The Scottish Premiership is the ugly sister of its English equivalent but that does not mean that there are no pretty bets to be struck ahead of its season starting on Saturday.
Of course, betting on the Scottish Premiership top team is a waste of time because Celtic is trading at odds of -2000 with William Hill and, barring the Bhoys copping a massive points deduction for a misdemeanour, they are justifiably cramped odds to win their fifth league title in a row. The sooner that Rangers returns to the Scottish Premiership the better for everyone concerned, including Celtic. It is unhealthy for a major European competition to be so uncompetitive.
The position on the Scottish Premiership ladder in which one is most interested, however, is 12th. Several bookmakers are betting on the identity of the Scottish Premiership wooden spoon recipient and the side that one wants to back is the marginal favourite, Hamilton. Many firms, including Betfred and Ladbrokes, are listing Hamilton at odds of +400 to run last and one thinks that they are making a mistake.
Last term was Hamilton’s first in the Scottish Premiership since the 2010-2011 competition and it was going better than anyone expected it would until Norwich dispensed with Neil Adams and came knocking for Academical manager Alex Neil.
Hamilton did not stand in Neil’s way and granted permission to Norwich for the Canaries to speak with the Academical boss. Neil agreed to join Norwich on 9 January, at which stage Academical were third on the Scottish Premiership ladder, level on points with Celtic and just four points of the then pacesetter, Aberdeen. Hamilton had beaten Celtic 1-0 at Celtic Park in one of its 12 Scottish Premiership victories with Neil directing from its dugout.
Norwich went from strength to strength after Neil arrived at Carrow Road – the Canaries got back to the promised land of the English Premier League – whereas Hamilton went backwards at an alarming rate. Hamilton won 12, drew three and lost five of its 20 Scottish Premiership matches under Neil but Academical won three, drew five and lost 10 of their 18 league games following Neil’s departure, including going three and a half months without a victory to celebrate. To put those numbers into an easy-to-digest format, Hamilton was on target for 74 points from its 38 Scottish Premiership matches prior to Neil relocating, whereas Academical’s form after he moved was worth the equivalent of 30 points over the course of a full season – only St Mirren (21 points) ended up collecting fewer than 30 points.
Therefore, one thinks that it is reasonable to propose that Hamilton is the Scottish Premiership wooden spoon favourite. Heart of Midlothian is the Scottish Premiership newcomer and, while some pundits may be being overly optimistic about the Jam Tarts and their top-flight prospects, one concedes that they should not find themselves in relegation danger. Also, one expects that Motherwell will improve sufficiently to earn more than last season’s 31 points that meant it had to defeat Rangers over two legs to stay among the elite.
One could over-analyse the Scottish Premiership fixture list and argue that, perhaps, Hamilton does not have the hardest start to its campaign but that may work against it as well. Hamilton’s Scottish Premiership opener is at home to Partick on Saturday and, if Academical were to lose to Thistle, then the doom sayers will be out in force. And, when all is said and done, one believes that Hamilton should be trading at odds of +300 or shorter so snapping up +400 is acceptable.
Realistically, there are probably five contenders for the Scottish Premiership wooden spoon so, if all them had the same chance, odds of +400 would be fair. There is a good case for Hamilton being the Scottish Premiership wooden spoon favourite and, consequently, it is hard to see why anyone would want to lay Academical at its current odds.
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