In terms of fan base and budget, Aberdeen would consider themselves the second largest club in the SPL, but the league table does not reflect that status.

Craig Brown's team is three points behind that position, though, and some shrewd work this month would enable a push towards second place. The manager is well-connected, and that network could be helpful. The club has been linked with a loan move for Barry Robson, a pre-contract deal with Andrew Shinnie, and ongoing interest in James McFadden, Craig Gordon and Paddy McCourt. Not all the deals are likely, but McFadden is not expected to extend his short-term deal at Sunderland and McCourt would welcome the rejuvenation that Niall McGinn found at Pittodrie after leaving Celtic.

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Fans will be irked, but selling Ryan Fraser would make financial sense, too.


Neil Lennon wants Gary Hooper's future sorted one way or another this month, so the striker has a decision to make. Facing Juventus in the Champions League must be alluring, but he has a long-held desire to return to England.

The deciding factor might well be whether a club he is interested in joining – that is, one in the Barclay's Premier League – makes an offer that Celtic consider acceptable.

A replacement would be necessary, since Anthony Stokes is out of favour, and Celtic retain an interest in Johnny Russell. The title is, after all, in Celtic's control, so some medium-term planning would be worthwhile.

The capture of Rami Gershon on loan from Standard Liege will strengthen the defensive options, but Lennon must also make decisions about his midfield, since Beram Kayal is attracting interest from Norwich and Victor Wanyama has a number of suitors.

There is little need for the latter to be sold now, though, but the evolution of the squad will be uppermost in Lennon's mind at a time when he can afford to consider all of his options.

DUNDEE Having kept faith with Barry Smith, the Dundee board must now find the funds to allow him to strengthen the team.

Without new players arriving, it is hard to see the Dens Park side turning their form around and surviving in the top-flight, even though St Mirren and Ross County have suffered dips in form themselves this season.

Colin Nish's loan deal has been extended, while supporters pine for the kind of creativity Gary Harkins used to bring to the side, but if the Kilmarnock midfielder was to leave Rugby Park then it is far from certain that Dundee could find the money to sign him.

For Smith, this month might be better spent planning for the likelihood of relegation and ensuring that the team he builds for next season is strong enough to return at the first attempt.

DUNDEE UNITED Stephen Thompson and Peter Houston will always insist the club is under no pressure to sell any of its major assets, but interest will continue in Russell and Gary Mackay-Steven.

United have not been potent up front this season, not least because Jon Daly has spent time shoring up the centre of defence, but the Irishman is reportedly a target for Fleetwood Town. Houston has tended to work smartly in the market, and Rudi Skacel has been effective in his short-term spell, but replacements will need to be in place if the team is not to suffer from sales.

That will be awkward for the manager, since his own future is not settled beyond the end of the season, when his contract expires. United are in transition and this month will indicate how much upheaval might be lying in wait.


The next few weeks will be about damage limitation for John McGlynn. The wage bill needs to be reduced, and Ryan McGowan will not be the only departure, with six or seven players thought to be required to leave.

Decisions about who leaves will be made on financial grounds, but McGlynn can at least strive to ensure the team is not damaged beyond repair. There is not scope, for instance, to sign replacements, since the club is still the subject of a transfer embargo due to staff not being paid on time on several occasions.

There are promising youngsters at Tynecastle, and McGlynn was a smart choice as manager because he has an impressive record of working with young talent. This campaign seems to be one of survival for the club more than the team retaining its top-flight status.


Pat Fenlon will be satisfied with the progress made this season, but a top-six place is not yet secure. The likes of Jorge Claros, Ryan McGivern and Leigh Griffiths are only on loan at Easter Road, but all have contributed to the team's rise up the league.

The latter, in particular, has been a significant figure in this campaign and his future at Easter Road is uncertain now that his parent club Wolves has a new manager in Dean Saunders. Replacing Griffiths would be critical, since he is a source of creativity as well as goals. McGivern looks likely to extend his loan from Manchester City, although Claros's future is more uncertain.

Like Aberdeen, this is an opportunity for Hibs to push on and make the most of a good start to the season.

INVERNESS CT The future of Terry Butcher will seem more pressing to the club, but there are key players out of contract in the summer and successful work carried out now would help to establish Inverness as one of the promising sides in the division.

Andrew Shinnie, in particular, is a target for a number of clubs on a pre-contract agreement, but the likes of Owain Tudor-Jones and Aaron Doran, are similarly in the final months of their deals, are also important to the team. Butcher had said that there would be no new signings this month unless players departed, although the Highland club are thought to be interested in the Wrexham defender Danny Devine, and that kind of stability is a rare boon to teams who are doing well.

In this case, though, it is keeping hold of the manager that will be Inverness's biggest challenge in January.


The arrival of Rabiu Ibrahim on a two-year deal from Celtic has already strengthened the Kilmarnock squad, but the team has hovered around mid-table and Kenny Shiels will want to mount a convincing challenge for the top six.

Liam Kelly and Cameron Bell have been linked with summer free transfer moves to Celtic and Rangers, respectively, although other clubs are monitoring their situation. Flux is commonplace at clubs such as Kilmarnock, where ambition has to be balanced against the challenge of balancing the books and ensure that the debt is serviced. Shiels has been canny so far and that is likely to continue.


Stuart McCall could lose an entire team in the summer, but the Motherwell manager will hope that the sale of Jamie Murphy to Sheffield United will prevent the club cashing in on any of the other players who are out of contract at the end of the season.

Tom Hateley and Chris Humphrey are rumoured to be among Rangers' targets, while Darren Randolph is expected to return to England, but others like Shaun Hutchinson and Nicky Law might be persuaded to sign on again at Fir Park. One of the enticements will be repeating the feat of last season in qualifying for Europe.

That is not beyond Motherwell just now, but it will depend on how many players they can keep hold of this month.


This has been a season of small progress for County, having been promoted from the first division last summer.

Derek Adams' side is committed, determined and well-organised, but lacks a spark of creativity. The budget is tight, which ensures financial stability, but there is unlikely to be any wheeling and dealing this month.

There are no players who might generate a significant transfer fee, so at best Derek Adams will have to manage the departures to make room for new faces.

Steven Craig has left for Partick Thistle on a permanent deal, while Hans Age Yndestad, a 32-year-old Norwegian defender, has been linked with a move to County. The aim is to consolidate.

Twitter speculation linking the club with a move for another Scandinavian, the former Celtic centre-back Daniel Majstorovic, appears to be just that.


Another club whose manager is attracting attention from England, with League One outfit Doncaster Rovers reportedly keen on appointing Steve Lomas as successor to Dean Saunders.

The Northern Irishman turned St Johnstone's season around after a faltering start, but he will always be frustrated with the budgetary restraints.

Despite signing a number of forwards last summer, he has continued to say that he needs more resources up front, while Liam Craig is thought to be a target for Hibernian on a pre-contract, with the Easter Road side able to offer higher wages.

For St Johnstone to continue their developement, it will require the manager come to terms with the reality of the club's finances this month and if he cannot it could prove the trigger for a return to England for Lomas.


Danny Lennon wants to sign a centre-back, and has been linked with Peter Murphy from League One side Carlisle United, while Paul Dummett has returned to Newcastle, his parent club, despite the manager being keen to extend the left-back's loan deal.

Like so many teams in the SPL, money is so scarce at St Mirren that any squad development will require departures first.

The team is not safe from relegation yet, and recent good performances have not always delivered results because of a lack of decisiveness in front of goal, but Lennon is restricted in the work he can carry out this month.