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Season won't be a turn-off with play-offs.


ASIDE from the old hackneyed death and taxes, there are other certainties in life.

Like the inevitable Christmas No.1 hit for whoever weeps and wails the most on their way to winning the X Factor.

Or the assurance that at some point in every man's life, whilst shaving, he will leave the bit under his nose until last to see what he looks like with a foamy Hitler moustache. I've said too much.

But when it comes to football the 100 per cent nailed-on foregone conclusion is that Celtic will be champions of the first SPFL Premiership.

Rangers will win League One and if Hamilton Accies and East Stirling keep going at this pace the Championship and League Two won't be much of a contest either.

Relegation from the top flight already beckons for Hearts after Saturday's spirit-crushing defeat by St Mirren stalled their bid to narrow the gap having started the season with a 15 point deduction.

In previous years it would have left little to grab our attention other than the battle for a handful of Europa League spots and a phoney war for the top 6. Thank goodness we have something new this year. Something more than one-horse title races to sustain us through the winter. Something to stop league games from becoming meaningless before Bonfire Night.

Thank God for play-offs.

Of all the good to come from the infighting at Hampden, the best result is the decision to expand the end-of-season do-or-die shoot-outs that proved so popular in the old SFL.

Never have I been more relieved by that than last weekend when I scanned the results pages in the Sunday Mail.

Inverness's defeat at St Johnstone let Celtic claim top spot on their own for the first time this season. And with them showing no sign of the Champions League hangovers or lack of domestic focus that blighted them last season, it's hard to see the Hoops ever giving up that place.

So my eyes started flicking elsewhere, to the mid-to-lower reaches of the tables, suddenly taking in the wealth of possibilities that the play-off system will bring into focus by April and May.

While Hearts need to pull off an escape act that would make Harry Houdini proud, that no longer means the pressure is off Kilmarnock and St Mirren.

Not when second bottom goes into a four-way play-off with the likes of Raith Rovers, Falkirk, Dundee or Alloa.

Would Allan Johnston's side fancy their chances of breezing past clubs like that? Now they must scrap to the bitter end, regardless of how Hearts fare.

And just as the play-offs cost Dunfermline dear last season, having Alloa nick their place in the second tier, their downfall last year could be their salvation this time.

No-one expects them to keep up with Rangers but the play-offs have spared the likes of Stenhousemuir, Ayr and Pars from a season with nothing to aim for.

Thank goodness a few things in life remain uncertain. Thank goodness for the play-offs.

And thank goodness most blokes decide to keep shaving after catching their reflection with that foamy moustache in the mirror.

Kilmarnock must scrap to the bitter end regardless of how Hearts fare
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 8, 2013
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