PREDICTED LEAGUE FINISH: Twelfth
LAST SEASON: 7th, 53pts
NOTABLE INS: Antons Kurakins (Ventspils), Gramosz Kurtaj (Banik Most), Alan Martin (Clyde), Christian Nade (Raith Rovers), Chris Turner (Dumbarton), Carlton Morris (Norwich City, loan)
NOTABLE OUTS: Blair Currie (Annan Athletic), Nigel Hasselbaink (Excelsior), Stephen Hendrie (West Ham United, £1m), Liam Lynch (Limerick), Jon Routledge (Dumbarton), Nico Sumsky (Airdrieonians, loan), Jason Scotland
LAST SEASON'S BEST XI (departed players crossed out): McGovern, Gordon, Devlin, Garcia Tena,
Last season, everyone who predicted that Accies would go down (which was pretty much everyone) was left to consume varying types of headgear, as they instead shot to the top end of the table. It was that great start that kept them up; the January departures of player-boss Alex Neil and top scorers Tony Andreu and Mickael Antoine-Curier coincided with a slide so great that it cost them a top six position and raised legitimate concerns over Martin Canning's suitability to replace Neil.
After the split, there were some green shoots of recovery evident though, which gave the impression that the new manager was beginning to reach the peak of the steep learning curve.
Then he only went and signed Christian Nade!
Canning's transfer dealings thus far have been very risky. In an era where clubs have succeeded either by finding young gems in the youth academy or lower league teams (Hamilton themselves would be a good example) or by picking up decent English players on the cheap, he has instead brought in a number of foreign players. That's not to say they won't be any good - left-back Antons Kurakins is a Latvian international and should adequately replace the departed Stephen Hendrie - but many an unknown foreign player has come to Scotland and only a few have made the impact that Tony Andreu have. Many more have ended up on the scrapheap. It'll be interesting to see which category German midfielder Gramosz Kurtaj (signed from the Czech second division) and Spanish striker Salva Chamorro (from the Spanish third division) fall into.
Nade, of course, has been around the block - albeit very slowly and having stopped halfway round to lean on a wall for a wee breather. The giant forward did okay last year...for Raith Rovers. Hardly a standout in our second tier, it would be foolish to expect him to be anything other than an option off the bench - he could certainly come on to either rough up defenders, or to eat them. In fact, the most intriguing of the newcomers is powerful striker Carlton Morris, sent up on loan by Alex Neil. He may not be the last young Canary to come to New Douglas Park, and may be their best hope for goals. Whoever does play up top will have plenty of support, for the Accies philosophy is to get the ball forward quickly and to be unafraid of getting the likes of Ali Crawford and Dougie Imrie into dangerous areas.
It makes for open matches, and when it goes wrong it can leave the back line horrendously exposed. Crawford is a livewire in the final third, but his tendency to neglect his defensive duties was exploited many a time. Holding midfielder Grant Gillespie deserves sympathy for being constantly unprotected, and for having to constantly worry that Darian McKinnon will pick a fight with an opponent, or a teammate, or possibly himself.
At the other end of the pitch, Hamilton need to be tighter than they were last season. A fully-fit Ziggy Gordon at right-back will help, but the centre of the defence was a real point of weakness; Canning will surely concentrate on coaching duties, and with Mikey Devlin recovering from injury it looks like Lurch-a-like Lucas and Jesus Garcia Tena - comfortable in possession but woeful positionally - will start the season as first choices. That will have opposing forwards licking their lips. Michael McGovern was excellent in goal last season, but then he got plenty of practice.
I worry that Accies are not as strong as they were this time last year, and that they haven't got as capable a leader. Yup, I got egg on my face last year by tipping them for the drop, but I'm risking it again this year. Even a stopped clock is correct sometimes, right?
THE SQUAD (players born after 1 January 1994 in italics)
Goalkeepers: Darren Hill, Alan Martin, Michael McGovern
Defenders: Martin Canning, Michael Devlin, Jesus Garcia Tena, Ziggy Gordon, Antons Kurakins, Lucas, Kieran MacDonald, Scott McMann, Craig Watson
Midfielders: Ali Crawford, Greg Docherty, Grant Gillespie, Dougie Imrie, Gramoz Kurtaj, Louis Longridge, Darren Lyon, Darian McKinnon, Daniel Redmond
Forwards: Steven Boyd, Eamonn Brophy, Salva Chamorro, Carlton Morris, Christian Nade, Andy Ryan
THE BEST XI?
Lawrie Spence (LS) has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly.