Jonny Hayes’ recent comments that the Scottish Premiership is a “competitive league” again may seem timely considering Celtic sit down in an unfamiliar third place, but no-one should be fooled.
Hayes is being optimistic – possibly in the extreme – when the Aberdeen star claims that there are several Scottish top flight clubs that can have a realistic claim on winning the title this season. He names, unsurprisingly perhaps, his own side and current shock leaders Dundee United along with Inverness as teams capable of upsetting the Scottish football betting odds and coming out on top come May.
It certainly would be a major surprise if he were to be proven right. No club, aside from Rangers and Celtic, have been crowned champions north of the border since the Dons managed it way back in 1985. That fact underlines just how dominant the Old Firm have been and, despite Hayes’ positive outlook and Rangers’ recent demotion due to financial problems, it is unlikely to change any time soon.
Hayes believes the fact Rangers are still not yet back in the Premiership mix (although many think that will change for next season) is a reason to suggest Celtic have taken their eye off the ball and that, in turn, will give others a chance.
The Hoops have not been at their best so far this term – that is not in doubt. But, worryingly for United, second-place Hamilton and any other clubs with ambitions on stealing their crown, the fact is they’re only realistically down in third due to playing a game less. It is certainly welcome that, at this early stage of the campaign, there does appear to be more competition around in 2014-15 but it must be remembered that the Glasgow giants won the league by a massive 29 points last season so others have a huge gap to bridge.
In John Guidetti Celtic have a player taking the league by storm at the moment, too, and he has rightly been recognised for his goalscoring exploits when picking up the Scottish Premiership October Player of the Month award. The on-loan Manchester City striker hit two in three games last month and also celebrated a hat-trick in a 6-0 League Cup victory over Partick Thistle, with the 22-year-old, who can only play in domestic matches for Celtic before the turn of the year, averaging a goal a game and nine in total since joining for the season in August. It is an impressive record and one to strike fear into the rest of the division.
Hayes has obviously taken heart from Celtic’s somewhat stuttering start, combined with Aberdeen’s run of good form and decided to confidently talk up the chances of the Premiership trophy ending up somewhere other than Glasgow and plenty would argue he would be being defeatist if he didn’t do so.
But, ultimately, he is likely to be disappointed again because anyone other than Celtic winning the title is a far too optimistic claim.