Like most, James Fowler expects Hibs and Rangers to be the teams battling it out for the Championship title – but he’s warned them not to expect everything to go their way.
The “Big Three” of last season may have become the “Big Two” with Hearts having won promotion by taking the title in a canter, but today the Queen of the South boss claimed the coming campaign is going to be just as tough.
Fowler’s side went within a whisker of knocking Rangers out of the Premiership play-offs before the Ibrox side went on to extinguish Hibs’ hopes of an immediate return to the top flight, only to be trounced themselves by Motherwell in the final.
Given those experiences, both Hibs head coach Alan Stubbs and new Rangers manager Mark Warburton will be desperate to avoid the play-offs and secure automatic promotion via winning the league.
However, Fowler, whose side finished fourth last season, believes there will be just as many twists and turns to come, adamant that while the title dreams of the Championship’s other clubs may be discounted by many, they’ll have a big say in who does top the pile.
While Falkirk will probably be regarded as the biggest challengers to Hibs and Rangers, Fowler, pictured, said: “There’s a turnaround in the squad at Livingston with Mark Burchill getting his own team, Raith Rovers have changed managers and Ray McKinnon has brought in a lot of players, so they are going to be stronger.
“St Mirren have come down and with Ian Murray going in there will be a change-around in their squad. They have some really good young players and Ian will be looking to add to that. Ian knows the league himself having been with Dumbarton, but the players might have to adapt to the league.
“Hibs and Rangers are still there and possibly people will be looking for them to be the dominant forces with maybe the rest battling it out. But it’s going to be tough again.”
Fowler, who has had his squad in La Manga this week rubbing shoulders with both Hibs and Wigan, himself faces a mammoth task in rebuilding his squad.
Dan Carmichael has moved to Hibs, Gavin Reilly’s joined Hearts and Ian McShane Ross County while Kevin Holt and Mark Durnan have both crossed the country to Tayside, signing for Dundee and Dundee United respectively.
The 34-year-old said: “Those lads played the majority of games for us last season, probably near enough ever presents.
“It’s going to be a big ask, the expectations of the club and fans will be ‘same again’ no matter the players that have left. We had an idea most of them would move on so I’ve been trying to do my homework to get the players that will fit within our budget. There are plenty out there, it’s a matter of getting them in under the wage structure we have.”