.

Stato’s Rating: B

Hibernian F.C. - Wikipedia
St Mirren (h)1-0 (w)
Rangers (a)1-0 (l)
Ross County (h)2-0 (l)
Livingston (h)3-0 (l)

What an awful festive period it has been for Hibernian.

After narrowly defeating St Mirren at home before Christmas, Jack Ross’ team have lost their last three matches without scoring. This included losing at Ibrox narrowly before being turned at home by basement side Ross County and Livingston.

Hibernian have not been helped by the loss of goalkeeper Ofir Marciano to injury but their home form has to be a growing concern for many fans and supporters. They were lax and all over the place against the Staggies before the turn of the year and on Saturday against Livingston it was another defensive nightmare. They have also ran out of goals lately with Martin Boyle, Kevin Nisbet and Christian Doidge all going off the boil at the same time. The latter was also suspended after his red card against St Mirren for two yellow cards.

Their narrow win at home to the Buddies has saved them from an “F rating” but there has not been a lot to smile about for all down Leith way during the festive period.

They need to resurrect their form and quickly especially with a cup semi final to come later this month against St Johnstone.

Stato’s Rating: D-

Livingston F.C. - Wikipedia
Hamilton (a)2-0 (w)
Kilmarnock (a)2-1 (w)
Aberdeen (h)P-P
Hibernian (a)3-0 (w)

David Martindale is making management life very easy.

Since he has taken over from Gary Holt at the end of November, the Lions have had a 100% record in all competitions and have only conceded two goals. Quite astonishing!

The festive period brought some increased cheer for Livingston too as they won three away games at Hamilton. Kilmarnock and Hibernian – something that feels hugely unprecedented considering last season they really struggled on the road. Josh Mullin and Scott Robinson have been outstanding going forward but so has Jon Guthrie at the back.

It has been faultless from the Lions and they deserve all the plaudits which are coming their way right now.

Stato’s Rating: A+

Dundee United F.C. - Wikipedia
Kilmarnock (h)2-0 (w)
Motherwell (h)1-1 (d)
Celtic (a)3-0 (l)
Aberdeen (a)0-0 (d)

If I was to describe Dundee United’s festive run of results I would say one word: middling

Micky Mellon’s team are not the most attractive side to watch in the division but they are picking up results and have kept their head well above water so far. Their home win against Kilmarnock was important, particularly for Lawrence Shankland and Marc McNulty getting much needed goals. Equally as important, was their powers of recovery in their late draw at home to Motherwell thanks to a stoppage time equaliser from Nicky Clark.

The two away games at Celtic and Aberdeen were always going to be tough so to take one point at Pittodrie on that run is admirable.

It’s been solid if unspectacular from the Tangerines but I don’t think fans will mind so long as they preserve their status at the end of the season.

Stato’s Rating: B

St Mirren F.C. - Wikipedia
Hibernian (a)1-0 (l)
Ross County (a)2-0 (w)
Rangers (h)2-0 (l)
Kilmarnock (a)1-1 (d)

In a tough run of festive fixtures for Jim Goodwin’s side who have had three away matches out of four, I think his Saints team have done fair.

They were unlucky not to get something at Easter Road having created quite a few chances but against Rangers defensive blunders cost them dearly and they could not replicate their shock quarter final cup success. Away from home, they won well in Dingwall taking advantage of the Staggies’ indiscipline and grabbed a useful draw at Rugby Park despite not being at their best.

It’ll be interesting to see how they get on against Motherwell and St Johnstone in their next two matches – two sides below them in the league. Avoid defeat in both and it’s been a good period for the Buddies.

St Mirren have Livingston in the cup semi final later this month and will fancy their chances to get to a cup final but before then they need to keep the meter ticking in terms of their league positioning.

Until then though, I award them a rating which is decent but could be better.

Stato’s Rating: C

Kilmarnock F.C. - Wikipedia
Dundee United (a)2-0 (l)
Livingston (h)2-1 (l)
Motherwell (a)2-0 (w)
St Mirren (h)1-1 (d)

It has been a tricky period during Christmas and New Year for Kilmarnock and Alex Dyer.

They still seem to be struggling without their skipper Gary Dicker and have lost the balance they had to their team at the start of the campaign. Their performances have suffered as a result and in defeats against Dundee United and Livingston they were disappointing.

They played well to win at Fir Park against equally struggling Motherwell and should really have won against St Mirren on Saturday were it not for a bizarre Danny Rogers howler late on.

However, it’s only two wins in eight for Killie and they need to find more consistency in their matches moving forward otherwise they will become embroiled in a relegation dogfight. January is a big month for the Rugby Park team and may decide Dyer’s future at the club long term.

Stato’s Rating: C-

St Johnstone F.C. - Wikipedia
Rangers (h)3-0 (l)
Aberdeen (a)2-1 (l)
Hamilton (h)0-0 (d)
Ross County (a)1-1 (d)

St Johnstone’s season has been encapsulated by three words. Inconsistency, naivety and profligacy. This has been evident especially in this seasonal run of fixtures passed.

Callum Davidson’s men were well beaten at home to Rangers before Christmas and finished up with ten men following Michael O’Hallaron’s second red card of the season. They let a lead slip at Pittodrie to go down 2-1 and struggled to break down a stubborn Hamilton side on their home patch, missing chance after chance after chance. Their recent draw at Ross County was very similar. The Saints are creating good opportunities but are simply not being clinical enough. Defensively as well, they are relying heavily on goalkeeper Zander Clark to dig them out of sticky situations.

St Johnstone have not won a league match since defeating Kilmarnock at the start of November, drawing five matches and losing the other four.

They need a win from somewhere and quickly, no matter how ugly it is.

Stato’s Rating: D

Hamilton Academical F.C. - Wikipedia
Livingston (h)2-0 (l)
Celtic (h)3-0 (l)
St Johnstone (a)0-0 (d)
Motherwell (h)3-0 (w)

This is the stage of the season where Hamilton usually rub their sleeves up and it looks like they are beginning to find some fight in what has been a struggling season so far for Accies.

Before Christmas, Accies were well beaten by a vibrant Livingston side and against Celtic, they were comfortably swept aside despite a solid first forty five minutes.

Since then though, Hamilton have turned a corner.

They defended stoutly to escape Perth with a goalless draw and smashed their bitter rivals Motherwell at home in an impressive 3-0 win in the Lanarkshire derby.

Brian Rice’s side need to make themselves tough to beat if they are going to stay afloat. Their energy and enthusiasm is commended but their naivety in defensive areas is still at times very much on show. Ross Callachan has found some much needed form and he will be integral to their survival chances in my view. His performance against Motherwell was notably excellent.

There’s no doubt Hamilton will be in and around where they are at the moment but if Accies finish 10th or higher at the end of the season, fans of Hamilton will take that all day long. They are the one side down there who know how to fight and pick up the requisite points they need.

Do not rule them out making an escape.

Stato’s Rating: C+

Motherwell F.C. - Wikipedia
Aberdeen (h)0-0 (d)
Dundee United (a)1-1 (d)
Kilmarnock (h)2-0 (l)
Hamilton (a)3-0 (l)

A festive season which has been nothing short of a disaster for Motherwell.

Two uninspiring draws against Aberdeen and Dundee United followed by a 2-0 home defeat against Kilmarnock led to Stephen Robinson resigning from the club leaving the Steelmen needing a new manager.

Keith Lasley took interim charge against Hamilton but in my view did not give himself any favours of getting the job on a permanent basis after that hammering his side took.

Motherwell, in my view, are in serious trouble and are sinking like a stone.

They need to get a manager in who is going to re-energise the club and the players. They look like a side who are playing with no confidence at the moment. They also need to get in at least two or three new players. Their front players are not doing nearly enough and defensively they are a shambles.

I can only give them the worst rating you can give here and its sad as I respect Motherwell as a club. I’m disappointed to see Robinson go as he did a superb job during his time at Fir Park but whoever goes in has a huge rebuilding job on their hands.

In my view, if I was Motherwell, I would be battering down Tommy Wright’s door down and getting him to join the club, no matter what the price.

Stato’s Rating: F

Ross County F.C. - Wikipedia

Celtic (a)2-0 (l)
St Mirren (h)2-0 (l)
Hibernian (a)2-0 (w)
St Johnstone (h)1-1 (d)

Since the last blog post I wrote, Ross County replaced Stuart Kettlewell for John Hughes and results have slowly began to turn for the Staggies.

They still remain bottom of the league though and the Dingwall team will have a massive fight on their hands if they are going to stay in the league. If there is one man who can keep Ross County in the top flight though, it is Yogi and I wish him well.

He did not get off to the best of starts with back to back defeats at Celtic Park and at home to St Mirren but they produced an outstanding display to win at Easter Road in a 2-0 win that left many people, including me, surprised. For me, they were the better side in the second half in Dingwall against St Johnstone on Saturday but only grabbed a draw.

If County are going to stay up, they need to cut out losing soft goals and start scoring more themselves.

However, for now at least, the ship has been settled and County are no longer cut adrift at the bottom.

Stato’s Rating: C-

It is very much game on and I cannot wait to see how the second half of the season unfolds. You can catch-up with all my views and more on the SPFL42 Show with Callum McFadden and colleagues throughout the season as we dissect all the action in the top flight as well as cover all the action in the Championship and Leagues 1 and 2.

SPFL | Official Site of Scottish Professional Football League

Published by Dr. Grant Campbell

My name is Grant and I am the host of "The only show where bad predictions are cancelled out by good craic": Campbell's Footballs. This podcast will host plenty of wild football predictions as well as interesting stories from a diverse range of guests from all life within football such as grassroots, media and journalism, ex-professionals and genuine football fans. Contributions, shout outs and conversations encouraged! In Association with music from Toby Johnson and Rory Hope.

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