May 25th, 2014 is a day that will live long in the memories of Hamilton fans, and maybe even some Hibs fans, who believe that the play-off defeat was the best thing that ever happened to their club. Just a couple of days before this special day, Accies were on the end of a 2-0 defeat at home in the first leg as Jason Cummings brace put the Edinburgh side in the driving seat. The Accies loyal set, of to the capital in more hope than expectation and the rest is history.
I still remember the day off by heart and it’s by far one of the best moments during my years of supporting Hamilton. I remember the 93rd winner. Running down the stairwell to celebrate with Tony and others. Oh, and the penalty shoot-out, that was even worse. I was shaking like a leaf and even watching the highlights on TV last month, still thought Jason Scotland was going to miss. The scenes at The Vaults were special as well and I’ve not seen anything like it since.
In this feature, I hope to bring back some memories with those 18 players’ whose hard work and single minded attitude brought us back to the top-flight of Scottish football where we belong.
Player/Manager- Alex Neil
Alex Neil, Accies legend and one of my favourite players growing up. Some of the memories he gave us are ones Hamilton fans will cherish forever. Neil joined us from Mansfield in 2005 and went on to make over 200 appearances at the club as a player, playing in the 2005 Scottish Challenge Cup final defeat against St Mirren and also scored in the game away at Alloa which helped us reach the Scottish Cup Quarter-Finals. In 2008, we got promoted to the Scottish Premier League for the first time in 20 years and Alex was a key member of that squad playing 30 games during that season.
Following the departure of Billy Reid in 2013, Neil was appointed as player-manager on a interim basis before it turned permanent in May. In 2014, we all know what happened, we narrowly missed out on automatic promotion as we bottled it against Dumbarton. Alex was also sent off on that occasion. We unbelievably beat Morton 10-2 on the final game of the season, but it wasn’t enough and we were destined for the play-offs, but as always, we done it the hard way.
Who remembers the start of the first season back in the SPL? We were absolutely flying and I genuinely believe we would have got European football that season if Alex knocked back Norwich, however you can’t blame him for moving on bigger and better things. We were top by Christmas and had just beaten Celtic at Parkhead for the first time in 76 years.
Since leaving Accies 2015, Alex has deservedly been recognised for the fantastic manager that he is and has went on guide Norwich back to Premier League via the play-off’s and is now the current manager of Preston North End, where he will undoubtedly be looking to re-produce the theme.
Kevin joined us on a one-year deal in July 2012 following his release from Ayr United. He played a huge part in the play-off win as he saved two penalties from both Kevin Thompson and Jason Cummings. Following his departure from Accies, he moved to Raith Rovers in the Championship at the time and went on to play as a regular there, but unfortunately retired in 2018 following a persistent groin injury. I believe he is still part of the management team at Starks Park.
Another player, who is a well-known face inside New Douglas Park is Ziggy Gordon. He has made over 150 appearances and is one of many fantastic players to have come through our successful youth academy. He was named as Hamilton’s player of the year for 2012-13 and was selected as part of the 2013-14 PFA Championship Player of The Year Squad. In January 2016, we rejected a bid from Polish side Jagiellonia Białystok, but at the end of the season he left to join Partick Thistle. He did eventually get his move to Jagiellonia, but it didn’t work out the way he would have hoped. His move was instead to the Romanian side Dinamo Bucharest, which was cancelled following a change of managers.
Ziggy returned for one year following the expiry of his contract, playing in a centre-back role and scored arguably one of the most important goals of the season with a goal against St Johnstone on the last day of the season, securing another season in the top-fight.
He left to join Central Coast Mariners in the Australian A-League, where he still plays at the moment.
Martin Canning is another Accies player who’s been a huge part of Accies success since his arrival. He joined us from Hibs, as he lost his place to Souleymane Bamba, who’s went on to have a successful career.
Following Alex Neil’s departure in 2015, Canzo was appointed as interim manager before being announced as permanent manager soon after. Under Martin Canning, we survived a play-off final against Dundee United in 2016/17 before finishing 10th in the 2017/18 season. The majority of fans were not a fan of Canning’s style of football and the first-half of the 18/19 season was very heated between fans and the board, and it led to Martin calling time on his Accies career as he left by mutual consent.
Even if you weren’t a fan of Martin’s football as a manager, you have to remember everything he done for Hamilton during his 11-year reign and on his day he was a fantastic defender.
After leaving Accies, Martin spend some time coaching at some fantastic clubs around Europe and is currently the head of coaching at North Kelvin United. I’m sure it won’t be long till the 38-year-old is back in management.
This guy had one of the best left-foots that I’ve ever seen. He was a centre-back but could probably play up-front as a target man if he wanted to. He was a brilliant defender, who I thought was pushed out the club a bit too quickly due to his persistent injury problems.
He made over 50 appearances for us and scored six goals. Garcia-Tena moved onto Stenhousemuir after Accies and I believe he is actually without a club at the moment. He is definitely one of the best free-kick takers I’ve ever seen at the club. If Rangers fans think Borna Barisic is a good free-kick taker, have a look at this👇🏼
Another player who’s spent the majority of his career at Hamilton is Grant Gillespie, making well over 200 appearances after coming through the youth ranks. He was a versatile player throughout his days playing at both left and right-back and also in midfield. He left Hamilton in 2018 and signed a short-term deal with Dundee United, but was released at the end of the season. Following his departure from the Arabs, he went on to have spells at Raith Rovers, Derry City and is now on-loan at Ayr United.
John has had four different spells at Hamilton throughout his career so far. He joined on loan from Wigan, before signing permanently. He then left to join Stockport and re-joined on loan before finally once again joining permanently. The Welshman made over 100 appearances for Accies and is currently plying his trade in his homeland with The New Saints. Infact, Routledge has played in some of the world’s biggest footballing competitions such as in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League, playing against the likes of FC Midtjylland, FC Copenhagen, and Ludogorets.
The transformation of Darian MacKinnon is something brilliant and for players in junior football at the moment, it just goes to show that you can make it to the top-flight of Scottish football. He joined from Clydebank and went on to be an Accies captain and legend who fought for the badge week in week out. He was one of those guys, that if you had him at your club you love him, but rivals’ fans dislike him. Again, like a couple of players in this squad, Daz made over 200 appearances for Accies during his seven years at the club and I believe would be one of the first names on the team sheet.
It’s clear that Dazzler has aspirations to be a coach, and he certainly made a good start to life in the dug-out as himself and Dougie Imrie guided the U19’s squad to the title back in 2018 which led to qualification to the UEFA Youth League, a memory I will remember personally. Unfortunately, in the last year, Daz has fell away rapidly and was released in January this year. He spent a short spell with Partick Thistle, but was released and is now linked with a move back to junior football.
Is Tony Andreu one of the best free signings that Accies have made in the last decade? Yes, he probably is. He joined from Livingston in the 2013/14 transfer and that season in the Championship he performed unbelievably, and made himself a fans favourite, scoring 15 goals during the league campaign, and of course, scored that 90+3-minute leveller in this fixture.
Tony was pinched by Alex Neil for 1million soon after joining the Norfolk side. He re-joined the club on loan from Coventry for the 2018/19 season, but unfortunately, he was a shadow of his former self. However, a special mention must go to the Frenchman who scored another memorable goal at Dens Park to send our bitter rivals Dundee down.
After leaving Hamilton, Tony made the decision to join Jim Goodwin’s St Mirren side, on a permanent basis, causing a bit of unrest between the fans. He made 28 appearances, scoring two goals, and providing six assists. Last week, he was released by the Buddies and is current a free agent.
Longridge is another player who had a lengthy spell at New Douglas Park, spending six years at the club. He joined in 2012 from Bo’ness United and went on to make 165 appearances for Accies. He moved to Falkirk on an emergency loan in 2018 and that move was made permanent at the end of the season. His next chapter was at rivals Dunfermline where the joined with his brother Jackson.
He re-joined The Bairns in League One this season, making 28 appearances in all competitions, scoring six goals, and proving six assists also. Longridge’s contract has ran out at Falkirk and it looks as if Louis is a free agent at the moment as Falkirk haven’t mentioned anything about a new deal.
Is Ali Crawford, one of Accies most underrated players in the last decade? The midfielder joined the club as a teenager after being told by Hearts that he was “to small” to play football. Since, he went on to make 271 appearances for Accies scoring 39 goals and providing 65 assists. The 28-year-old left the club at the end of the 2017-18 season admitting that his desire to move down to England for the next chapter of his career.
He secured a mouth to League One side, where he spent just over a year. He made 44 appearances for the South Yorkshire side, scoring three goals. Infact, I actually went to one of his game at the Keepmoat Stadium and he scored an absolute peach of a free kick. After departing from Donny, he moved to Bolton on a one-year deal, joining them during one of the most difficult years the club have ever went through as financial issues off the pitch were taking its toll. However, Crawford made 14 appearances all in, scoring two goals and providing five assists. He is out of contract on the 30th of June and I wonder if he is considering a return to Scotland as that is where is currently spending his lockdown.
What a career the now retired Jason Scotland had, playing in the English Premiership, Championship, League One and the FA Cup, before deciding to come up to Scotland. Oh, and yes, he was a Trinidad and Tobago internationalist as well. A clinical goal scorer, who certainly knew where the back of the net was.
The striker played for some brilliant clubs down in England with the likes of Swansea, Barnsley, Ipswich, and Wigan before moving up to Scotland to play for Accies. He spent a couple of seasons with us and got us off to a flyer in the second leg at Easter Road on that very special day. The spin, turn and finish was phenomenal.
He was also a striker’s coach at the club during the days of Martin Canning and left the club along with Canzo last year.
It must be said that the only bad thing that Jason Scotland ever did for Accies was recommending to sign Richard Roy from Defence Force.
Blair was a keeper who didn’t really get much game time at Accies, only making seven appearances in all competitions. He did come on as a substitute in that memorable helicopter Saturday fixture where we beat Morton 10-2.
The goalkeeper understandably moved on to get more first team football and has found that down the divisions at Annan Athletic, Clyde and is now at Stirling Albion.
Who would have thought that a current Scottish international would have been sat on the bench, during one of Hamilton’s historic moments? At the time Devlin couldn’t get in the team due the brilliant partnership of Canning and Garcia-Tena.
Michael was seriously unfortunate with injuries during his time at Accies, but still managed to make 148 appearances during his stay. He was appointed as the club’s captain in 2016 before suffering a horrible knee injury on the last day of the regular season which meant he missed our play-off against Dundee United.
Unfortunately, the injury was just about the last we saw of the defender as he made the move to Aberdeen for an undisclosed fee in the January transfer window of 2018.
Since his career’s went only one way and that’s up, making his debut for the Dons against Burnley in the Europa League as well as playing in the away leg at Turf Moor. The move to Pittodrie certainly has worked a treat for the 26-year-old as he has been called up to the Scottish national team, making his first start against Russia in the EURO 2020 qualifiers, a day that probably should be forgotten as we were demolished 4-0.
James has a wonderful left foot and his record for Accies was very good. 62 games 18 goals certainly isn’t bad, but the thing is that 15 of those goals came in the Championship, a place where he has a proven track record of finding back of the net.
He’s scored goals for Dundee United, Hearts, Hibernian and Inverness and was part of the Hibees side which won the Scottish Cup against Rangers and played against Brondby in the Europa League.
The striker is an inspiration after openly talking about his mental health problems and suffering depression and is a true credit to Scottish football the way he has bounced back. He currently plays up at Inverness, where he seems to be enjoying life. This season he scored seven goals, provided nine assists and of course was handed that ridiculous red card against Rangers U21’s in the Challenge Cup which left the whole of Scottish football stunned.
Andy was just 19-years old at the time of the play-off’s back in 2014, so what a moment that must have been for him. Unfortunately, it was clear that he wasn’t up to the top-flight level and was sent out on loan to lower league clubs.
After Ryan was released by Accies, he signed for League One side Forfar in January 2016 and after scoring nine goals in 16 League One games, was signed by Airdrieonians.
Andy scored an unbelievable 27 goals in 41 appearances during the 2016-17 season at Airdrie.
He was snapped up by Championship side Dunfermline where he has remained ever since, but did re-join The Diamonds on-loan in January after struggling for game time, which is understandable when you’re up against the red-hot Kevin Nisbet.
The Pars released 17 players a couple of weeks ago as the Championship have felt the bite of the Coronavirus outbreak and Andy Ryan was one of them, therefore at the moment he is a free agent.
Lee Kilday was unfortunately another player who was never going to be good enough to play in the Scottish Premiership, but has been an excellent addition to Championship sides.
He was released days after the play-off win at Easter Road and was snapped up by Greenock Morton. He made 152 appearances for The Cappielow side and also the captain of the side. Following a lengthy spell on the side lines, he was sent to Airdrie on-loan in 2018 to aid his recovery but was released at the end of the season.
The 28-year-old joined Queen of The South and made 25 appearances for The Queens last season, but again similarly to Andy Ryan, was released by the Dumfries side along with 16 others as Coronavirus has taken it toll.
Last, but not least, the MAC, the coolest man in the stadium during the penalty shoot-out as he passed the ball beyond Ben Williams. The guy genuinely has more clubs to his name than Tiger Woods (24 to be precise), but there is no arguing that he performed to his best at Hamilton, scoring 34 goals during his three spells at the club.
There are so memories with fans favourite Antoine-Curier, but one that sticks in my mind personally is the four goals in one game against Morton as I was a ball boy on that occasion and I remember nearly getting flattened when trying to celebrate his hat-trick with him.
Since the Guadeloupean’s depurate from Accies, he’s had spells with Burton, Dunfermline, Union Saint-Gilloise, Eendracht Aalst and lastly FC Mulhouse. He is now getting on a bit at the age of 37 and as a free agent with everything that has gone on recently, I reckon the MAC’s career could be over sooner rather than later.
As soon as that full-time whistle was blown following the penalty shoot-out, people were already tipping Accies to go straight back down and year after year we’ve defied the odds and silenced the doubters. Reflecting on the last few years, I feel incredibly lucky to have seen us win at Celtic for the first time since 1938 and win twice at Ibrox in the space of two years. Even winning at Pittodrie was special along with that Van Basten-esque strike from George Oakley.
Next season we are going into our seventh consecutive season in the SPL and I’m hoping we can beat the odds again.