Celtic canter to title glory but elsewhere it was a season of twists & turns

Hibs 5-5 Rangers
Hibernian's 5-5 draw with Rangers was a fitting end to a season of madcap wonder

As an occasion, it was Scottish football in microcosm, a game that encapsulated the Premiership season in all its madcap wonder.

From first minute to last, Hibs versus Rangers on Sunday was crackers. Five goals this way, five goals that way and a Hibs manager pretending to be an aeroplane.

It was a fitting end to a season that saw some twists and turns. In documenting it, we have to begin with Celtic and their seventh straight title; won, it has to be said, with little of the élan of their sixth but at a canter at any rate.

Celtic were 24 points worse off in the table compared to last year, were four points worse off than the year before that under Ronny Deila and 10 points worse off on the year before that.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers
Brendan Rodgers led Celtic to their seventh consecutive title, but they didn't reach the performance heights of last term

They were excellent when they needed to be, which wasn't very often. They coasted home while only rarely having to find top gear.

Last season, Leigh Griffiths scored 11 times, Stuart Armstrong got 15, Moussa Dembele got 17 and Scott Sinclair got 21. This time Sinclair was their top goal scorer in the league with 10. Sinclair was outscored by Alex Schalk at relegated Ross County.

There was fanfare at the return of Patrick Roberts on loan and more PR fireworks at the capture of Charley Musonda, also on loan. These lads would be sensational, we were told.

Neither of them held a candle to James Forrest, who had his best ever season, topped only by Scott Brown who won every award going as the relentless standard-bearer for a team that could now go on to complete a second treble in Saturday's Scottish Cup final against Motherwell while rarely moving out of third gear.

Aberdeen defender Andrew Considine and manager Derek McInnes
Derek McInnes steered Aberdeen to a fourth consecutive second-place finish in the top flight

Behind Celtic, the Dons. Again. It seemed like Aberdeen spent much of their campaign on the back foot, but how sweetly it all ended for them. Fighting to keep manager Derek McInnes, fighting to get a result against the Old Firm, fighting for their new stadium. Fighting.

Last summer they lost Jonny Hayes, Ryan Jack and, for the first half of the season, they lost Niall McGinn, too. Pace, goals, creativity, leadership - wiped out.

McInnes recruited heavily. Some hit the mark, some didn't. The upshot was a final day win at Celtic - at last - and second place in the table with a points total just three less than last season. That's good going. Their failure in the cups clouds it for some, but in the league, the Dons have done their stuff.

They will now lose Kenny McLean but they're gaining Mikey Devlin from Hamilton. Devlin, injury-permitting, could be a very shrewd signing. With Scott McKenna roaring through at centre-half, Aberdeen are adding ballast at the back for whatever is thrown at them next season by the ones behind them.

Rangers striker Kenny Miller and captain Lee Wallace
Kenny Miller and Lee Wallace ended the season out of favour at Rangers, having been suspended by the club

In their shadow, Rangers. Managers and caretaker managers came and went. There was a failed bid for McInnes. There was dressing room unrest. Two of their captains, Lee Wallace and Kenny Miller, are suspended.

In their bid to close the gap on Celtic, they shipped nine goals without reply in their last two meetings with Brendan Rodgers' team.

The bare bones of their season tell us that they finished with three more points than they had at the end of last season. On the face of it, not bad. For the financial outlay, though, it's a dismal return.

Sixteen players were recruited and a large amount of money was wasted. Until such time as Rangers make better decisions in the market and start bringing in players made of the right stuff, as opposed to the weak-minded crew they have assembled, then it's hard to see them moving forward in a significant way.

The appointment of Steven Gerrard as the manager for next season - a wow moment from their campaign - is now charged with turning things around. His appointment is impossibly glamorous. Gerrard's adventures in Glasgow will be the compelling narrative of next term.

Hibs fans support manager Neil Lennon
Hibs fans are fully behind the work of manager Neil Lennon this season

The new boys, Hibs, took their bid for second place to the penultimate round of games. They failed to pull it off but what entertainment they provided to the last kick. On the pitch, they were ambitious and, off the pitch, Lennon was no slouch either, As a football man, he's a drama unto himself.

He's now looking at a rebuild. Jamie Maclaren and Florian Kamberi were terrific loan signings up front, but he'll struggle to keep either of them. Scott Allan, on loan from Celtic, might stay, but Dylan McGeouch is leaving and who knows what the summer holds for the man who ties it all together, John McGinn.

On Sunday, the Hibs manager backtracked on his comments about considering his own future and that will have come as a blessed relief to the supporters. They turn out in big numbers these days and have seen their side accumulate their best points total in Premiership history.

Losing the manager who made it happen would have been a major blow. Hibs have a huge amount of work to do, but the fans will be comforted by the fact that Lennon will still be the one charged with doing it.

If Hibs got it right in Lennon's appointment two seasons ago then Kilmarnock got it spectacularly right when swooping for Steve Clarke as manager in October.

Kilmarnock striker Kris Boyd and manager Steve Clarke
Kilmarnock striker Kris Boyd has lauded the work of manager Steve Clarke this season

At that stage of the season, Killie were bottom of the league with three points and no wins from their first eight games. The fans were fatalistic. The team was a rudderless soft touch. Killie looked like a club heading for the gallows.

Clarke illustrated the power of good decision making. Within a week of his arrival, everything looked brighter at Rugby Park. He brought in Youssouf Mulumbu, an English Premier League operator, and class was introduced to their midfield. Clarke improved every player. They drew at Ibrox and at Celtic Park in his opening games and then beat the pair of them later on.

Veteran striker Kris Boyd was on the brink of retirement, but ended the season with 18 league goals. Any chance he got, he eulogised the Clarke Effect. They scored more, conceded less, won 18 more points than last season and went from 12th in October to fifth in May. The football writers' made him manager of the year. It was the most stirring of turnarounds.

Hearts made the top six, but what a grind it was. It began with Ian Cathro as head coach, then his sacking in August, and ended with Craig Levein in charge and 11 teenagers in his final match day squad of the campaign.

Hearts midfielder Harry Cochrane
Midfielder Harry Cochrane was one of seven 16-year-olds to play for Hearts this season

The elevation of Hearts' youth was one of the few highs. That and the 4-0 victory over Celtic - which ended the champions' unbeaten run - the defeat of Hibs in the Scottish Cup and the goals return of Kyle Lafferty who, all on his own, scored almost a third of Hearts' dismal total of 39 league goals.

Their academy is providing some hope in uncertain times. Levein gave game-time in the league to a dozen teenagers. Seven of the 12 were 16 years old.

For the most part, though, their campaign was dreary. Not enough pace, not enough width, not enough creativity in midfield, not enough goals. Hearts are looking at another summer of heavy recruitment.

Motherwell did something that few outside the club thought them capable of. In a league made tougher by Hibs' arrival and in a season where they lost Louis Moult, their main goalscorer and best player, Motherwell managed to improve their league position while making two cup finals into the bargain.

Motherwell striker Curtis Main
Motherwell striker Curtis Main has scored eight times since joining the club in January

Defensively, they really got their act together. They shipped some flak for the robustness of their play, but none of them will give two damns about that. They conceded 20 fewer goals than last time and won 10 more points.

Curtis Main was an excellent replacement for Moult but it was Robinson's success in making his team harder to beat that was at the root of it. They didn't make the top six but days out at Hampden will have more than compensated.

It was inevitable that St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright was going to fall short of a top-six place eventually - and this was the season. The Perth side finished eighth after their wonderful of fourth last season.

Losing Danny Swanson, their top goalscorer last term, made life harder and it will be no different next when their top goalscorer, Steven Maclean, will not be around any longer. He's away to Hearts.

Dundee manager Neil McCann
Dundee manager Neil McCann made progress this season, finishing one place higher than last term

Wright will put this forgettable season behind him. What lies ahead is another matter. Saints have two options - bounce back or slide down. They need new blood in their team if they want to nip the decline in the bud.

Dundee improved their lot by one spot, from tenth last season to ninth this season. It was a battle. They had resilience to hang on and, having suffered the loss of defender Jack Hendry to Celtic mid-season, they deserved to stay up.

This was an inching forward for Dens Park manager Neil McCann. One more victory than last time and two more points. Baby steps, but steps none the less.

Martin Canning had another act of escapologist to perform at Hamilton and once again he made it happen. What's more, he did it without Mikey Devlin, who was injured all season and moved to Aberdeen in the January transfer window, and Greg Docherty, who was sold to Rangers in January. In the summer he lost another useful attacker in Eamonn Brophy, who was picked up by Killie.

Partick Thistle strikers Conor Sammon and Kris Doolan
Conor Sammon, with seven goals, and Kris Doolan, with six, have given Partick Thistle a fighting chance of survival

Hamilton were spared the play-offs as well. Canning continues to defy all of us who make them prime relegation candidates season upon season.

In 11th, Partick Thistle. Their fate will be decided in a two-leg play-off with Livingston. Their fall from grace (sixth last season) was something of a surprise, particularly to the chump writing in this space who predicted they would finish fifth. Just six places out in the end.

Thistle's board kept their finger off the eject button and kept manager Alan Archibald in place. He has earned the chance to keep them up.

They have toiled horribly, scoring just 31 goals and conceding 61. Kris Doolan popped with an important one on the final day of the season but it was just his sixth of the campaign.

Conor Sammon, on loan from Hearts, was top man with seven. It's not enough, not when you've lost defender Liam Lindsay, to Barnsley, and can't stop letting in goals at the other end. They have two massive games ahead of them.

Former Ross County manager Owen Coyle
Owen Coyle's managerial reign at Ross County lasted six months

A farewell to Ross County, a club that panicked and paid the price. Unquestionably, the loss of Liam Boyce, scorer of 23 of their 48 league goals last season, was a desperate knock, but County didn't help themselves.

In late September, sitting in 10th and one point clear of Thistle and Killie at the bottom, manager Jim McIntyre was sacked. Unless there was another reason for it, it was a bizarre call from chairman Roy McGregor.

Owen Coyle came in and was gone again by March, leaving the club three points adrift in 12th. There was another change in management and that didn't work either. It's hard to escape the feeling that County's relegation was, in part, self-inflicted, a by-product of a knee-jerk in September that caused terrible damage come May.

St Mirren will replace them next season. How many days until it starts all over again?