Scottish Premier League season review – A season for surprise packages despite Celtic dominance

Champions – Celtic

Scottish Cup – Celtic

League Cup – St Mirren

Promoted – Partick Thistle

Relegated – Dundee

It surely has to go down as one of the oddest seasons in the Scottish Premier League. A top-flight without Rangers. Both Highland clubs almost reaching Europe. And the country’s so-called third club almost going to the wall. The only thing predictable was Celtic becoming champions again – which they did at a canter – however that does not tell the whole story of the 2012/2013 campaign.

With no serious contenders to their throne after Rangers’ demotion to the Third Division, everyone knew Celtic would seal two-in-a-row, as the SPL took somewhat of a back seat throughout the year. The main highlight for the Bhoys was the European run, capped by a memorable night at Celtic Park after a magnificent victory over Barcelona on the way to the knockout phase of the Champions League.

However, some poor away form in the championship did have supporters at unease during various points of the season, but the destination of the title was never in any doubt. It is up to the Celtic support now to try and maintain interest in what is in reality a one-horse race.

Meanwhile, Motherwell had something to celebrate themselves after claiming the accolade of “the best of the rest” by finishing second. Although they look set to lose many of their star players – but not manager Stuart McCall – to England, the right signings in the close-season could help the Steelmen continue to establish themselves as Scotland’s nearest challengers to Celtic. St Johnstone also claimed a European place for the second season running with a delightful last-day victory over Motherwell.

Tipped by many to challenge for second spot, Dundee United and Aberdeen endured arguably disappointing campaigns, however the surprise package(s) were undoubtedly both Highland sides, Inverness and newly-promoted Ross County.

Inverness manager Terry Butcher was once quoted in regards to his transfer budget: “Celtic and Rangers shop in Marks & Spencers….we have to make do with Aldi and Barnardos.” With an ever-decreasing budget, the Caley Jags came to within one win of Europe – securing their highest-ever league finish in the process – whiet their nearest rivals Ross County endured a magical season in their top-flight debut, despite a sticky start to the campaign.

It was a season of turmoil on and off the park for Hearts. Winless all season against their Leigh Griffiths-inspired rivals Hibernian, financial difficulties forced them to turn to their youth system. Although they may not have let themselves down despite a League Cup final defeat and 10th place finish, next season looks to be another struggle for the Jambos as the very future of the club hangs in the balance due to majority shareholders UBIG’s plight.

Following Rangers’ liquidation in the summer, Hearts have suffered some troubles of their own. Majority shareholder UBIG have recently went into meltdown which could eventually see Hearts suffer a similar fate to the Glasgow giants; already they have been unable to renew the contracts of a number of key players.

Even a few weeks into the season it was clear Dundee were just not ready for the SPL, although they were excused a great deal of the blame, having only been instated into the division three weeks prior to the beginning as the “Club 12” debate raged on. However, they did manage to install some pride back under John Brown and push St Mirren a few weeks longer than expected, but ultimately, their fate had been predictable for some time.

Manager of the Year: Terry Butcher (Inverness CT)

Although they missed out on Europe on the final day, Caley’s achievements have been outstanding. Budget issues meaning the squad size is cut every season would normally hinder Butcher but by scouring the lower leagues of England with a near empty pot, he’s managed to pull together a side worthy of the top six.

Player of the season: Leigh Griffiths (Hibernian)

You wonder where Hibs would be without him. And where Wolves would be with him. Griffiths Scored some absolute crackers among his season’s tally of 28 – including a super free-kick in the Edinburgh derby and the comeback against Falkirk – he’s been a vastly improved player from last campaign.

Turning point: Motherwell’s resigning of James McFadden

Not so much a turning point as it was a major coup, however the return of Faddy to Fir Park saw Motherwell go on a fantastic unbeaten run – including two victories over Celtic – and gave the club a huge lift for the run-in as they sealed second place and Europa League football with an impressive 63-point tally.

Team of the Season

Fraser Forster (Celtic); Kelvin Wilson (Celtic), Mark Reynolds (Aberdeen), Adam Matthews (Celtic); Gary Mackay-Steven (Dundee United), Victor Wanyama (Celtic), Andrew Shinnie (Inverness CT), Niall McGinn (Aberdeen); Kris Commons (Celtic); Leigh Griffiths (Hibernian), Michael Higdon (Motherwell)

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