S.S.L. Season 177
Celtic completed a remarkable treble of League, Summer Cup and Albion Cup in Season 177 of the S.S.L.
The season kicked off with the Summer Cup as usual. The final was contested between Celtic and Rangers, and was a close-fought contest, finishing 2—2 after extra-time. A lengthy penalty-kick shoot-out was eventually won by Celtic with a score of 7—6.
The leagues started off interestingly, with the match of the season being contested between Aberdeen and Celtic, the north-east side emerging as victors in a 9-goal thriller with a score of 6—3. Despite this, Celtic led the table after 8 matches, with 18 points, just ahead of Motherwell, Aberdeen, St Johnstone and Alloa on 16 points. Rangers had another poor start, lying 11th out of the 16 teams after 8 matches. In the 'B' League, Kilmarnock began strongly, with six wins in a row, but after a draw and a defeat, they lay in second place behind Dunfermline, who were unbeaten with 20 points from a possible 24.
After 20 matches, Celtic still led the 'A' League, by 3 points from St Johnstone, who were having a productive season at this point. Aberdeen were third, a further three points behind St Johnstone, having squandered a number of points due to inconsistent results. Hearts continued to have a poor season, languishing in 13th place. Both Dundee sides were in the bottom three, along with Stirling Albion.
In the 'B' League, Dumbarton continued strongly, and had a 12-point lead over their nearest challengers, Queen's park, who continued to surprise the pundits, most of whom tipped the Hampden Park side to drop straight back into the 'C' League. Hibs were still outside the play-off spots in sixth place, but were only 2 points behind Queen's park, so they only needed a small improvement to push them into the play-offs or even automatic promotion. Earlier in the season, East Fife looked set to drop straight back to 'C', but an improvement in form saw them out of the relegation spots for the first time in the season at the 20-match stage. Livingston and, surprisingly, Morton occupied the bottom two.
In League 'A', Celtic eventually were the runaway winners, obtaining 67 points and finishing 13 points clear of runners-up Motherwell. Unfortunately St Johnstone, the surprise package of most of the season, slumped so badly that they failed to even gain a European qualification place, finishing sixth and being pipped by Inverness and Rangers. At the bottom, Dundee and Stirling, two of last season's promoted teams, returned straight back to League 'B', and Dundee United slipped into the play-off spot only two seasons after winning the league title. Although Queen of the South avoided the drop straight back into the lower division, two out of three of the promoted teams dropping back down immediately does not bode well for reducing the gap between the divisions.
This trend continued in League 'B', as Falkirk and Dumbarton, the two automatically promoted teams, had come down from League 'A' just last season. Dunfermline, Kilmarnock and Raith Rovers qualified for the play-offs, the latter after a strong rally that saw early hopefuls Queen's Park drop to sixth place and out of contention. The Hampden club had only come up from League 'C' last season though, so finishing sixth was a creditable result, whilst the other promoted team, East Fife, narrowly avoided the drop by 3 points. Hibs, however, failed to achieve the chance to return to League 'A' after one season and must endure lower division football for another season. Cowdenbeath and Livingston dropped out of League 'B'.
Qualification to Euro-League; Qualification to Euro-Cup; Qualification to relegation play-offs; Relegated; (C) = Champion; (CW) = Cup winnner; ¶ = Play-off winner; (p) = Promoted in previous season.
Promoted; Qualification to promotion play-offs; Relegated; ¶ = Play-off winner; (p) = Promoted in previous season; (r) = Relegated in previous season.
The First Round of the cup saw few upsets, the only notable results being Cove Rangers defeating a lacklustre Livingston in a replay in Aberdeen, and little Formartine United defeating Cowdenbeath in Fife. In the Second Round, these sides were knocked out, unsurprisingly, by the bigger teams, and again there was little to remark on in this round. In the Third Round, 3rd placed Aberdeen lost at home to 13th placed Hearts, which was the upset of the round, as on league form the Dons would have been expected to win on their own turf. The other main upset was Inverness, also playing well in the league, who lost at home to 'B' leaguers Dunfermline. In the Quarter-Final there were consequently only two 'B' League sides, Dunfermline and Kilmarnock. Kilmarnock had the benefit of home advantage against Hearts, and a win for the Rugby Park side was possibly on the cards. Dunfermline were not expected to survive the encounter with Motherwell at Fir Park, likewise for Partick Thistle at Celtic Park, but the St Johnstone v Rangers tie was another intriguing one, with the Perth team in with a good chance of getting past Rangers and into the Semi-Final.
In the quarter-finals Celtic expectedly beat Partick but Hearts managed to hold off Kilmarnock at Rugby Park and Dunfermline were the surprise winners against Motherwell, becoming the only 'B'-Leaguers to reach the semi-finals. St Johnstone continued their good league form and defeated Rangers confortably 3—0. In the semis the top two teams in the League at the time, Celtic and St Johnstone, won through to the final, where Celtic clinched the treble of League title, Summer Cup and Albion Cup, to complete one fo their most successful domestic seasons ever.
The pre-season Summer Cup was won by Celtic for the second time since the competition was inaugurated. The 32 Super League clubs played-off in eight 4-team groups as usual, and the winners and runners-up progressed into a seeded knock-out competition.