How the Scottish Premiership table might look without Rangers and Celtic

Does taking the Old Firm out of the equation open the way for Aberdeen or would the Edinburgh sides rise to the top?

Glasgow rivals Celtic and Rangers have shared every single Scottish league title since 1986, and only 12 times since the end of World War II has another club been crowned champions.

Such dominance rather tempers the expectations of the other ten clubs in the top flight, with the title highly unlikely to leave Glasgow any time soon.

There are periodical calls for the Bhoys and the Gers to join the English league system, and while UEFA regulations make this implausible in practice, the idea is still an interesting one.

Most predictions in this imagined scenario focus on where Celtic and Rangers would finish in the English system, but the converse is to examine what the landscape would look like north of the border without the Old Firm.

Here, Planet Sport does just that, assessing the prospects of the remaining ten Scottish Premiership teams for 2021/22 with the all-conquering Glasgow pair taken out of the market.

The contenders

Aberdeen: Finished fourth last season after battling for third with Hibernian for much of the campaign. However, the arrival of former Celtic midfield enforcer Scott Brown on a free could prove to be a decisive boost this time around.

The Pittodrie side have also kept hold of goalkeeper Joe Lewis, who joint-led the league in clean sheets last time out with 17 and is the new club captain.

The signing of American striker Christian Ramirez from Houston Dynamo should also provide a welcome shot in the arm to an attack that scored just 36 league goals last season.

Hibernian: Edged out Aberdeen by seven points to finish third, and with the core of last season's side still present, the Easter Road outfit will again fancy their chances of finishing the closest challengers to the Old Firm.

Striker Kevin Nisbet, who was the joint-second-highest scorer last season with 14 goals, remains a key part of Hibs' attack, as does winger Martin Boyle, who was the league's highest assist maker from any club other than Celtic or Rangers.

A quiet transfer window may give a glimmer of hope to their rivals' however.

Hearts: Returned to the Premiership at the first time of asking last season by winning the Championship, finishing 12 points clear of second-placed Dundee.

They have bolstered their ranks with the arrival of 24-year-old former Preston North End winger Josh Ginnelly, alongside Livingston goalkeeper Ross Stewart.

A first Edinburgh derby in the league since March 2020 is scheduled for September 12 at Tynecastle, and it could prove a key pointer to whether Hearts have what it takes to finish best of the rest.

The outside chancers

St Johnstone: The only professional British club with the letter 'J' in their name finished fifth last season, with their profligacy in front of goal letting them down as they hit only 36 goals, the joint-fewest of any side to finish in the top half.

Their activity in the transfer market doesn't appear to have addressed that, with three arrivals all being young defenders. However, despite all that, if there's one thing the Saints love to do, it is defy the odds, and as defending League Cup champions, they know what it takes to win when it matters.

Motherwell: Finished eighth last season, as, despite looking reasonably strong for a top-six finish, a winless run of 12 games between early November and late January torpedoed any hope of that.

Although their ability to score goals was above average, hitting 39 in the league, the third-most of any team outside the top three, their defence was what let them down, as they shipped 55.

They have attempted to address that with the addition of QPR goalkeeper Liam Kelly.

St Mirren: The closest club geographically to Celtic and Rangers, they finished seventh last season.

They look stronger this time around with the additions of three former Kilmarnock players - forward Eamonn Brophy, winger Greg Kiltie and midfielder Alan Power - sure to boost their cutting edge.

The free transfer of Curtis Main, another forward, from Shrewsbury Town also looks like a solid signing.

Livingston: Sixth last season, Livi were comfortable in attack, netting 42 goals, but much like Motherwell, were let down by their defence, conceding 54.

They have been incredibly active in the transfer market, with no fewer than 16 new faces through the door at the Tony Macaroni Arena. And, while upheaval can mark a fresh start and the opportunity to push further up the table, the fear is that the new squad takes time to gel.

The unlikely lads

Dundee United: Desperately short of ideas in attack last season, scoring a league-low 32 goals on their way to a ninth-placed finish. Their activity in the transfer market will not fill anyone with hope that the upcoming season won't be similarly difficult.

They may be a little more steely in defence, with the addition of veteran centre-back Charlie Mulgrew, who last played for Blackburn.

Destined to do battle with neighbours Dundee at the wrong end of the table for much of this campaign.

Dundee: Back in the Premiership after defeating Kilmarnock to win the Championship play-offs last season.

They have prepared for their top-flight return by signing winger Luke McCowan from Ayr and Irish forward Cillian Sheridan from Polish outfit Wisla Plock.

Their first aim will be to ensure they don't spend the season locked in a relegation battle, and anything that comes after that is a bonus.

Will be playing neighbours Dundee United in a league game for the first time since December 2019.

Ross County: Being located in the far north of Scotland, more than 100 miles away from their nearest fellow Premiership club - Aberdeen - is rather appropriate for the Staggies, as their chances of making a challenge for the top half of the league, let alone the best of the rest, are also very remote.

They have a young, inexperienced squad, with an average age of 24, and after narrowly staving off the drop last time out, will be much more focused on the bottom two than the Premiership's Big Two.

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