Season Preview 2004/5

Last updated : 03 August 2004 By Firparkcorner

Starting off at Celtic has a number of merits. Celtic have also had an unsettled pre-season and there is a chance that we could catch them cold. The Championship flag will be unfurled and this could provide a distraction.

Terry and Mo
They do not yet seem to have a replacement for Larsson. Of course, if they do play as well as they can, we will lose and possibly lose heavily. But that can happen at any time when you face the Old Firm and if we do manage a respectable performance, it will give everyone at the club a lift to know we can cope with the best in the country.

But regardless of Sunday’s events, what does the rest of the season have in store? It is not unfair to say that the success of our season could depend on who is on the treatment table and for how long. Gordon Marshall will start the season between the sticks and despite his age, he does not seem to be overly prone to picking up niggling injuries. If age does begin to catch up with him, we will need to rely on Barry John Corr to take over. For all of Marshall’s faults, he reassures the defence and collects crosses in a way his young understudy does not. The defence, on paper, is actually the best part of the team right now but looks unsettled. Partridge, Quinn and Hammell have all had disrupted pre-seasons whilst Kaiser Corrigan has been moved from position to position. Once the season starts though, this should settle down.

Our real problems lie in midfield. Scott Leitch is another season older but if he can retain fitness and recreate last season’s form then he will be a valuable asset. Jim Paterson looks a threat on the left but unless we can find some balance, he will be crowded out all too easily. Given the extent of Brian Kerr’s early injury, we can almost write him off for the season – that means the other contenders for midfield are Phil O’Donnell, Alex Burns along with some youngsters or players moved out of position. Whatever combination is used in midfield just now, there are doubts over whether it will be strong enough to cope at SPL level. And if we do fix things by moving one or both of Corrigan or Hammell into midfield is there any point if we just pass the problem onto the defence?

The strike force will be picked from Clarkson, McDonald, Foran and Burns although they may be needed in midfield. We certainly have players capable of scoring goals but whether we are capable of generating chances is the concern. However, whilst our pre-season has been poor, that is not necessarily something to worry about. We had some questionable friendlies last season and a slow start in the league with two losses. The season is long and one of the few guarantees is that other teams will also have injuries to crucial players and bad runs of form.

We showed that we have several very capable players last season and the majority of them are still at Fir Park. The new signings all look likely to contribute something positive so let us not rush to the panic button quite yet. Livingston and Dundee in particular have wafer thin squads and if Inverness don’t suffer from playing all their home games at Pittodrie it will be a miracle.

So even with our current form and injuries, we are not favorites to go down and if we can make a good start there is no reason why we will not be well above the relegation zone.

As dangerous as it sounds, there is still reason to be optimistic. We might not quite hit the heights of last season but we should still be safe in the bottom half – we shouldn’t be any worse than 8th or 9th come the end of May.