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Dons will finish best of the rest

They say making predictions is a fool's game but you don't need to be clairvoyant to see what the future holds for the Scottish Premiership this season.

Celtic will canter to the title but Derek McInnes's side should be able to push them closer this timePhotograph: SNS
Celtic will canter to the title but Derek McInnes's side should be able to push them closer this timePhotograph: SNS

As for the Championship? Well, that's a different ball game altogether. You could say the only thing predictable about this intriguing division is the unpredictability.

With the new campaign looming on the horizon, it's time to stick the neck out, but you have more chance of forecasting the positions in the Premiership than you have in a barnstorming Championship that will feature Rangers, Hearts and Hibernian going at it hammer and tongs in the fraught tussle for that one automatic promotion spot.

Let's face it, the Premiership will be another stroll in the park for Celtic. The reality is that there is no competition. We all know who is going to win the league. The question is by how much? The Glasgow club cantered to the title by a margin of 29 points last season. I'm backing Aberdeen to be the club to mount something resembling a challenge, but if they can bridge the gap to around 20 points, or even into the teens of points, then they will be doing hell of a well. To do that, you're talking about a six or seven game swing. Derek McInnes has a very good balance in the squad there and if they can maintain consistency they will be the best of the rest.

Another of my old clubs, Dundee United, have lost key players but bringing in around £6 million for Ryan Gauld and Andy Robertson is terrific business. Even the Old Firm would love to rake in that kind of money. Of those two, Robertson will be a bigger miss. They have players to fill the void left by Gauld, who wasn't a vital component for the final six months of last season, but not Robertson yet. They still have enough to take third, though.

St Johnstone, with that great blend of togetherness on and off the pitch, will continue to prosper and I can see them taking fourth,k but I think Motherwell will slip to fifth this season. The recent European reversal against Stjarnan was a savage blow but, over the piece you can barely say a bad word against Stuart McCall and what he has managed to chisel out at Fir Park on a continual basis.

Kilmarnock could be a team galvanised and I fancy the alliance of Allan Johnston and Gary Locke to hoist them into the top six. They have a decent squad who underperformed last year, but they dug themselves out of the mire.

In the bottom half of the table, Inverness, who have overperformed in recent years, may slide into seventh and I can see Paul Hartley, who has brought a freshness to Dundee, comfortably steering them to safety and an eighth-place finish.

Partick Thistle will be the better for the experience of a testing season last year and should keep their head above water in ninth. Ross County need to be careful they don't turn over their personnel too much and lose that identity but Derek Adams knows how to keep them up.

They will finish ahead of St Mirren who I fear are in for another season of toil. I hope they don't go down, as I have a great respect for the club, but it will be a grim battle. It's the easy option to say that the team that comes up from a play-off will go straight back down. Hamilton were inspired last year, but keeping that going over a season? It's up to them to prove me wrong.

All eyes, of course, will be on the Championship. If you'd told me a few years ago that Rangers, Hearts and Hibs would be fighting it out at this level, I would have said you were off your head. I can see Rangers and Hearts being embroiled in a nip and tuck skirmish lasting right to the end of the season. It will be closer than many think and Hearts - with Craig Levein running the show despite protestations to the contrary - will push Rangers to the wire.

The top two, like last year, will come up and I think Hibs, who I'm not sure are functioning properly just yet despite luring in a new, modern manager in Alan Stubbs, will be the team to stay down. The Championship promises to be captivating.

Celtic's 4-1 defeat to Legia Warsaw was shambolic. A decent team, not a great team, nearly gave Celtic one of their biggest hidings ever. Efe Ambrose is a good player but he has been a disaster waiting to happen and tends to do things on the ball that are just crazy.

I still fancy Celtic to turn it around. People might think I'm off my trolley but if they can focus on defending I believe they still have a fluency and an attacking zeal that can bring goals.

They need the fans to generate a big atmosphere for the return and they need to be resolute at the back. It may be a spectacular failure in the end, but I think they will come very close to pulling it off. It's a huge task but that is my bold prediction.

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