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Raise a dram for the past year but there will be much more to drink in over 2014

AT midnight tomorrow the great and the good of Scottish football will raise a dram and their family and friends will wish them a happy 2014.

Gordon Strachan will next year try to take Scotland to a first major finals since 1998. Picture: SNS
Gordon Strachan will next year try to take Scotland to a first major finals since 1998. Picture: SNS

They won't all get one, at least not when it comes to fulfilment. It's intriguing to wonder what kind of 12 months lie ahead for some of our most familiar names. Gordon Strachan, Neil Lennon, Darren Fletcher, Davie Moyes, Ally McCoist, Derek McInnes, even young Ryan Gauld. What sort of nick will they all be in a year from now? Whose stock will have risen, and whose fallen away?

First of all it's going to be an odd year because for a while football will be supplanted. For a fortnight at the end of July and the beginning of August even football's sacred occupation of the newspaper back pages is likely to be overthrown by the Commonwealth Games. Hampden won't host a major football match until 2015. Whatever advantages Scotland draws from the national stadium, those have been sacrificed as the team begins its most important qualification campaign for years.

This is a World Cup year but for Scotland it's all about Euro 2016, the much-anticipated "expanded" tournament Scotland have been waiting for; more finalists and by definition a greatly improved chance reaching a tournament for the first time since 1998. The first two qualifying games will be in September and the next two in October. But, first of all, Strachan needs luck.

The draw is made on February 23. Scotland may get Spain or Germany as top seeds and Belgium or Sweden from the second group. Or it could be Russia or Bosnia-Herzegovina as the top seeds and Hungary or the Republic of Ireland second. That's a world of a difference, all on the luck of the draw.

Those first four qualifiers are utterly crucial for Strachan. Fingers crossed that Fletcher's recent comeback continues to the point he's back as captain when the qualifiers begin. He hasn't been available at all since Strachan got the job. On the subject of Scotland managers: will Craig Levein be back in football before the year's out? On the subject of Scotland teams: will the women's side qualify for the 2015 World Cup?

Lennon's 2014 isn't likely to scale the heights of his 2013. This year he managed in the last-16 of one Champions League campaign and completed the high-wire act of qualifying for the group stage of another. Around £25m flooded into Celtic from that. There will be no last 16 for him next year. Another league and cup double is within his sights but every summer has become a guessing game about whether he might feel he's had his fill of managing Celtic. If he stays next summer he'll be going into his fifth full season, as long as Martin O'Neill lasted and one season more than Strachan did.

Fraser Forster will leave and it looks like Georgios Samaras and Joe Ledley will go too. If beating Barcelona was Celtic's high watermark under Lennon then the team that did it is breaking up. Once the formality of winning the title is completed - this time they might manage it by the end of March - Celtic's year will be shaped by the three qualifying rounds to be navigated to reach another group stage in the Champions League.

There is jockeying to be "best of the rest" among Aberdeen, Dundee United, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Motherwell. McInnes is trying to keep a lid on the boiling kettle of Aberdeen's League Cup expectations: they are favourites to beat St Johnstone in February's semi-final and then lift their first trophy for 18-and-a-half years. They could face Hearts in the final, a team resigning itself slowly to a grim, turbulent year.

At Rangers, whispers continue that members of the board wouldn't mind replacing McCoist with someone cheaper and less powerful (in terms of the hold he has over supporters). The year ahead will reveal much: will Rangers really be down to its last £1m by April? Will chief executive Graham Wallace persuade the legions to provide the lifeline of season-ticket income? If cost-cutting is coming, what sort of squad will McCoist have in the SPFL Championship next season?

It will be a minor miracle if Dundee United fans are still enjoying all of their vibrant young players in 12 months' time. The gem among them is Gauld and refreshingly the lad himself has said he'd prefer to go on to play in Spain rather than England. The Barclays Premier League isn't always a bed of roses, as Moyes would confirm. The Manchester United manager is on a lengthy contract at a club which seems admirably committed to long-term thinking. But 2014 will shape a few football reputations, and Scotland's best working manager knows his will be one of them.

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