After Scotland’s World Cup qualifying matches and round three of the Scottish Cup, we’re back to league action again this weekend. 

There are many people who are continually disparaging of the Premiership splitting into two halves at this stage of the season. I can understand their opinion as the only reason it got introduced was because the league got extended to 12 teams and this prevents us having to fit in 44 matches for each club. However, due to this modification, it can actually bring a fair and exciting conclusion to the Scottish season and that’s why I am totally in favour of this system.

This is due to the fact that whether you have a good competition ensuing at the top, bottom or, indeed, both halves of the league, you also have the fairest end to the season possible. The split gives us a situation where the teams all have the same fixtures as their rivals and will indeed meet the teams they are in competition with. This particularly comes into the spotlight when we have a situation like this season where there is a major contest emanating to avoid relegation.

There was very little between the bottom six teams when I looked at this situation in January with only six points separating them all. This has now changed. St Mirren are safe and although Dundee United and Motherwell can’t be completely overlooked as vulnerable clubs, it does appear that only Kilmarnock, Ross County and Hamilton Accies remain in this category.

When I look back at my study of the relegation situation in January I made reference to the fact that Kilmarnock had been on a bad run that had dropped them out of the top six into the fifth-bottom spot. I said at the time that they needed to pick up their form to remain safe. This didn’t happen and they brought in an experienced manager in Tommy Wright to bring the desired results. 

At first their results didn’t alter but with the recent signing of Kyle Lafferty the situation has certainly turned around and Kilmarnock now look like the most likely to survive. Another factor that brings positivity to their case is that in the fixtures between the current bottom six clubs this season, Kilmarnock have a much better record than both Ross County and Hamilton.

Obviously, they can’t take things for granted when you consider that they’ve had nine defeats in their last 12 games, but goal-scorers are pivotal to a team when these kind of matches come around and this is why the Lafferty signing could be a crucial turning point. You can’t write off Ross County and Hamilton, who over recent seasons have both produced a real competitive edge when required. It’s unpredictable and its certainly going to be a really exciting battle.

Let’s not forget the top of the league, where although we don’t have a competition for the title anymore, we still have a fight for European places underway. There are five European places available for next season with Rangers and Celtic both being in the Champions League. 

There’s a new competition, the Europa Conference League for third and fourth place, which will most certainly be Hibernian and Aberdeen. The Scottish Cup winners will be in the Europe League. If it’s ultimately one of the top four who wins the cup this season this would actually mean that fifth place in the league could be given the European spot by default. 

With this in mind, we then have a contest between Livingston and St Johnstone for fifth place which means we also have a bit of competition in the top six, too. It’s an interesting encounter between these two after they already competed against each other for the first trophy of the season, the Betfred Cup, in February. As the Cup final isn’t until May 22, it means they will be competing with each other in this final part of the season.


I still get stopped in the street by people who disagree with the support I’ve given VAR in my column. 

I’m wholeheartedly in favour of VAR but this week I witnessed another fault with the operation of it when the Dortmund forward, Bellingham, took the ball past the Manchester City keeper who collapsed after having made contact with the forward. As the Dortmund player was about to knock the ball into the net, the referee blew his whistle for a foul on the keeper. 

Bellingham knocked the ball into the net but the VAR rule meant that it couldn’t be analysed because a goal hadn’t actually been disallowed.

All the TV footage proved was that it was not a foul and because the whistle was blown before the goal was scored it shows what a disgraceful decision this was by the Romanian referee Hategan in terms of his administering of VAR for the benefit of the game. He should be immediately demoted for his massive error.