By Rory West (@rorywest96)
Some crave drugs, some crave alcohol but others crave bottom 6 banter. Since the season kicked off, the battle within the Premierships’s bottom 6 has been chaos and at no point has it showed any signs of calming down.
When onlookers, on the odd occasion pear through the Scottish football blinds they often don’t look any further than Celtic. Everything else to them is garbage, and in some cases they may be correct. However if they ignore the quality (which in my opinion isn’t actually as bad as it is made out to be) they would realise; that although there may not be an exciting title race, the relegation race defines excitement.
With 5 games remaining, no team in the bottom half are mathematically out of the race for relegation or the playoffs. While Killie and perhaps Ross County have realistically reached the shore, the 4 other teams are well and truly still out at sea.
So due to all sides, mathematically, involved in the carnival or carnage that some call the bottom 6 (and knowing Scottish football, maths means nothing) I’m going to get the magic ball out and predict the final standings of each bottom 6 side by the time the season is through.
7th – Kilmarnock
With 3 of the 5 remaining fixtures being at home for Killie, I can’t see them moving places from where they are now. Their two away fixtures see them travelling to Lanarkshire for two difficult games. Both Motherwell and Hamilton will be fighting for their lives at this stage with both level on points. Putting my neck out here (at very little rsik) and predicting the Accies v Killie bash to finish in a draw. Both teams love a draw more than Ric Flair loves getting booted out of seedy bars.
Since Lee McCulloch took charge, following Lee Clark’s departure to Bury, Killie have become a solid unit, cutting out the mass number of goals they once shipped and more importantly they have picked up points in games where, previously they may not have.
A 7th place finish for Kilmarnock, considering where they have been at points in the season and possibly where they could be if Clark stayed, isn’t a bad spot for them.
With 5 games remaining, and a 2 point gap over County in 8th, I can’t see Killie dropping enough points to the teams around them to drop any lower.
8th – Motherwell
‘Well are another side where, if not for a change in managerial personnel, they could be in a lot more trouble than they actually are.
The appointment of Stevie Robinson hasn’t exactly shown a huge improvement in Motherwell’s form or results but there has been an improvement of sorts.
What is vital for Well’s safety is the return of Louis Moult. Moult is a talisman for Motherwell and without him they struggle when it comes to the goal scoring department. In a similar position to Ross County – who I’ll get to later – what could be the difference between those two sides staying up and others not, is having a proven goalscorer. The other bottom 6 sides lack that.
This season has been disappointing for Motherwell and they’ll hope that either Robinson can pick up some bodies in summer to replace players such as, Hammell and McDonald who are still capable but slowly becoming less influential, and challenge for top 6 again.
9th – Ross County
As said above, what should keep County afloat is having a proven goalscorer, in Liam Boyce. However its all well having a goalscorer but you have to play him up front, not in midfield like Jim McIntyre has been recently.
Off the back of last season’s poor league form towards the end of the season, following the league cup win, County have picked up where they left off. They haven’t really hit a great run of form all season but have had enough about them when in desperation for results.
Big results such as; a home win over Aberdeen, a win over Hearts at Tynecastle and picking up a point against Celtic prove that County have too much about them to get dragged into a relegation dogfight.
There have been calls for McIntyre’s head, from sections of the County faithful this season, and while that may be a bit harsh considering he brought the club their greatest moment ever but he can’t ride on the for too long. The loss of Jackson Irvine in the summer has played a huge part in the Staggies’ struggles this season and I don’t think anyone outside County fans realised how important he was to them.
McIntyre needs to use his budget wisely this summer and hope that he can hold onto Liam Boyce for one more year.
10th – Hamilton Accies
Now this is where it got tough. Who would be the side to escape the playoff spots? I’ve went for Accies but that is mainly down to the form of the one final team missing, Dundee.
Many (myself included) thought before the season started that this would be the year Hamilton went down.
Accies have been the go to team this season when it comes to draws. However recently Hamilton have dropped the draws and while some have been turned into defeats, they’ve managed to pick up a few more victories. In fairness, they are far from the worst side for defeats this season but the number of times they have failed to pick up all 3 points from winning positions this season, would kill Martin Canning if it meant Hamilton would go down.
For the budget that Hamilton have, it is a surprise to everyone how they still manage to stay fighting each year. Although with the added inclusion of Hibs next season, they may be in for another struggle next season.
11th – Dundee
This one required some thinking at first, but then 7 defeats on the spin said otherwise. Since beating Rangers at Dens and then handing out a scudding to Motherwell at Fir Park, Dundee have been rotten.
This had to be swiftly rewritten as the original was written prior to Paul Hartley’s sacking on Monday. On the sacking, it may be seen as a little bit harsh but 7 defeats on the spin, including a 7-0 spanking at home to Aberdeen, wouldn’t help any managers case. The Dundee board would have been worried that Hartley couldn’t have got Dundee out of the slump and that form would have surely seen them in the playoffs.
Dundee’s run in isn’t the easiest also with a game away to Hamilton on the final day, which could prove to be one of the biggest games of the season, altogether.
Dundee’s team on paper looks like there should be enough quality in it to not only stay in the Premiership but challenge for top 6. Underachieving is an understatement. Granted that losing Kane Hemmings and Greg Stewart in the summer was a huge hole that Dundee would massively struggle to fill but never the less, they should have had enough not to find themselves in this position.
While I’m on the topic of 11th place and who will finish there, I’m going to put my neck out and predict the outcome of the playoffs.
The Championship playoffs is a complete different matter and something that requires a post in itself. To shorten things I think that Falkirk will reach the playoff final to face Dundee and this season they will go one better than last season and gain promotion to the Premiership, relegating Dundee in the process.
12th – Inverness
Cheap appointment, brave appointment? Whatever it was, the Richie Foran appointment hasn’t worked out for Caley and it will result in them ending their 7 year stint in the top division.
Caley don’t have an easy run in to save their season in their final 5 games. 3 away fixtures including, perhaps the biggest Highland Derby ever to open the bottom 6 fixtures. They also have a tough trip away to Killie and going by their 1 win on the road all season, things aren’t looking too bright for Inverness.
Over the last few seasons, Caley have lost a number of key players with; Shinnie (Graeme and Andrew), Ryan Christie, James Vincent, Billy McKay when he could score and Marley Watkins all departing the Highlands. No matter how good your recruitment is, players like those are very difficult to replace and that looks as though it has finally caught up on Caley.
Players such as Tansey, Draper, Meekings, Warren and to an extent McKay should have left Inverness with their head above water but Foran’s tactics all season have been an abomination. He has no idea what he’s doing and that was exemplified by his crazy beard he grew. Beards don’t make you look like you know what you’re doing Richie!
Caley can take faith that, unlike the past few bottom of the pile sides, they haven’t been cut afloat and left with no mathematical chance of staying. However similar to sides like Hibs, Hearts and Dundee United, going down will allow them to get rid of a lot of dead wood in the squad and build a new team, ready to regain their top league status. This won’t be a quick fix but one that is necessary.