SPFL: Hearts' Relegation Almost Certain, Yet Prospects Just as Dark for 5 Others

Sean MartinContributor IMarch 25, 2014

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 04:  General Views of of Tynecastle Stadium home of Hearts on August 04, 2013 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)
Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Barring a miracle, Heart of Midlothian will be playing football in the Scottish Championship next season.

While it seemed too hard a task from the outsetgiven they began the season with a 15-point deduction for entering administrationGary Locke's side have gone through 30 matches and still sit bottom with only six points on the board.

Hypothetically, of course, they would only be six points behind St Mirren, their nearest rivals, without the points handicap for suffering an insolvency event.

However, due to the pre-season shake-up which saw the creation of the SPFL and, more importantly, the introduction of a relegation play-off with Championship clubs, the Jambos may not be the only current Premiership side to suffer relegation come May.

Just three points separate the four clubs above Hearts, while city rivals Hibernian sit four points further out of reach still and could relegate the Jambos on Sunday when the two meet at Tynecastle.

Source: spfl.co.uk

Terry Butcher and Maurice Malpas have not had the effect they, or the Hibs fans, would have wanted since arriving in November.

Indeed, Butcher recently told BBC Scotland that the Hibees have to be considered in the relegation battle.

Nevertheless, his side have shown enough quality in matches against the teams beneath them (winning seven, drawing four and losing three) to justifiably expect to stay safely perched in seventh, even if a top-six finish is now beyond them.

Just a solitary point separates Kilmarnock, Ross County and Partick Thistle, yet on the pitch the main difference has to be the presence of a true goalscorer.

It's hard to envisage Allan Johnston's side suffering relegation when Kris Boyd is in such clinical form in front of goal. The 30-year-old looks on course to surpass 20 goals in a single Scottish top-flight season for the fifth time in his career, and has recently earned a recall to the national team fold.

St Mirren, although second from bottom, do have an attacking focal point in Stephen Thompson. The 35-year-old ex-Rangers striker has 11 goals to his name this seasona fair amount for someone who plays the role of target man.

Worryingly for Danny Lennon, most of Thompson's team-mates have contributed little in the way of goals to aid him, with four players all on three league goals each—the closest anyone has come to the big striker.

For the Jags and the Staggies, the form of their main creative players will be what keeps them up.

County captain Richie Brittain has once again proved a consistent force for Derek Adams' side, supplying five and scoring five in the league this season. But January loan recruit from Cardiff City, Filip Kiss, has shone in his nine league appearances so far, contributing four goals and two assists.

While Partick's top scorer is still Kris Doolan with seven, January signing Lyle Taylor from Falkirk has found the net on six occasions, despite only playing 12 games. 

Add into the mix the vastly improved Kallum Higginbotham and suddenly the thought of the Glasgow side remaining in the division next season is much more entertaining. The 24-year-old has been immense in recent weeks—four goals and four assists in his last five matches represent the most effective period of the winger's career thus far.

There is more than enough technical talent in each of the teams involved to make a substantial case for avoiding the relegation play-off spot. What is oft-cited in relegation fights is having the positive mental attitude to match that talent.

Perhaps Hibs manager Butcher was also speaking for his bottom-six counterparts when he told the BBC his side had to "roll up their sleeves and work hard to get out of it."


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All statistics referenced are from TransferMarkt & Soccerway