The fourth season of the SPFL Development League is now in the history books and it was a great advert for the youth game in this country.
Ultimately it was Hibernian who would lift the league title at the end of the season and rightfully so. The Hibees finished the season six points ahead of their nearest challengers Dundee, winning 19 games in the process, losing just five.
Their title win was secured on the 17th of April after Dundee were unable to take the league to the final game of the season, losing their match against Hearts to hand the trophy to the other Edinburgh side.
This season saw reduced participation in the league. Rangers withdrew from the competition in favour of playing in glamour friendlies against youth teams from across Europe, including Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Benfica, whilst Dunfermline Athletic and Inverness Caledonian Thistle withdrew in preparation for the new reserve league to be set up as per the proposals made under ‘Project Brave.’
The season saw a tremendous display of youth talent from every club in the league, so let’s review each side’s campaign in the SPFL Development League.
Last Season: 4th
This Season: 1st
Hibernian were worthy winners of the league and will have a number of players to thank for their success. One key name will be striker Oli Shaw, who has broken into the first team as of late and topped the Development League scoring charts for the second season in a row.
Last Season: 15th
This Season: 2nd
The Dee will be disappointed that they couldn’t end the season on a high but they will be proud of what they achieved this season. A vast improvement on last season and a few players have made the step into the first team including Kerr Waddell, Matthew Henvey and Cedwyn Scott.
Last Season: 11th
This Season: 3rd
Another team that made a vast improvement from last season was Hearts. The Tynecastle side have been making a habit of nurturing young talent for their first team and made a late surge to capture third place.
Last Season: 9th
This Season: 4th
Key defeats towards the end of the season ended up derailing the Dons’ title charge, namely against Dundee and Hibernian and eventually ended up 12 points of the pace. A little disappointing considering the Pittodrie side made a great start to the season and had the potential to really challenge at the top. Also made the SFA Youth Cup Final but lost to Hibs at Hampden.
Last Season: 5th
This Season: 5th
Another good season for the Well. No improvement in terms of league position but have picked up some very impressive results. A league double against Celtic is no easy feat as well, but was achieved by the Lanarkshire side.
Last Season: 3rd
This Season: 6th
Celtic began this season on the back foot, having to play a number of games in the Youth Champions League and quickly needed to get up to speed. Unfortunately, while they put in many commendable performances, the fixture list was always against them and they underperformed.
Last Season: 1st
This Season: 7th
Last season was a massive success for the highland side but less can be said for this campaign. The Dingwall side finished 26 points worse off from last season. Of course it must be mentioned that they have played six fewer games this season but considering last season’s title win many would have been hoping that County would put up another title challenge.
Last Season: 2nd
This Season: 8th
Hamilton were made to pay for a very slow start to the season but eventually managed to save themselves a respectable mid-table spot. Accies have always placed a very heavy emphasis on youth development and we will perhaps see some of the players used in this campaign in the Scottish Premiership next season.
Last Season: 14th
This Season: 9th
A minor improvement from the tangerine side of the City of Discovery. They finished two points worse off from last season but also played six fewer matches so have definitely made strides forward in terms of youth development.
Last Season: 13th
This Season: 10th
The Buddies are another team that like to put an emphasis on youth development, with the likes of Kenny McLean, John McGinn, Stephan Mallan and Lewis Morgan coming through the academy. Minor improvement from last season but will be hoping for better.
Last Season: 17th
This Season: 11th
St Johnstone endured a difficult campaign last season and only marginally improved this time around. They managed to secure seven wins this season, two more than the previous campaign but many with an allegiance to the Perthshire side would have been hoping for a drastic improvement on last time.
Last Season: 8th
This Season: 12th
The Jags threatened to break into the top five last season, but this season struggled to stay clear of bottom spot. Definitely not a season to remember for the Glasgow side.
Last Season: 12th
This Season: 13th
Killie had a better time in the youth cup than they did in the league this season. No team can really recall a successful season after finishing second from bottom, but the Ayrshire team did manage to make the semi-finals of the youth cup where they were knocked out by Aberdeen.
Last Season: 7th
This Season: 14th
The Bairns really struggled in the Development League this season and have the unwanted moniker of finishing last, losing 17 games and winning just five. After the club’s decision to withdraw funding for the Forth Valley Academy, it will surely be a while until things stabilise.