SPL Head-to-Head Records

Most football fans will be able to tell you that a certain opposing side is their “bogey team”, and that they have a great record against another club.  The league table often has little bearing on the identity of these lucky and unlucky opponents.  Here, I’ve taken a look at the results since the start of the SPL in 1998/99 to identify the distribution of points for each side.

The choice of the SPL era is down to convenience, rather than any sort of attempt to rewrite history.  I took me 6 or 7 hours to compile stats on this era, and I simply don’t have enough time to look all the way back to the start of the Scottish top flight.  There are a few online resources full head-to-head records for teams, but these don’t differentiate between top flight and lower tier matches.  If anyone has a complete list of top-flight head-to-head records to hand, please get in touch, because I’d love to do this for the entire history of the top flight.

Hopefully this can still be considered a guide of recent form in each SPL fixture.

Total Points

This chart shows the total number of SPL points won by each team against each other opponent.  The first row shows the number of points won by Aberdeen against each other team – they have picked up 20 points against Celtic, 30 points against Dundee and so on.  Blank entries indicate two sides which have not met in the SPL.

The highest value in this table is the 125 points which Celtic have earned against Aberdeen.  Gretna and Partick Thistle are the only sides with multiple zeroes in their rows – which reflects the success of their short stays in the SPL.  Hamilton didn’t pick any points up against Rangers, but did manage a draw with Celtic last season.

As interesting as this table may be, it is flawed because it doesn’t take into account the number of times each pair of sides have met.  Motherwell have picked up more points against Celtic than against Hamilton, but that is because they have met Celtic 49 times, and Hamilton 10 times.  It is more informative to look at the number of points earned per game against each opponent.

Points per Game

This table gives a clearer reflection of the most one-sided matches in SPL history.  There have been 8 fixtures where one of the teams have a 100% record, and 5 of those involved Gretna.  Hibs, Inverness and Motherwell are the only non-OF sides to have a 100% record against another side – all against Gretna.  Any record of 2 points per game or more is fairly impressive, while anything less than 1 point per game suggests a poor record.

It can be difficult to get your head around so many, numbers, so I have also produced a graph with a colour scale.  The brightest yellow indicates 0 points per game, while the bright red is 3 points per game.  Most head-to-head duels will lie somewhere between these extremes, as indicated by the linear colour scale.

Best and Worst Opponents

The table below shows the best and worst opponents for each side in terms of points earned per game.  Unsurprisingly, Celtic or Rangers are the worst opponents for each side, so I have also identified the worst opponents when the Old Firm sides are excluded.  Apart from Rangers, the biggest thorn in Celtic’s side has been Hearts, who also feature heavily as the worst non-OF opponents for many sides.  If you exclude Celtic, then Rangers have been caused most trouble by Inverness.  Apart from the special cases of Rangers and Celtic, there are two other sides in the unfortunate position of having their local rivals as their worst opponents, with Dunfermline struggling against Falkirk and Hibs against Hearts.

It is interesting to note that three of the SPL’s ever-presents, Dundee Utd, Killie and Motherwell, have struggled against clubs whose visits to the SPL were fairly brief.  Dundee United finished 5th in Gretna’s only season in the SPL, but managed to lose 2 of their 3 matches against the Borders side. Hamilton’s stay in the SPL coincided with one of Killie’s poorest periods since their promotion in the early 90s, and indeed Killie didn’t record a single win at New Douglas Park.  Partick Thistle’s two seasons in the league were during Motherwell’s financial troubles, and the Firhill side took advantage more than most.

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About SPLstats
Providing statistics and trivia about Scottish football. Main focus is the SPL, but all Scottish football will be covered. Not affiliated to the SPL.

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