This time next week, the ninth season of the Scottish Premiership will be kicking-off with the usual mixture of optimism, confidence and, in a number of cases, dread and apprehension, being felt by fans of the dozen clubs involved.
Such has been the upheaval in the domestic game in recent years, only four of the sides – Celtic, Aberdeen, St Johnstone and Motherwell – are ever-presents in the top-flight since the league was revamped back in 2013.
They will have varying objectives for the campaign with Celtic in particular in the spotlight after their dismal showing last time round, and the embarrassing failed pursuit of Eddie Howe which has left Ange Postecoglou immediately playing catch-up in terms of recruitment. They obviously have the money to invest; getting the right men in might not be that easy.
Rangers romped to the title, finishing 25 points clear, and having so far kept their top stars in place, and added some back-up, the Ibrox side will start the campaign as odds-on favourites to retain the trophy.
Aberdeen will again be expected to finish 3rd, a target they have missed out on for the past three years, and having now had some time to ease into the job, there will be pressure on Stephen Glass to perform. He has been given backing, although the squad still looks a little light in a few positions, and has voiced his confidence in the players. Next weekend will give us a first insight into whether or not they can put in a serious challenge in the league.
Hibernian pipped the Dons last time out and will have a similar look this season with only a couple of new faces being recruited thus far. They will certainly be in the mix, but it looks like being the most competitive Premiership we have seen given the addition of Hearts and Dundee, Dundee United having had a top-flight campaign under their belts, and Livingston and St Johnstone keen to build on what they did in 2020-21.
Motherwell are clearly capable of competing, while St Mirren look to have had another decent summer. That leaves Ross County who escaped narrowly under John Hughes but are now being led by Malky Mackay who has overseen a massive, and perhaps much-needed, overhaul.
While the Dingwall side have been busy, others still have plenty of business to do, and with six weeks left of this transfer window, we can expect to see a fair bit of activity across the country.
Some managers will be fearing bids for their top performers, Callum Davidson and Jack Ross certainly fall into that category, but almost all will be desperate to supplement their squads.
In the meantime, most of the Premiership clubs have had a taste of action, either in Europe or the League Cup groups, and there have been some early signs as to what we might expect.
Hearts and Dundee United have made strong starts and are through. Dundee also look certain to progress, and the momentum gained in those first few matches should serve all three sides well for what lies ahead.
It promises to be an exciting weekend as the line-up for the last 16 is completed, before the ten-month grind of the league season dominates our thoughts.
If Aberdeen are going to play like this all season, they’ll be a joy to watch
The Dons got off to a flier with a sensational performance against Hacken, the biggest win of the night across the whole of the competition.
After a nervy start, the team settled, played some thrilling attacking football, created plenty chances, and most importantly of all, took them.
Scott Brown looked every inch an Aberdeen captain as he orchestrated things in the middle of the park, and ahead of him there was a vibrancy and unpredictability about the play.
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas caught the eye, particularly in the first half, and it was great to see Christian Ramirez notch his first for the club, while the likes of Ryan Hedges and Lewis Ferguson hit the ground running. Another plus was seeing a number of the younger players so heavily involved.
— Aberdeen FC (@AberdeenFC) July 22, 2021
It is early days, but if that is indicative of what Stephen Glass’ Dons are going to be serving up this campaign, they will be a joy to watch.