Hamilton are having a decent season by their standards. Given the resources at their disposal…
After the weekend’s Premiership action, it looks like Hamilton have been dragged back into the relegation mix. A month ago Accies looked fairly safe but six defeats on the bounce have left Martin Canning’s team hovering precariously above the relegation zone.
On Saturday, Hamilton travelled to Firhill knowing that a win would see them move eight points clear of the Jags at the foot of the table. The visitors took the lead and were on course for an important win before Thistle rallied and ultimately won the game 2-1.
Canning will no doubt be worried about the result, but the 36-year-old can at least take some solace from David Templeton’s performance. The former Hearts winger scored an excellent goal to give Accies the lead and sliced the Thistle defence apart time and again, whether that be through mazy dribbles or incisive passing. The performance has been typical of Templeton this season, who has now become Accies’ most important player.
It’s fair to say that Templeton has been enjoying something of a renaissance at New Douglas Park this season after many had written him off. But it’s important to remember just how exciting Templeton was when he first broke onto the Scottish football scene. Aged 16, he broke into the Stenhousemuir first team and his performances soon earned him a move to Hearts, where the winger flourished. Five years later, he sealed a move to Rangers as one of Scottish football’s most exciting prospects. But things didn’t work out at Ibrox, and Templeton was ushered out of the club when his contract expired. He spent a year without a club before Canning took a punt on him in March 2017.
In hindsight, it’s been an excellent decision. Templeton’s contribution to Hamilton has been nothing short of excellent and the forward is now one of the first names on Canning’s teamsheet. This season, he’s picked up seven goals and four assists in the Premiership, making him the club’s top scorer. Going forward, much of Accies’ play goes through Templeton – and with good reason. The forward’s goals – specifically, equalisers and winning goals that Templeton has scored – have directly resulted in an additional ten points for Hamilton this season. To put that another way: without Templeton’s goals, Accies would be dead last in the table with just 20 points.
When we look at Hamilton’s expected goals (xG), Templeton’s importance to the squad becomes even more pronounced. Accies have an overall xG of 31.85, which means Canning should expect a return of around 32 goals for his side’s attacking play. Templeton alone accounts for around a fifth of this, with an individual xG of 6.04. It’s also worth noting that Templeton’s xG is lower than his actual goals scored: simply put, this means he’s taking opportunities that he’d be forgiven for missing.
When compared to his teammates, we can see just how vital Templeton has become to Accies’ fight to avoid relegation. Templeton likes to take games by the scruff of the neck and act as a catalyst for change. No Hamilton player hits more shots on average than the 29-year-old, with around 23% of them hitting the target. Only Marios Ogboe can match Templeton’s goals per 90 minutes ratio in the Hamilton squad, with the two players head and shoulders above their teammates in this regard.
The most impressive aspect of Templeton’s play this season, however, has been his dribbling. Templeton attempts far more dribbles per 90 minutes than any other Hamilton player, with a decent rate of success. The former Rangers player attempts 10.63 dribbles per game on average – one of the highest rates in the Premiership – with a success rate of around 63%. It’s this dribbling skill that has made Templeton undroppable for Canning and it’s no exaggeration to say that Templeton is one of the best in the division at running with the ball.
It’s hard to think of another Premiership club who are so reliant on a single player. Kilmarnock would be far worse off without Kris Boyd’s goals this season, but Steve Clarke at least has a capable replacement in the form of Eamonn Brophy. The same can’t be said of Templeton at Hamilton. The ex-Rangers winger has overtaken the likes of Ali Crawford in his overall contribution to the team and with key players such as Greg Docherty and Michael Devlin departing in January, Templeton has stepped up to the plate when he’s truly been needed. Canning was brave to take a punt on him last year, but now the decision seems very astute. If Accies do beat the drop, it will be thanks to him.