Thursday, August 2, 2018

2018/19 Premiership preview - Hamilton Accies

Hamilton Academical FC logo.svg

LAST SEASON: Tenth, 33pts

NOTABLE INS: Ziggy Gordon (Pogon Siedlce), Sam Kelly (Grimsby Town), Aaron McGowan (Morecambe), Alex Penny (Peterborough United), Aaron Smith (Nottingham Forest), Lennard Sowah (Cracovia), Tom Taiwo (Falkirk), Mason Bloomfield (Norwich City, loan), Adam Philips (Norwich City, loan)

NOTABLE OUTS: Ali Crawford (Doncaster Rovers), Lewis Ferguson (Aberdeen), Darren Jamieson (Arbroath), Danny Redmond (The New Saints), David Templeton (Burton Albion), Kenny Van Der Weg (KSV Roeselare), Charlie Scott (Manchester United, end of loan), Antonio Rojano, Georgios Sarris, Xavier Tomas

LAST SEASON'S BEST XI (Departed players crossed out): Woods, Tomas, Gogic, Sarris, Imrie, Docherty, MacKinnon, Van Der Weg, Crawford, Templeton, Bingham

This will be Hamilton Accies' fifth consecutive season in the Premiership - their longest run in the top flight since the Second World War.

Surprised? You aren't the only one. Every season Accies are tipped for the drop; every year they somehow survive despite being dreadful for large chunks of the season, and too often playing pretty dreadful football...which is not helped by a home pitch where the ball too often resembled the marble in Screwball Scramble (the pitch, by the way, has been replaced this summer).

Weak, relatively disliked, apparently doomed yet always somehow managing to avoid disaster mainly thanks to the incompetence of the opposition; Hamilton are without doubt the Theresa May of Scottish football.

Last season could be seen as an improvement in that they came tenth and avoided a repeat of their 2016/17 playoff against Dundee United, but on the other hand they did so only on goal difference and their total of thirty-three points was two fewer than the previous time around. That does not seem to bode well. Nor does a record of just three wins and ten points from seventeen league games in 2018, followed by defeat to League Two Annan in their opening League Cup group game. Their last away league win was at Ibrox in November 2017.

During Martin Canning's three and a half year tenure it has been easy to quote statistics like those above, with the implication that other clubs have changed manager for a lot less. And yet he is still here, and so are Hamilton.

But surely (and yes, we've said this before) this coming campaign will be the toughest yet. Gone are the two most talented players on last season's roster, David Templeton and the oft-injured Ali Crawford. The team had struggled enough after losing driving force Greg Docherty in January; moving on without the trickiness of Templeton is a scary prospect.

Bringing in replacements is not easy given the club are still getting over being defrauded of a seven figure sum last year - god knows what the consequences of relegation might have been - and it is the wrong time for the much-heralded youth setup to hit a sticky patch. The best of the recent crop, Lewis Ferguson, legged it to Aberdeen this summer; Hamilton's suggestions that the compensation fee should be close to the amount stolen from them in 2017 are somewhat optimistic.

There are seven new faces, and two returning ones - Ziggy Gordon, older and wiser after spells at Partick Thistle and in Poland, and Lennard Sowah who spent a few months here in 2016. If both are still at the same level they were before they left, they will be significant upgrades in the full-back positions, problem areas pretty much since they moved on the first time around.

Tom Taiwo will also be familiar to fans after spending several years up north playing for Hibs and then Falkirk; the fact that he wasn't a regular for a mid-table Championship side at the end of last season suggests he is seen as backup for midfield pitbull Darian MacKinnon, who at nearly 33 remains a master of the dark arts but not one of subtlety (or Panenka penalties).

The other newbies are unknown quantities to those of us who don't follow English lower league or reserve football closely, but Canning's record for finding gems in the bargain basement does not lend itself to encouragement. Aaron McGowan has the best (least-bad?) pedigree with plenty of League Two experience at right-back and could push Gordon into a more central role. Left-sided midfielder Sam Kelly is only a couple of years removed from playing for Port Vale in League One.

As for the others, central defender Alex Penny will see plenty of action early on with Alex Gogic out long-term, while they desperately need Aaron Smith to provide the creative spark they will otherwise sorely lack now Templeton and Crawford have gone.

What Accies really need to be confident of survival though is a striker who will score regularly. Rakish Bingham's purple patch at the start of last season proved to be an aberration and he scored twice after mid-September. Sure he'll run through brick walls but that just isn't enough. The bottom line is that Marios Ogkmpoe - or Ogboe, if you prefer that spelling - hasn't done enough to make anyone care about working out which way his name should actually be spelt. And Antonio Rojano, who the club spent months trying to get a work permit for, has been punted after less than a year. The only other options are Norwich loanee Mason Bloomfield and former English non-league hitman Mickel Miller. None of these guys are going to get into double-figures.

So Accies are in a pretty bad state. They have to be if Dougie Imrie, 35 on the eve of the season, is still considered a first choice. And yet this is the first time in five years that this blogger isn't tipping them to finish bottom - because, again, it seems likely that somebody else will suck even more. But what they really need is for two teams to stink the place out, because surviving a relegation playoff might be a heck of an ask.

THE SQUAD (players born after 1 January 1997 in italics)
Goalkeepers: Ryan Fulton, Gary Woods
Defenders: Alex Gogic, Ziggy Gordon, Aaron McGowan, Scott McMann, Alex Penny, Lennard Sowah, George Stanger, Shaun Want
Midfielders: Ross Cunningham, Ronan Hughes, Dougie Imrie, Ross Jenkins, Sam Kelly, Darren Lyon, Darian MacKinnon, Adam Phillips, Aaron Smith, Tom Taiwo
Forwards: Rakish Bingham, Mason Bloomfield, Steven Boyd, Mickel Miller, Marios Ogkmpoe, Ryan Tierney


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.

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