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Duncan Shearer: My crystal ball predictions for 2024 in Scottish football

It's all to play for - from titles to relegation and Euro 2024.

It's all to play for at Aberdeen and Ross County in the second half of the season. Image: SNS.
It's all to play for at Aberdeen and Ross County in the second half of the season. Image: SNS.

I have been given the task of peering into my crystal ball to look ahead to the rest of the Scottish football season.

It has quickly become clear this challenge would be so much easier to take on in the first week of February – after the transfer window has closed.

This is a pivotal month in the Scottish calendar.

We may not have the embarrassment of riches of the Premier League in England, but the ability to strengthen squads – and in some cases fend off admirers – is just as important.

I was at Dingwall a week ago to watch Aberdeen kick-off 2024 in style. I was really impressed with the performance of Barry Robson’s side.

They were in control from the first minute to the last and there would have been few complaints had the margin of victory been greater than the 3-0 scoreline in the Dons’ favour.

Bojan Miovski scored yet another fabulous goal to show he remains the main man at Aberdeen, and retaining the North Macedonian international beyond this window is pivotal to my old club’s hopes of qualifying for Europe this season.

Aberdeen must hold on to Miovski

Aberdeen's star man Bojan Miovski. Image: Shutterstock.
Bojan Miovski has been the star man for Aberdeen. Image: Shutterstock.

If Aberdeen did sell Miovski, it would be a huge blow – but I can’t see it happening.

I’ve been at clubs where players have forced moves away, but I don’t get the impression Miovski is seeking a move at this point.

He looks happy where he is, his team-mates are getting the best out of him, and he is having a terrific season.

With two-and-a-half years remaining on his contract, his club is under no pressure to sell, and barring a huge club record fee being submitted, I expect the striker to still be at Pittodrie when the window closes.

Just as Miovski is vital to the Dons cause, the same can be said for Lawrence Shankland at Hearts.

Hearts striker and captain Lawrence Shankland.
Hearts striker Lawrence Shankland has been linked with a move away from Tynecastle. Image: SNS.

The Jambos are clear in third, and at this point you have to say they are strong favourites to secure the best-of-the-rest spot behind Celtic and Rangers.

But Shankland, like Miovski, has been the subject of intense speculation, with Rangers and clubs in England all reportedly vying for his signature.

This is a tough one to call.

Shankland will be desperate to be in Steve Clarke’s Scotland squad for this summer’s Euro 2024 finals in Germany.

He can achieve that aim at Tynecastle, of course, but he may be thinking a move to a bigger stage can give him one last nudge towards the squad.

Regardless, it would take a seismic offer for the Jambos to part company with their forward.

Like the Dons, they’d be so much poorer for not having their star striker leading the line in the second half of the season.

Scottish Premiership title and relegation predictions

As for the rest of the campaign, there’s so little between Celtic and Rangers in the Premiership title race.

It is a big month for both in terms of recruitment, but right now Celtic have the edge because of their superior firepower.

The head-to-head encounters have been the difference in terms of league position, and if Celtic maintain the advantage they have in the two derby games to come then it will be enough to secure another championship.

At the other end of the table, I’m expecting Ross County to pull away from the drop zone.

They were poor last week against the Dons, but on their day they can cause any team problems.

I expect Derek Adams to be wheeling and dealing in the next three weeks to make his squad stronger.

Sadly, it looks as if Livingston’s time in the Premiership is coming to an end.

They’ve been terrific underdogs for a few years now – but I can’t see them hauling themselves out of the mire this time round.

I’m also worried about Motherwell.

They’ve had a tough season too and I’m tipping them to be the side in 11th place, and heading for the play-offs, when it’s all said and done.

Caley Thistle running out of play-off chances in the Championship

Morgan Boyes celebrates after scoring to make it 3-0 for Inverness at Ayr United.
Morgan Boyes celebrates after scoring to make it 3-0 for Inverness at Ayr United. Image: SNS.

If the Premiership is tough to call then where do you even start with Caley Thistle and the Championship?

The top two in the division – Raith Rovers and Dundee United – both lost at the weekend, but remain in relatively strong positions clear of the chasing pack.

I expect United, given their resources, to pip Raith, who have done brilliantly to push them as hard as they have.

However, it’s going to be thrilling to watch whatever happens.

Caley Thistle got back to winning ways with their first victory in six matches thanks to a terrific 3-1 win at Ayr United.

The three points takes Duncan Ferguson’s side up to seventh in the division, six points off the play-offs.

But Duncan is right to keep talking about looking over his shoulder where the gap between eighth and bottom is just four points.

The big question for Inverness is whether David Wotherspoon will still be a Caley Jags player.

United are the favourites for the former St Johnstone man, which adds an extra layer of intrigue ahead of their meeting at Caledonian Stadium on Friday.

What has become clear is that Caley Thistle cannot afford too many more slips.

Another run of three or four games without a win could be fatal for their hopes of being in the play-offs come the end of the season.

Buckie Thistle’s Scottish Cup dream

Away from the league action, the road to Hampden continues next weekend with the fourth round of the Scottish Cup.

I’m hardly putting my neck on the line by tipping either Celtic or Rangers to lift the cup – but I’d love to be wrong on that front.

Aberdeen’s first priority is to exorcise their Darvel demons of last season when they start their campaign at Clyde.

But the big game which I’ll be following is Buckie Thistle’s dream draw against Celtic at Celtic Park.

It’s going to be a fantastic occasion and one I’m sure everyone at Victoria Park will be relishing.

Is this the year for Scotland?

Scott McTominay celebrates his second goal against Cyprus. Image: SNS.

Once the domestic action is out the way, all eyes will be on Germany and Scotland’s participation in Euro 2024.

Steve Clarke has the honour of leading his side out for the opening game of the tournament against the hosts in Munich and it promises to be an incredible spectacle.

The Germans will be strong favourites, but they have had a really tough time in the last 12 months and I expect Scotland to show no fear.

If they could get something from the opener then the other games against Switzerland and Hungary could be very interesting indeed.

Is this the year Scotland qualify for the knockout phase for the first time in our history?

I’d like to think we’ve got a great chance.