Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Accies spiralling out of control

Isn't it funny how I pay far less attention to the SPL's relegation battle now Inverness are not involved? Who'd have thought it?

Certainly, I'm sure that, the last time I looked, there were five teams looking nervous, plus Hearts, who had such a poor start to the season that you would think Stephen Frail was still in charge. Now, as we enter the latter stages of the season, the list of candidates for the drop is getting thinner. I'm delighted that St. Johnstone look to have enough on the board to guarantee their survival. The Perth side are finally getting their reward for being frugal after they were last demoted from the top tier - Derek McInnes is a talented young manager with a solid squad consisting of enough quality, experience and depth. I pointed out last year that Kilmarnock had been stagnating under Jim Jefferies, and a fresh start with Tangoman Jimmy Calderwood, plus some bright loan signings (Scott Severin and Chris Maguire) mean it is no surprise that they are rapidly heading in the direction of mid-table mediocrity.

So, then there was three.

It's no surprise that Hamilton, St. Mirren and Falkirk are in the mix. Again. All three were stuck in the battle with Inverness last season, and the latter two could hardly consider themselves to be stronger sides this time around. Everyone has been screwed by the Setanta fiasco, but both teams were already rumoured to have financial issues. St. Mirren have been in this position every February for the last few seasons, and Gus McPherson has, so far, been able to get his side to grind out points when it counts, late in the season. Last year, Andy Dorman hit form at the critical time, if he, or someone else does the same, they might escape oblivion again.

Predicting the future of Falkirk, meanwhile, is a tricky business, especially now they are under new management. I'm not convinced by the appointment of Big Elvis - is a relegation dogfight the right time to blood a complete novice? That said, Pressley conjured up a home win over ailing Aberdeen at the weekend, and he might end up repeating the feats of another former international centre-half turned manager - Richard Gough became Livi boss in similar circumstances and steered them to safety.

But if Falkirk are tough to predict, then that makes Hamilton as easy as picking the right number on a roulette table.

39 players. That is the number of men who have turned out in Hamilton colours this season. In 25 SPL games. If Hamilton have financial problems, it will be because they spend too much money on oiling the revolving door - already nine men signed in the last six months by Billy Reid have left - including seasoned SPL players like Guillaume Beuzelin and Gary Mason. The transfer window itself saw another six recruits - only one, Dougie Imrie, was signed for cash, whilst two (Brian Easton and Joel Thomas) return on loan after only leaving New Douglas Park for England in the summer. The chopping and changing is just astounding - the team every week seems to be goalkeeper Tomas Cerny, centre-back Martin Canning, midfielders Simon Mensing and James MacArthur, and Marco Paixao and (when fit) Mickael Antoine-Curier up front, plus a never-ending rotation of other players.

Reid has a propensity for signing players (presumably on short-term deals), giving them a few games and then dumping them - this is what happened to Beuzelin and Mason, and might well happen to the likes of Stuart Elliott, the former Motherwell and Northern Ireland midfielder who appears to have slipped out of first team contention within a month. Former ICT defender Richard Hastings is a case in point. An undisputed regular for the first half of the season, he appears to have sunk without trace since then.

The turnover of manpower is simply staggering - and presumably only affordable by giving short-term deals and through the big money sale of starlet James McCarthy last summer. But my probably inaccurate research has Hamilton having signed 23 players (plus eight loanees) since promotion in June 2008. 12 of them are still there...but that includes the six who only arrived since the turn of the year.

How on earth do you build team spirit and organization on that?

Billy Reid certainly has a bizarre way of operating. But it doesn't appear to be working well just now - 10 SPL games without a win are testament to that. Granted, St. Mirren are also in lousy form. and it will be interesting to see how long the Steven Pressley honeymoon lasts. But Hamilton Academical are in a bit of a pickle.


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