Today the SPFL released the full fixture list for the forthcoming season. Each division’s schedule…
There are a few recurring themes in the modern, Scottish football season that have become something of a tradition. Celtic fans will call Rangers “Sevco”, Neil Lennon will storm off in a huff at least once this season, Sky Sports will continue to call the top division the “SPL” and just about everyone will predict that this is the year plucky Hamilton get relegated.
Indeed, it’s something of a cliche for the Scottish media to approach the coming season and when their previews turn to Hamilton, they simply let out a slight sigh and suggest Martin Canning may have his work cut out for him this campaign.
Unfortunately, this preview is almost certainly going to follow suit. However, let us try and explain with some data and reasonable arguments as to why the Accies may find themselves in a spot of bother this season.
Since they avoided relegation, most Hamilton fans may suggest not a lot did go entirely wrong last season but we can’t deny that for the most part, the New Douglas Park club struggled in the Premiership from August to May. Canning’s side finished above the relegation play-off spot on goal difference and it’s that kind of slender margin which may cause them to finish a position or two lower this time around.
The club only managed to pick up 15 points from 17 home games last season and while we’d usually see the Accies go on a hot streak of 5-10 games, winning a vital amount of points to keep them in mid-table in previous campaigns, that never really happened last time around. There’s no doubt that Canning did a tremendous job to keep them in the division last season, but it seemed as though he squeezed every ounce of effort out of his squad and whether he can do it again is another matter entirely.
As is often the case for Hamilton, a number of notable faces have left the club this season and it will be up to Canning to prove that the relatively unknown players he has brought in by the bucket load are up to the task of replacing them.
However, this is yet again another huge task for the Hamilton manager. Not only has he lost Ali Crawford and Lewis Ferguson but he will also have to contend with replacing David Templeton too. The former Hearts forward was Hamilton’s top goalscorer last season and if not for his 10 goals and six assists the club would almost certainly be in the Scottish Championship right now.
Notable first team players like central defenders Georgios Sarris and Xavier Tomas will also need replacing at the heart of Hamilton’s defence, along with attacking midfielder Daniel Redmond and striker Antonio Rojano. Essentially, Canning has holes all over his squad that desperately need to be filled quickly.
With just under one month of the Scottish transfer window still to go, there’s plenty of time for Canning and his backroom staff to find new recruits for the coming season, but as things stand there isn’t a whole lot to be optimistic about.
Tom Taiwo from Falkirk has been signed and thrown straight into Canning’s midfield, while fellow new signing Ziggy Gordon has taken up his usual position at right back. However, other new faces like Lennard Sowah, Aaron Smith, Aaron McGowan and Mason Bloomfield have only made bit-part appearances in the club’s preliminary League Cup games.
Fans will have every right to be a little worried that none of those players look like replacements for Templeton or Crawford, which may ultimately be the deciding factor over whether or not the club can stay in the top division this season.
Although Hamilton managed to pick up victories over Berwick Rangers and Airdrie in the League Cup, the result that should trouble fans is perhaps the clash against Livingston, in which the recently-promoted team eventually won the game on penalties.
Sure, it was essentially no more than a pre-season match, but it did show to some degree that the least-equipped team in the Premiership this season are a match for Hamilton and that any prior assumptions that the Accies were a step above Livi or indeed St Mirren were completely incorrect.
The quality of opposition in the top division has probably never been so high in Canning’s time at the club and as such, it would take another miracle for Hamilton to dance through the coming challenges and somehow find themselves a few points above certain relegation. But this club have been relying on Canning to pull miracles out of the bag for some time now and at some point that isn’t going to keep on working. Eleventh place has Hamilton’s name on it and it’s up to them to prove us all wrong… again.