SCOTTISH football bible Willie Duncan (@Willie_Duncan) pinpoints the value bets from the second tier north of the border.
Scottish Championship 2016/17
After FINALLY getting the Scottish Cup monkey off their back, there is a mood of optimism around Easter Road as Hibernian prepare for a third season in the Scottish Championship.
Despite the loss of manager Alan Stubbs to Rotherham in the summer, the Hibees look to be in a strong position ahead of the upcoming campaign.
The appointment of Neil Lennon as manager is a bold one and the former Celtic and Bolton boss will be hoping that he can bring more silverware to Leith this term.
Hibs have done well to keep hold of a number of players who were pivotal to their Scottish Cup success – with Jason Cummings and Paul Hanlon remaining on the books at Easter Road despite having been linked with moves elsewhere during the summer months.
The Hibees may have fallen at the first hurdle in the Europa League, but after suffering a 1-0 defeat against Brondby at Easter Road, Hibs were 1-0 winners in Denmark before being beaten in an agonising penalty shoot-out.
The Edinburgh side are warm favourites at 11/10 (William Hill) to make it third time lucky in the Scottish Championship by winning the league this season and if Hibs can hold their nerve – admittedly, something that is not exactly a trademark of the Easter Road outfit – then they are capable of justifying that short price.
Dundee United dropped into the Championship after a dismal season last year and it was no surprise whatsoever to see Mixu Paatelainen – a former Hibernian favourite – moved on before the end of the season.
Former Raith Rovers boss Ray McKinnon has taken over at Tannadice and, it must be said, United have recruited well this summer, bringing in players with stacks of Scottish Premiership experience as they attempt to ensure that their stay in the second tier of Scottish football is as brief as possible.
Cammy Bell, Willo Flood and Tope Obadeyi should all do well at this level and the Terrors – an 11/4 (Paddy Power) chance – are probably best placed to push Hibernian at the top of the table this term.
Falkirk made it all the way to the Promotion Play-Off final last term before being blown away by Kilmarnock in the second-leg at Rugby Park and Peter Houston’s men face a tough task to go one step further this season.
Will Vaulks and Blair Alston were vital cogs in the Falkirk midfield last term and they will be missed, although former Dundee United and Hibernian midfielder John Rankin may feel that he has a point to prove to his former employers, having joined the Bairns this summer.
Falkirk can be backed at 8/1 (SkyBet) to win the Championship, but another nerve-shredding play-off seems likely to be the best bet for the Bairns.
St Mirren had a shocking first season in the Championship last time out and Alex Rae had to step in and save the Buddies from back-to-back relegation when many had assumed that promotion would be the primary objective for the Paisley club last season.
Better is expected this time around, but at 16/1 (Betfred), punters may be reluctant to get involved while newly-promoted Dunfermline Athletic – who are more than capable of holding their own in this division – are a 14/1 (Skybet) chance to wrap up a second successive title.
Scottish Championship – Hibs to win outright 11/10 (William Hill)