Take Dons to follow home Celtic
Our new Scottish football tipster Gavin McGrane brings you his best outright bets for the 2014/15 SPFL campaign.
With Celtic a shoo-in for the title, the best bet is to look into the 'without Celtic' market to find something and it is hard to look away from favourites Aberdeen. They had the strongest squad last season and have added to that without losing any key players so look value at the price. The main players will probably be Niall McGinn, who scored 24 per cent of their goals, Jonny Hayes and David Goodwillie. As well as having good attacking quality they are also strong at the back with the second-best defensive record after Celtic. They should have enough to come second. Motherwell have lost Shaun Hutchinson which will be a big blow and Dundee United have seen young stars Ryan Gauld and Andy Robertson depart so both of the Dons' main rivals look weaker than last season.
I would love to take Rangers on here as this will be harder than many think, with the majority of the teams full-time in the division. However, aside from Hearts, who have a good, young, progressive side, it will be hard to get them beat. They look full of goals with Jon Daly, Kenny Miller and Kris Boyd in their forward line. Hearts showed a lot of character last season with a 15-point deduction and will have increased confidence despite going down. They are worth a small stake to compete with Rangers. Hibs, who would have finished bottom last season in the top flight had Hearts not had points knocked off, have struggled since the turn of the year and the off-season has done nothing to convince me this will not be a tough season for them.
This could be a very uncompetitive league and it is hard to see past Dunfermline despite them being around evens to win the league. They are a full-time team and all the other teams, bar Morton, are currently part-timers so they will have a huge edge and it will be a massive shock if they don't win it. The Pars were comfortably the second-best side behind runaway champions Rangers last year - only missing out on promotion due to defeat in the play-off final to Fife rivals Cowdenbeath - and they have added fire power in the signing of Michael Moffat. Their nearest challengers are Morton but the boys from Greenock only managed to win six games last season and it will be hard to restore the confidence in the squad to mount a challenge following relegation.
This division is much more open than the other leagues and I am keen on an each-way bet on Annan who have kept the majority of the squad and made a couple of good signings, including former Newcastle youngster Steven Logan. They should go close considering they came second last season. The other fancied side in the division is Clyde with a high-profile manager in Barry Ferguson who will use his connections in Scottish football to get some good loan signings throughout the season which could make the difference in this part-time league.
- The opening round of games takes place this Saturday, August 9.