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Jul 18, 2011

Sticking to what they know

There's been a strange sense of familiarity in some of the Scottish Premier League signings during the close season. While some sceptics might have branded some of the summer deals unimaginative, it's clear many teams have been happy to play safe rather than gamble this year.

There might be signs of an economic revival sparking reports the nation is beginning to rise out of recession, but the bank balances of football clubs have clearly taken a battering during that recovery.

The knock-on effect is glaringly obvious, with numerous managers opting to go down the tried and tested avenue in their recruitment campaigns, and who can really blame them?

Hearts, who have stolen a march on their rivals in the signing stakes, are clearly a case in point. Jim Jefferies set his stall out early by landing four seasoned professionals as he attempts to close the gap on the Old Firm clubs.

He's raided former club Kilmarnock for trusted lieutenants Jamie Hamill and Medhi Taouil to add strength and experience to his squad. As he knows the pair extremely well after working with them at Rugby Park, he will view them as low-risk signings.

He's also pounced for John Sutton from Motherwell as a question mark continues to hang over Kevin Kyle's long-term fitness, and Jefferies will have followed the powerful striker's progress since he arrived in Scotland with St Mirren.

Danny Grainger also arrived from St Johnstone to provide cover for left-back Lee Wallace, who has been courted by Rangers.

In fact, Rangers manager Ally McCoist, facing up to his first full season in charge on his own, has also been adopting a safety first approach in the transfer market. He has failed with offers for Wallace as well as Dundee United's David Goodwillie. A bid to bring Carlos Cuellar back to Ibrox has also stalled, while he hopes to sign Kenny Miller from Bursaspor just months after he moved on.

The only new Rangers arrival to date is that of Spanish midfielder Juan Manuel Ortiz from Almeria.

Celtic, who rewarded Neil Lennon with a new long term contract, have also remained relatively low key during the close season. Lennon has swooped for Adam Matthews from Cardiff City, Nottingham Forest's Kelvin Wilson and Victor Wanyama from Germinal Beerschot.

Hibs, who are still battling to hold on to manager Colin Calderwood, have also decided it makes better economic sense to target former players. They have re-signed former favourites Ivan Sproule and Garry O'Connor while Sean O'Hanlon also moves north from MK Dons.

Aberdeen boss Craig Brown, who lost Chris Maguire to Derby County in the summer, is yet another manager to repeat the trend sweeping the Scottish game. He's landed Chris Clark who left Pittodrie three years ago for Plymouth and will be expected to bolster the Reds midfield.

Brown has also added Youl Mawene and Isaac Osbourne, two players he knows well from his days managing in England. Goalkeeper David Gonzalez has been brought in on loan from Manchester City.

Aberdeen's New Firm rivals Dundee United have also followed suit by landing Willo Flood from Middlesbrough. Flood was previously on loan at Tannadice between 2007 and 2009 so will need no introduction to the Arabs faithful. Peter Houston has also brought in John Rankin after he was released by Hibs and Gary McKay-Stevens who was a free agent.

St Johnstone, who have managed to retain boss Derek McInnes, welcome Callum Davidson to McDiarmid Park after leaving for Blackburn Rovers 13 years ago. He's joined in Perth by David Robertson from Dundee United, Dundee's Sean Higgins, Frazer Wright from Kilmarnock, David McCracken who was with Brentford last term and Carl Finnigan who was previously with Falkirk.

Kilmarnock, who finished fifth last term, have lost several experienced players during the close season. Boss Kenny Shiels has brought in Danny Racchi from York, Paul Heffernan from Sheffield Wednesday and Patrick Ada from Crewe.

Gary Harkins joins from Dundee along with Zdenek Kroca from Luton Town and Danny Buijs from Dutch outfit ADO Den Haag.

Inverness Caley, one of the surprise packages last season, lost star striker Adam Rooney to Birmingham during the close season, but Terry Butcher has been able to swoop for Greg Tansey from Stockport, Raith Rovers hitman Gregory Tade, Andrew Shinnie from Rangers and Josh Meekings, who moves to the Highlands from Ipswich among others.

Motherwell manager Stuart McCall has moved for Michael Higdon from St Mirren as a direct replacement for John Sutton and he's joined at Fir Park by Nicky Law (Rotherham) and Nicky Devlin from Dumbarton.

St Mirren, desperate to avoid another relegation battle, have added experience to their ranks with boss Danny Lennon bagging former Scotland internationals Steven Thompson and Gary Teale.

Nigel Hasselbaink will also add further firepower to the Buddies after joining from Hamilton while Paul McGowan and Graham Carey have signed from Celtic. Graeme Smith is also now with the Saints moving on from St Johnstone.

Dunfermline, who return to the SPL, also welcom back goalkeeper Paul Gallacher to East End Park following two years at St Mirren. He's joined at the Pars by Paul Burns (Queen of the South), Kevin Rutkiewicz (St Johnstone), Paddy Boyle (Partick Thistle), Andy Barrowman (Ross County), John Potter (St Mirren), Jason Thomson (Hearts, loan).

Let's just hope the returning SPL heroes can shine because they'll all definitely be under the spotlight.

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