Scottish Championship: Five things to watch out for this season

Tommy Wright, Dick Campbell, Ian McCall, Brian Rice
The Scottish Championship is home to a selection of colourful managerial characters
Scottish Championship: Kilmarnock v Ayr Utd
Venue: Rugby Park Date: Monday, 2 August Time: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Watch live on BBC Scotland, listen to commentary on Sportsound, and follow live updates on the BBC Sport website & app

From the return of a fiery derby, to the array of colourful characters patrolling the touchlines, this season's Scottish Championship promises to deliver storylines aplenty.

Two top-flight teams tumbled into the second tier at the end of last term, as Kilmarnock and Hamilton Academical relinquished their Premiership status.

Up came Partick Thistle with a point to prove, joining a swathe of ambitious teams who will fancy their chances at mounting a promotion tilt.

Here, BBC Scotland picks out some of the most enticing prospects from the campaign ahead.

The Ayrshire derby

Tommy Wright's Kilmarnock and rivals Ayr United are in the same division for the first time in 28 years.

They last faced each other on league business in 1992-93, when the Rugby Park side won promotion from the old First Division. In fact, over the past two decades, the teams have played just six times.

Both squads have been overhauled this summer, Wright especially tooling up with Premiership-level acquisitions such as Stephen McGinn, Scott Robinson and Jason Naismith.

Kilmarnock look to have the strongest side in the league, but it is Ayr who hold the bragging rights, having scalped their then top-flight foes 1-0 in the League Cup of 2017. The rivals have not met since.

Entertainment in Fife

Under John McGlynn, Raith Rovers reinvented themselves as the Tiki-Taka kings of the Championship, weaving some beautiful attacking football and landing some notable results.

Slick playmaker Regan Hendry has joined Forest Green Rovers and will be a big loss, as will rampaging left-back Kieran MacDonald, a signing for Hamilton Academical.

But Rovers have kept hold of striker Lewis Vaughan, so cruelly ravaged by knee injuries, who is already off and running in the League Cup, and strengthened in other areas, with Christophe Berra and James Keatings arriving.

Lewis Vaughan scores for Raith Rovers
Lewis Vaughan could be a pivotal player for Raith Rovers this season

Crucially, the club will go full-time this season, having utilised a 'hybrid' model in the past. McGlynn, such a shrewd and canny operator, will benefit significantly in terms of access to his players and training time.

Neighbours Dunfermline Athletic, now completely in the hands of German investors, won three out of four to progress in the League Cup, scoring 13 goals along the way.

Craig Wighton, Kevin O'Hara and Nikolay Todorov look like a potent strikeforce, with the experience of Graham Dorrans brought in to complement the youthful zest of on-loan Kai Kennedy.

Fife derbies were explosive last term. There was 4-1 thrashing by the Pars, then a 5-1 skelping by the Rovers, who sank their rivals in the play-off quarter-final. Their battles ahead could be similarly compelling.

What next for Accies?

The great survivors could survive no more. After defying the odds and the pundits' predictions for seven years, Hamilton slipped into the Championship.

Their staying power deserves great admiration, as does their consistently impressive production of talented young players, but now they face a new challenge.

Can Brian Rice, whom the club have backed as head coach, build a squad capable of bouncing straight back up?

Can Accies hold on to their more desirable players, with top scorer Ross Callachan off to Ross County and Hakeem Odoffin reportedly drawing interest?

Can they adapt to the unfamiliar pressure that comes with being touted to finish near the top of the league?

Rice has never had his teams sit back and play conservatively. He encourages ambition and abandon and the upshot this season could be fascinating.

Return of the Jags

Partick Thistle were relegated to League 1 in the cruellest of fashions when the pandemic struck, sport was suspended indefinitely, and formulae rather than football decided league placings.

Despite their status as a newly-promoted team, Thistle supporters will expect a strong campaign and a berth in the play-offs come the end of it.

Their League Cup voyage got off to a wobbly start as they were thumped 4-2 by Dunfermline at Firhill, but wily Ian McCall looks to have recruited cleverly.

He, as much as anyone, will be itching to prove his side belong here after such a brutal year.

Managerial mayhem

Picture the scenes, the hilarity and the havoc, the expletives and the explosiveness in Championship dug-outs this season.

As casts go, the league's assortment of larger-than-life managers throws up all sorts of potential bonkerdom.

There's Dick Campbell, the longest-serving and perhaps most instantly discernible boss in the SPFL with his flat cap and parka jacket concealing a caustic tongue.

There are similarly seasoned gaffers in the form of Rovers' McGlynn and Gus MacPherson of Morton, while Ayr United's David Hopkin must be a contender for the league's most intimidating glare and new Dunfermline gaffer Peter Grant never backed down from a fight as a player.

Thrown into the pot will be McCall, not exactly the shy-and-retiring type, and Wright, who suffers no fools and enjoys a touchline joust with the media.

A collection of strong football men with even stronger vocal cords.

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