Premiership preview: Your team-by-team guide to the new season

The top flight begins on Saturday with action and drama guaranteed.

Scottish Premiership preview: Your team-by-team guide to the new season SNS Group

It has been a long wait from the last league games of the season ten weeks ago but finally the Scottish Premiership is set to return.

It all kicks-off on Saturday at Celtic Park as last season’s champions unfurl the flag ahead of their game against Ross County in Glasgow in what will be the first of 228 top flight games over the next nine months.

And with another full season of drama, excitement, glory and failure just ahead of us we take a look at how the teams are shaping up as they start with a clean slate.


Barry Robson will look to build on a strong showing in the second half of last season.  (Photo by SNS Group)

What a difference six months makes. At the start of February, Aberdeen were reeling from a bad run of results and the sacking of Jim Goodwin. Since then, there’s plenty of cause for optimism at Pittodrie.

Barry Robson’s appointment as interim boss was soon upgraded to a permanent job as he steadied the ship and then plotted a course that took the team from seventh to third place, securing group stage football in Europe.

The challenge now is to build on that success and deliver on two fronts, and Robson has been backed in the transfer market to put together a squad to handle that task.

The signings of developing talent Leighton Clarkson and experienced campaigner Graeme Shinnie on permanent deals after loan spells last year are arguably as impressive as anyone has delivered this summer, while the addition of Nicky Devlin, Slobodan Rubezic, Ester Sokler and Rhys Williams, among others, look to be strengthening Robson’s hand. On the other hand, the manager will have to deal with the exit of Liam Scales, Mattie Pollock, Ross McCrorie and Yber Ramadani in particular.

The message from Robson and chairman Dave Cormack is that the Dons will take things one game at a time and see where they end up, but supporters who suffered plenty last season can expect to see better again this time around.


Kyogo Furuhashi was a key part of Celtic's Treble success last season. (Photo by SNS Group)

Last season’s league champions, and League Cup winners, and Scottish Cup winners, are the team to beat and anyone finishing above the Parkhead side is likely to be lifting the Premiership trophy next May.

The departure of Ange Postecoglou to Spurs may have raised the spirits of Celtic’s rivals, hoping for a weakening of the dominant team of recent years but the return of Brendan Rodgers, who won every trophy available to him in Scotland in his first stint as boss, served notice that the champions won’t rest on their laurels.

Rodgers takes over a talented and settled squad, with no need for an overhaul, and the club’s summer recruitment has been to bring in a handful of promising players under the age of 22 who are ready to take a step up in their careers. A number of fringe players have left but the only notable departures have been Aaron Mooy after his decision to retire, and the surprise that saw Jota join the flow of players to the cash-rich Saudi league.

With the vast majority of the players who swept all before them last season all in place, and the addition of a manager who delivered an unbeaten season not too long ago, there’s expectation on Celtic to make a successful defence of their title. A revived challenge form across the city would set up a thrilling campaign and there’s sure to be plenty worth seeing in Glasgow’s east end over the next ten months.


Tony Docherty is going into his first season as manager with newly-promoted Dundee. (Photo by SNS Group)

Traditionally, the task for the newly-promoted side in the division is to maintain progress and keep momentum going, seeking a seamless transition from last season’s success into this season’s targets.

It’s a little different at Dens Park this time after Championship-winning manager Gary Bowyer was sacked shortly after securing promotion, and on the day he was named as the league’s manager of the year.

Now in charge of the Dark Blues is Tony Docherty, taking on his first job as a manager in his own right after years of experience as an assistant boss. Docherty knows the territory well from his time working with Derek McInnes and has set about strengthening his squad with some interesting additions to a group that’s retained a good majority of last year’s title winners.

Joe Shaughnessy and Trevor Carson have come in from St Mirren to add experience and leadership at the back, while the recruitment of Mexican duo Antonio Portales and Diego Pineda shows the club has been thinking outside of the box recruitment-wise. Scott Tiffoney has joined after impressing with Partick Thistle and young attacker Charlie Reilly has completed his move after the League Two player of the year trained with Dundee while starring for Albion Rovers.

Add to that a smattering of loan players from England, including Owen Beck from Liverpool and Crystal Palace’s Malachi Boateng, who was a stand-out for Queen’s Park last season, and it’s easy to see why fans will be looking forward to their top flight return.

Docherty was frustrated not to progress in the League Cup after three wins from four games and will be hoping to keep the positive results coming when playing Premiership opposition. Dundee are the bookies’ favourites for the drop through, and the new manager will need to overcome the odds if they are to be comfortable when the end of the season comes around.


Hearts go into the new season with head coach Frankie McAvoy and technical director Steven Naismith in place and the targets for the season are clear: third place in the Premiership and cup success would mark a good season, while the early weeks will also see the team strive to make a mark in Europe.

Last season saw the team lose a grip on third as Aberdeen overtook them, and the competition is expected to be intense again this time around.

Josh Ginnelly has been the highest-profile departure and having scored 12 goals last season he could be a miss, but Kyosuke Tagawa, Calem Nieuwenhof and Frankie Kent have come in and the squad looks in good shape. The return of some players from long-term injury will further strengthen their options.


Hibernian boss Lee Johnson hasn’t been shy about sharing his opinions since arriving at Easter Road, and has admitted that plenty went wrong over the last year as the team suffered ups and downs and he saw his own position called into question.

This time around, with Brian McDermott in place as director of football, and Johnson saying the team feels more like his own after a few transfer windows, the signs should be pointing to progress.

Talismanic forward Martin Boyle is back from long-term injury and signings have included Dylan Levitt, Dylan Vente and Adam Le Fondre as Johnson and McDermott have identified areas for improvement.

A Europa Conference League qualifier first leg defeat to Andorran minnows Inter tempered any early optimism, but Johnson remained upbeat and saw his side win 6-1 in the return game at Easter Road to ensure the team go into the Premiership opener against St Mirren on a high.

An improvement on fifth place would be the minimum the Easter Road side would be happy with, but Johnson and his players will need to find consistency for the first time for that to be a realistic mark to hit.


Derek McInnes is looking to lift Kilmarnock to new heights.  (Photo by SNS Group)SNS Group

As the newly-promoted team, Kilmarnock’s aim last time was to ensure survival and Derek McInnes and his players delivered.

Now, the challenge is to take a step forward and set sights higher in what’s an increasingly competitive league.

McInnes has moved in the market to strengthen his defence, with Stuart Findlay a stand-out signing and Robbie Deas looking a shrewd acquisition. Kyle Magennis could prove to be a valuable asset in midfield and the former Aberdeen manager has brought in Marley Watkins to add to his attacking options.

Last season’s survival was built on a solid home record but points on the road were much harder to come by.

Killie finished six points clear of the relegation play-off place but had the second-worst goal difference in the league. Improvements at both ends of the park will be needed to climb the table but McInnes’ pragmatic approach isn’t likely to change for anything that might put their place at risk.


David Martindale faces another tough job at Livingston this season. (Photo by SNS Group)SNS Group

Livingston have been punching above their weight for season after season and every summer brings questions about whether the new campaign might be the one where gravity takes hold.

David Martindale has made no secret of the tight budget he works with and knows the odds are stacked against his side once more.

Michael Devlin and Daniel Mackay have come in from Hibernian, Mo Sangare and Michael Nottingham have joined from Accrington Stanley and defender Miles Welch-Hayes has joined from Harrogate Town but Martindale has seen more players go out the door, with captain Nicky Devlin heading to Aberdeen.

Key man Joel Nouble remains at the club but could yet be sold, with the manager’s blessing, and it’s openly admitted that serious offers for anyone with a year on their contract would be listened to.

But if it all sounds doom and gloom, it’s important to remember that Livingston have a similar tale to tell most summers and Martindale and his players have managed to not only upset the odds on relegation but achieve real successes. A hard season is in store but nobody would write the Lions off.


Kevin van Veen has left big boots to fill at Fir Park.  (Photo by SNS Group)SNS Group

Motherwell had a rollercoaster of a season, suffering the lows of 16 defeats but putting together a string of results under Stuart Kettlewell to finish in seventh, best of the bottom half teams.

But every highlight reel from last season would feature Kevin van Veen, and the Player of the Year nominee, who scored 29 goals across all competitions, has gone to Groningen and left huge boots to fill.

Kettlewell knows he can’t sign a ready replacement for a prolific striker and will need an improvement across the team to make up for the loss of their talisman. Jon Obika, Conor Wilkinson and Theo Bair have come in to offer options up front but their goal tally combined last season was less than Van Veen scored in some months.

The manager has spoken about working with ‘flawed’ players and getting the best out of them, but he can also look to the team’s encouraging form from February onwards and conclude that over a whole season, a top six place might not be beyond the team.


Michael Beale has reshaped his squad with the Premiership title in his sights. (Photo by SNS Group)SNS Group

“Good riddance to this season and we will come back next season and give it a right good go.”

Those were the words of Michael Beale in May as he welcomed the summer break and the chance to make changes at Ibrox. Having replaced Giovanni van Bronckhorst mid-season, he had stressed the need to revamp the squad for a fresh challenge and the Rangers boss has had a busy summer working on that front.

Rangers said goodbye to Ryan Kent, Alfredo Morelos, Filip Helander, Allan McGregor, Scott Arfield and more. In come Danilo, Sam Lammers, Cyriel Dessers, Jack Butland, Dujon Sterling, Kieran Dowell, and Leon Balogun, guaranteeing a new look to the team that the support will cheer on as they look to break Celtic’s grip on the Scottish silverware, as well as reach the elite stage of the Champions League.

The Premiership title is the priority but Beale knows his side will have their work cut out to beat their local rivals. A newly-assembled team can gel quickly and achieve success, as Ange Postecoglou’s side proved in their first season, and the Rangers boss and backroom staff have had plenty of time to plan, scout and recruit.

There’s likely to be little room for error and the Ibrox side will need to hit the ground running. Beale won’t have the luxury of time to settle his revamped Rangers and the home match against Celtic at the start of September could be an indication of whether he has delivered the improvement needed.

Ross County

Ross County fans celebrated their team's survival with the last kick of the ball last season.  (Photo by SNS Group)

The margin that kept County in the Premiership for this season couldn’t have been finer. After a hard-fought relegation battle in the league, and losing the first leg of the play-off final to Partick Thistle, only a fightback in Dingwall and a sudden-death penalty shoot-out kept Malky Mackay’s side in the division.

The clear target for this season? Steer well clear of that worry and look up the table. To that end, nine players from last year’s squad have departed and in have come defenders James Brown and Josh Reid, midfielders Jay Henderson, Scott Allardice, Max Sheaf and Kyle Turner add to the options, while Eamonn Brophy has joined on a permanent deal after a promising loan spell was disrupted by injury.

Mackay has been vocal about his side needing to punch above their weight to stay in the division and having that punch up front will be key to that. County’s rough season last time saw them concede 60 goals but the season before they let in 61 and finished in the top half. Difference was, after 47 goals scored in 2021-22, the Staggies only found the net 37 times in 38 games last year.

A tough start to the season sees County play Celtic and Rangers in their first three games but the story of the season is likely to be written in results against the rest of last season’s bottom six sides.

St Johnstone

Steven MacLean will need to lift his squad after a tough League Cup campaign. (Photo by SNS Group)

Steven MacLean’s short time as St Johnstone manager has been more than eventful so far.

Asked to take charge as interim boss following Callum Davidson’s exit, MacLean righted the ship, secured Premiership status and lost only one of six league games in charge.

A fan favourite as a player, there was little surprise when he was given the job on a permanent basis, and chairman Steve Brown said that good times were on the horizon as he gave MacLean the security of a three-year deal.

Since then, things have proven rocky for the Perth Saints, with the League Cup group stage proving to be a painful return to action. St Johnstone fell at the first hurdle in the competition, with losses to Stenhousemuir, Ayr United and a 4-0 home loss to Stirling Albion setting alarm bells ringing.

The manager has said that the disappointment has galvanised the group, with senior players having their say and the players now feeling they have a point to prove.

A raft of players left McDiarmid Park at the end of last season and only a few have been signed so far. St Johnstone’s hopes look likely to rest on MacLean’s recruitment and ability to recreate the spirit that turned things around in April or a long and difficult season awaits.

St Mirren

Ryan Strain and Mark O'Hara will be key to St Mirren's ambitions this season.  (Photo by SNS Group)

Stephen Robinson’s St Mirren side upset the odds to record a first-ever top-six finish last time out and set out at the beginning of the new campaign with designs on a repeat performance.

The Paisley side has seen some change to personnel over the summer with Curtis Main, the centre-point of the team’s attack, the most notable exit. At the other end of the pitch, experienced goalkeeper Trevor Carson and club captain Joe Shaughnessy have headed to Dundee, while Declan Gallacher has moved to Dundee United.

New recruits have arrived though. Zach Hemming, familiar with the league after his spell at Kilmarnock, is the new number one, while James Bolton comes into the centre of defence. Mikael Mandron is a fresh face up front, while Conor McMenamin and Stav Nahmani have been brought in to provide creativity and goals.

Robinson has made the most of a tight budget both on the park and behind the scenes but will be more aware than anyone that his hopes rest on avoiding too many injuries or suspensions.

The League Cup started with a classic ‘wake-up call’ and defeat to Montrose but three subsequent wins saw the team top their group and go into the Premiership with a little momentum.

St Mirren were stubborn opposition last season and were particularly strong at home. Adding more goals to their game and taking more from away games could see ambitions realised once again.

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code