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The state of play in the Scottish Championship

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hislopsoffsideagain

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The Scottish Premiership has been back in full flow for sometime, but we're now just a month from the Championship, League One and League Two restarting (though the League Cup begins a week and a half before that). These clubs last played a competitive game in early March, and a lot has happened since then. 

Here's where the ten Championship clubs are currently at. With the transfer window still open till 5th October and loan restrictions eased there will be plenty of signings at each club in the coming weeks. For more details on transfer moves so far check out the SPFL transfers page.


ALLOA ATHLETIC
STRONGEST XI AT END OF LAST SEASON (departed players crossed out): Parry, Taggart, Graham, Deas, Dick, Cawley, Flannigan, Hetherington, Banks, Trouten, O'Hara

Peter Grant looks set to follow the template that has previously worked well for both him and predecessor Jim Goodwin: keep the core of the squad together and supplement it with clever loan moves and one or two permanent signings. The snag is that his two best players have left - Kevin O'Hara returns to full-time football with Dunfermline, while the delightful playmaker Iain Flannigan surprisingly chose to retire at age 32. Of the players retained, that ever-reliable backbone is another year older; Andy Graham (36), Liam Buchanan (35) and Alan Trouten (34) cannot go on forever. So far Grant has brought in Hibs winger Innes Murray on loan, along with Nicky Jamieson (who played in League Two last season) and his own son Ray. Expect more new faces, with a further centre-back and striker a must.


ARBROATH
STRONGEST XI AT END OF LAST SEASON (departed players crossed out): Gaston, Thomson, O'Brien, Little, Hamilton, Stewart, Virtanen, Whatley, Linn, Wighton, Donnelly

See Alloa's plan for success...except Dick Campbell has held onto everyone he wanted to keep, convinced the outstanding Tam O'Brien to sign a new contract, and got the impressive Finn Miko Virtanen back for a second season on loan from Aberdeen with another Don, forward Michael Ruth, in tow. Clearly Premiership managers trust Dick Campbell to develop their players. With a very solid back four, Campbell can concentrate what remaining resources he has on bolstering his midfield and attack. Though Luke Donnelly and Dale Hilson are busy and Kris Doolan and Bobby Linn offer veteran nous, a prolific goalscorer would be a gamechanger.


AYR UNITED
STRONGEST XI AT END OF LAST SEASON (departed players crossed out): Doohan, Houston, Bell, Muirhead, Harvie, Malley, Kelly, Kerr, Forrest, Drinan, Moffat

This looked likely to be a transitional summer at Somerset Park, given that most of the remaining Ian McCall All-Stars moved on. But instead Mark Kerr has been pretty bold so far, and I'd say that procuring wingers Tom Walsh and Dario Zanatta, defenders Jack Baird and Patrick Reading (who you haven't heard of but has a Scotland under-21 cap) and midfielder Joe Chalmers counts as a statement of intent. The big question marks remain up front - where they'll be looking for a better option than Craig Moore or 35 year old Michael Moffat - and between the sticks, with perennial backup Ellis Hare-Reid the only goalie under contract at the time of writing. Kerr made excellent use of the English loan market in January and expect more of that in the coming weeks.


DUNDEE

STRONGEST XI AT END OF LAST SEASON (departed players crossed out): Hazard, Kerr, Berra, McGhee, Marshall, Elliott, Byrne, McGowan, Dorrans, McDaid, Hemmings

It's been an eventful few months at Dens Park. First there was the bizarre no-then-yes vote to ending the season (for motives that remain unclear). That was followed by staff redundancies and player wage-cuts, with striker Kane Hemmings refusing the pay cut...then agreeing to it...then cancelling his contract after all. And now we have Charlie Adam rocking up at the club he left seventeen years ago for a last hurrah. With Graham Dorrans and Paul McGowan already at the club they will not be short of midfield creativity, but it'll be interesting to see how McPake fits them all into the team, and who will do the leg work for the trio of veterans. We'll also find out if the manager has learned from his difficult rookie year in the dugout and can at least make his lineup equal to the sum of its parts on a consistent basis. Even though Hemmings and Andrew Nelson have left, replacements Alex Jakubiak and Danny Mullen should offer more than enough quality up top (then again, we said the same about Hemmings, Nelson and Danny Johnson last year). And the defence and midfield should be good enough on paper - though the thought of Jack Hamilton being first choice goalkeeper will give Dundee fans the boak.


DUNFERMLINE ATHLETIC
STRONGEST XI AT END OF LAST SEASON (departed players crossed out): Fon Williams, Comrie, Ashcroft, Martin, Murray, Dow, Ross, Paton, Thomas, Nisbet, Afolabi

The summer began with a lot of pessimistic noises coming out of East End Park about budget cuts and player releases, segued into a nice windfall from selling Kevin Nisbet to Hibs, and finished up with significant investment in the club from Germany. The club has stressed that there won't be significant cash-splashing but one would assume the new investors have plans for bringing in players (and at least stretching the club's scouting network beyond Kirkcaldy). Meanwhile Stevie Crawford has already tied up goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams and winger Dom Thomas after brief but impressive loan spells pre-Covid, and with Nisbet gone he'll be looking to Declan McManus (returning for his second spell at the club) and Kevin O'Hara (a rather controversial signing given his ban a few years ago for taunting Dean Shiels about his eyesight) for goals. I also have high hopes for ex-Killie midfielder Iain Wilson. However the Pars' squad may look quite different come the end of the window...


GREENOCK MORTON
STRONGEST XI AT END OF LAST SEASON (departed players crossed out): Rogers, Tumilty, McGinty, Baird, Strapp, Nesbitt, Jacobs, McAlister, Cadden, Orsi, McHugh

Morton have been very bullish publicly about how they feel things are going under David Hopkin, but unless there's a lot of business still to come the current window feels like a costcutting one. It was no surprise to see Nicky Cadden leave but he was excellent last season and it's still a massive blow. One suspects Hopkin might have wanted to keep John Baird and Reghan Tumilty for this season, while Bob McHugh chose to leave for Ray McKinnon's Queen's Park project. So far the only signings are the returning Gary Oliver and Elgin wideman Rabin Omar. So that means currently the club have no senior goalkeeper, no right-back and just one out-and-out centre forward. Not ideal.


HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN
STRONGEST XI AT END OF LAST SEASON (departed players crossed out): Zlamal, Clare, M. Smith, Halkett, Souttar, Hickey, Bozanic, Haring, Walker, Naismith, Boyce

Hearts' hopes of a relegation reprieve came to nothing in the end but it would be a shock if their absence from the Premiership lasted beyond this campaign. New boss Robbie Neilson certainly has an affinity for this division, having won it twice before (including last season with Dundee United). And even though they have moved on about a gazillion players - some of whom they probably wished they could keep - this squad was already probably strong enough to walk this league before Neilson started adding to it. Craig Gordon will surely be an upgrade in goal, while he's brought in three wide players - Jordan Roberts, Josh Ginnelly and Elliott Frear - to improve a real area of weakness. Aaron Hickey's imminent exit and John Souttar's injury hurt the defence but - if Christophe Berra is still up to it - the Jambos should have plenty of cover there. And that strike force of Liam Boyce and Steven Naismith should score for fun.


INVERNESS CALEDONIAN THISTLE
STRONGEST XI AT END OF LAST SEASON (departed players crossed out): Ridgers, Rooney, Toshney, McKay, Tremarco, Vincent, Welsh, Walsh, Keatings, Doran, White

John Robertson recently lamented that every year seemed to be a rebuilding year. With four first choice players and midfielder Charlie Trafford away, along with the two centre-backs he lost in January, it'll be hard to keep Caley Thistle 'best of the rest'. Whether they have the cash to find replacements is unclear - last year there were concerns re their finances and they kept their players on furlough longer than most but the club have spoken positively about where they are going forward. That said, Robbo's claim that ex-Elgin forward Shane Sutherland could score 15 goals seems very optimistic indeed. The club have high hopes than youngster Cameron Harper can fill the Carl Tremarco-shaped hole at left-back and Robbie Deas could be the next Jamie McCart, but the other defensive options (Lewis Toshney, Brad McKay, Danny Devine) look dicey and they still don't have a natural right-back. Robertson has previously plucked players from the English lower leagues and I'd expect a few signings from that market in the coming weeks.


QUEEN OF THE SOUTH
STRONGEST XI AT END OF LAST SEASON (departed players crossed out): Stewart, Mercer, Kilday, Ledger, Holt, Murray, Pybus, Osman, Wilson, Oliver, Dobbie

As of May, the Doonhamers had just three players under contract - Stephen Dobbie (who will be 38 in December), Kevin Holt and backup goalie Jack Leighfield. Dan Pybus has subsequently signed on again but Holt has left for Cyprus so Allan Johnston has a huge task on his hands. It's got to the point that 36 year old reserve coach Wullie Gibson - who hasn't played at this level in five years or at all since November 2019 - has signed a playing contract. Loan signing Aidan Fitzpatrick looks like a good addition and Joe McKee deserves another shot at the Championship, but one feels it'll take a lot of work to get QOS up to standard. And bear in mind that last season was halted with them only two points above bottom spot, having played a game more than Partick Thistle and having picked up three points out of thirty.


RAITH ROVERS
STRONGEST XI AT END OF LAST SEASON (departed players crossed out): Munro, Miller, Anderson, Davidson, Benedictus, MacDonald, Matthews, Hendry, Spencer, MacLean, Bowie

Newly promoted sides are always competitive in this league and Raith will be no exception. John McGlynn has been quick to strengthen his weak areas with Jamie MacDonald joining in goal and Reghan Tumilty at right-back. His other signings so far are from down south with Gozie Ugwu, who scored 15 goals in the National League last season, an intriguing addition up front. If Lewis Vaughan can successfully return from a third ACL rupture then Rovers will be very dangerous.


If you were to ask me to predict the outcome of the season right now I'd say...there's no chance I'm going to fall for that. The shortened season makes things far less clear-cut and as stated above squads may look very different come early October.

Then I'd say "Oh, and Hearts are going to walk it..."


Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly.

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