Review of last season – Hamilton managed to achieve promotion to the Premiership in dramatic fashion against Hibernian in the playoffs. Having lost out on the Championship title in the last few weeks of the season it took a penalty shoot-out at Easter Road to give Hamilton the victory that ended their three year absence from the top flight. Of course it could have been much simpler if Accies did what they needed to do in the weeks previous. They were always in the hunt for the Championship title last season and were top on several occasions but they transpired to throw it away in the final few fixtures. Hamilton were a tough team to beat last season, picking up important wins when they needed them. They scored more goals than any other side in the Championship and the goalscoring prowess of players like James Keatings, Anthony Andreu and Mickaël Antoine-Curier ensured that Hamilton were always in the hunt for promotion.
Players in – Dougie Imrie (Winger/Forward, Greenock Morton), Michael McGovern (Goalkeeper, Falkirk), Danny Redmond (Midfielder, Wigan Athletic), Darren Hill (Goalkeeper, Forfar Athletic), Kieran MacDonald (Defender, Clyde), Jack Simpson (Midfielder, Hearts)
Players out – Kevin Cuthbert (Raith Rovers), James Keatings (Hearts), Lee Kilday (Greenock Morton) Craig Johnston (Free), Paul George (End of Loan, Celtic).
What they still need – Hamilton have kept almost their entire first team squad together and have added well to the areas that needed strengthening. Despite the squad looking settled there is possibly still a need to add a solid spine to the team. An experienced central defender and holding midfielder would add strength to the Hamilton squad and ensure that the younger players in the team have experience around them. Hamilton also need something as an alternative to the strikers they currently have. They have options upfront but the strikers they have are not the quickest so a striker with some pace would be a good addition.
Expectations this season – Hamilton will have one goal this year. Make sure that at the start of next season they can still call themselves a Premiership team. From the minute the season starts it will be a case of every point counts. Grinding out results and trying to beat the teams in and around them will be a priority so Hamilton must aim to become a team who are hard to beat and difficult to score against. If Hamilton can survive this season then they can start to look ahead beyond this year.
Key player – Teams that will be under pressure to survive need a very good goalkeeper and in Michael McGovern Hamilton have signed one. Ask anybody who has watched Championship football over the past few seasons and they will tell you that McGovern is an excellent goalkeeper that deserves to be playing at a higher level. He is a very solid and experienced player that will be called upon heavily most weeks. A good goalkeeper can make the difference in any team but more so with teams who may be facing a relegation fight.
Young player to look out for – Hamilton have one of the best youth setups in Scottish football. They have consistently performed well at U20s level for a number of years and continually produce exciting young talent. A large percentage of the Hamilton first team squad are graduates from the youths and players like Stephen Hendrie, Michael Devlin, Grant Gillespie and Ali Crawford will be looking forward to testing themselves at Premiership level. One player stands out though. Ziggy Gordon has been a regular for Hamilton for the last two seasons and at 21 is already developing into a very good right-back. He has a very big future ahead of him and is a well rounded defender that is versatile enough to play across the back four. Gordon has been linked with a move away from Hamilton but for the time being at least looks set to stay with Accies. He should do very well for them this season.
Opinion on Hamilton – Hamilton have taken a very measured approach to their planning for the season ahead. Often we see newly promoted teams overhaul their squad completely in preparation for the new campaign but Alex Neil has kept faith in his team whilst adding a few additions that will help balance the squad. Hamilton’s young players will be exciting to watch this year and in Anthony Andreu they have a very talented playmaker. For all of Hamilton’s exciting young players there is still an element of worry that if the young players begin to dip in form then Hamilton might struggle. Young footballers can suffer very quickly from loss of form and confidence and in a season where you would expect Hamilton to be up against it this might be something that takes it toll. The other worry is that if Hamilton experience any injuries then there is little left in the way of experienced options available to them. This Hamilton side don’t have much Premiership experience and the worry is that if things begin to go wrong then it could be a very difficult season for them.
Prediction for this season – 12th (sorry)