Celtic, Aberdeen, Rangers, Hearts, Partick Thistle, Dundee United: Rob Maclean on contrasting seasons

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Best moments of the Scottish season

Commentator Rob Maclean picks his main talking points from the 2016-17 Scottish football season.

All hail, hail Brendan Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers is the best thing to happen to Scottish football in a long time.

Yes, I'm talking about the game as a whole and not just the glaringly obvious impact he's had at treble-winning Celtic.

Rodgers has raised the bar as manager. Celtic were underwhelming last season as they won the title by 15 points. They doubled that winning margin this time around, but it was the quality of their play that had them light years ahead of what had gone before.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers with the Scottish Cup
Brendan Rodgers' Celtic won the Scottish Cup on Saturday to complete a domestic treble

They'll be even better next season. They have to be to make an impact in the Champions League. That means their domestic dominance will continue.

It's a massive challenge for our other top teams. And it's not all about spending power. Celtic reinvented the players they already had.

No team will be catching the Invincibles any time soon. But that doesn't mean the chasing pack can't make major improvements as Rodgers and his team continue to set the standard.

Runners-up still a Dons success

Derek McInnes will be gutted at completing a clean sweep of runners-up prizes.

He shouldn't be. His Aberdeen team have been emphatically the best of the rest.

That was the only title they were ever going to win. Celtic were operating in a different league.

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes is left disappointed after the Scottish Cup final
Derek McInnes' Aberdeen were runners-up to Celtic in all three domestic competitions

So, credit to the Dons that they shook Celtic out of their stride in Saturday's Scottish Cup final and forced them to dig deeper than they've had to go domestically all season long before losing out to that stoppage-time winner.

That should be a positive platform from which they can again kick on next season, hopefully with McInnes still at the helm.

A reshuffling of the pack, with players leaving and others coming in, might be no bad thing as Aberdeen look to stay on an upward curve.

Caixinha and Cathro playing catch-up

Scottish football's under-achievers of the season have to include Rangers and Hearts.

The Tynecastle team have been on the slide since Ian Cathro replaced Robbie Neilson as head coach in December.

The club's spectacular off-field recovery of the last couple of years has continued with dramatic ground improvements well on track. On-field, results have been miserable.

Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha and Hearts' Ian Cathro share a joke
Rangers' Pedro Caixinha and Hearts' Ian Cathro will need more to smile about next season

Like Hearts, Rangers will look to the summer transfer market to improve on a distinctly average campaign during which Mark Warburton's managerial replacement, Pedro Caixinha, came up with little in the way of inspiration.

There are players to be cleared out, but juicy contracts will make that easier said than done and Rangers might again struggle to prove that the second-biggest budget in Scotland makes them the second best team.

Firhill for over-achievers

My over-achievers award goes to Partick Thistle.

I know they failed to win a game post-split, but they were short of players by that stage and they'd already hit their target of finishing in the top six of the Premiership.

There's much to admire about the way Thistle go about their business on, even allowing for the financial back-up of EuroMillions winners Colin and Chris Weir, still limited resources.

Partick Thistle manager Alan Archibald (left) instructs striker Kris Doolan
Alan Archibald (left) led Partick Thistle to sixth place in the Premiership

Thistle opened a new youth academy four years ago and are pressing on with plans to build a new training centre that will put bigger clubs to shame.

They have a top manager in Alan Archibald and he takes a lot of credit for steering the Jags well clear of the top-flight drop zone.

Terrors' trauma at Tannadice

My Scottish football worry of the summer is for Dundee United.

Maybe chairman Stephen Thompson will tell me to have no fears, but their failure to bounce straight back to the Premiership has the alarm bells ringing about the club's fragile financial situation.

Dundee United midfielder Blair Spittal shows his disappointment against Hamilton
Dundee United missed out on promotion after Sunday's play-off defeat by Hamilton

United predictably ran out of steam in the promotion play-offs after six games in less than three weeks, losing out to Hamilton Accies in Sunday's decider.

So it's a second season in the Championship for the Tannadice team, which will have an obvious impact on their balance sheet.

United have a great support and belong in Scotland's top division, but they could have a mighty battle on their hands to get back there.

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