RANGERS head the betting in the Scottish Championship, but will they mess it up like last season? Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) gives us his views.
Scottish Championship | Outright Winner
The most exciting division in Scotland last season? You bet! Rangers went off odds on last August yet Hearts cruised the division picking up 91 points and winning by 21 in a Frankel-like win. As for Rangers, they couldn’t even finish in the Top 2!
It’s the Gers that I’ll start off with here. 1/2 favourites with Ladbrokes, they were a complete car crash last season. A soap opera as cringy as Crossroads with characters as inept as Benny Hawkins amongst their rank.
Watching Kenny McDowall bumble and struggle his way through his managerial duties in those opening weeks of 2015 was genuinely uncomfortable. I felt awful for the guy, he was massively out of his depth. He must have been lying in his bed wide awake every night unable to catch any kip. Anyway, Kenny McDowall, in bed, let’s move on eh…
A new era has dawned at Ibrox with the impressive snare of ex-Brentford manager Mark Warburton. He’s everything McDowell isn’t – articulate, confident and passionate. Remember this is a guy who quit his six figure salary job in the City to start at the bottom of the pile in the football coaching world. Some will say he’s taken a side step in moving to Rangers but he has a huge opportunity to carve a name for himself in Ibrox folklore. England, a country starved of good managers may just have one here.
It’s dull as hell but it’s Rangers for me this season. They were dreadfully mismanaged last season and still only finished three points behind Hibs and of course knocked them out the play-offs. Now with Warburton in charge and all that horrid rotten creaking dead wood booted out the club forever there’s a real optimism about the place. In place of the toxic dead wood you’ll find shiny new recruits like Martyn Waghorn, James Tavernier and Andy Halliday. Did someone mention Scott Allan? Let’s talk Hibs.
Yes, Scott Allan. The Championship Player Of The Year and the handsome peachy-featured pin-up boy of Leith Walk. The jewel in the Hibs crown who looks odds on to be heading for Rangers. The Ibrox club have already tabled two bids and Allan, desperate to leave, was pictured on the tiles with Rangers players on Saturday night. What a spicy start to the season!
The likely loss of Allan will be a symbolic one for Hibs. To see their talisman move to their league rivals will be a bitter pill to swallow for the Edinburgh side. Hopes of finishing above Rangers will recede further.
Whilst the capture of James Keatings from Hearts looks a shrewd one I just can’t see Hibs going length for length with Rangers this season. The loss of Allan may even affect their early season form.
St Mirren are next in the betting at 8/1. The Buddies had a truly awful season last year and that can be attributed to the lunacy of appointing Tommy Craig as their manager last summer. The veteran coach looked lost at sea and the Paisley club were almost sunk by Christmas.
The appointment of fresh-faced Ian Murray (what a difference a year makes when it comes to managerial recruitment policy) is a fascinating one but his task here is a far stiffer one than keeping Dumbarton in the division. The signing of Scott Agnew from Murray’s old club should provide them with goals but I think it’ll take a while for St Mirren to forget the woes of last season.
The only other sides the right side of 50/1 are Falkirk (33/1) and Queen Of The South (33/1). The Bairns reached the Scottish Cup Final last season but failed to make the play-offs. The loss of Rory Loy to Dundee will have a negative effect on them and they won’t be challenging Rangers.
Queens have been mauled over the summer with a host of their young stars plucked by Premiership teams. This will be a rest test of credentials for their young coach James Fowler and a repeat of last year’s heroics (finished 4th, beat Rangers twice) looks unlikely.
Sorry to be so dull guys but the main title winner market doesn’t give me an opportunity to offer a big-priced value bet, it’s Rangers for me to get back into the top-flight. They’ve recruited a number of exciting players, but the appointment of Warburton might just be the smartest move they’ve made for years.
Ladbrokes have priced up a handicap market with Rangers off scratch, Hibs on +7, St Mirren +12 and so on. This might be a better route of siding with Rangers as it’s 7/1 the field. I think the Gers are more than capable of forcing a 10 point swing in their favour over Hibs and there are negatives about pretty much the rest of the contenders.
Queen Of The South +24 looks big when you consider they were just seven points behind Rangers last season but they have lost a number of key players. I was looking for something a bit bigger than +38 on Dumbarton but Ladbrokes pay three places so I’ll get involved.
As mentioned in more depth elsewhere, I’ve been really impressed by Stephen Aitken’s signings for the Sons and I think they’ll have a strong season. He’s recruited a lovely blend of experience and youth and with Queen Of The South and Falkirk not looking any stronger it’s not ridiculous to suggest Dumbarton can finish top half. I’ll back them each way on the handicap.
Scottish Championship – Rangers to win the Scottish Championship (1/2 Ladbrokes)
Scottish Championship – Rangers (+0) to win Handicap (7/1 Ladbrokes)
Scottish Championship – Dumbarton (+38) to win Handicap each way (7/1 Ladbrokes)
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