Thursday, January 19, 2012

Spotlight on......Hamilton Academical

17th January 2012

Scottish Cup 4th Round Replay
Hamilton Academical 0-1 St Mirren
New Douglas Park, Hamilton

Attendance: 1,520

Who knew that Hamilton, in 1971, were the first British club to recruit players from behind the Iron Curtain, signing three Polish internationals? Bank that for the next time you are asked to do the Sports round for a pub quiz!

Another first relating to the club is that Hamilton Academical were (and still are) the first side to have originated from a school team after the Rector and pupils of Hamilton Academy formed the side in 1874 – hence the name The Accies.

The club played at Douglas Park from 1888 until 1994 when their century-long love affair with the ground came to a sad end with the introduction of new stadium regulations as part of the Taylor Report. The Accies then went onto ground-share with Albion Rovers and Partick Thistle (the latter on two occasions) before finally returning to their Hamilton home in 2001.

New Douglas Park sits literally yards from the site of the old stadium and exceptionally close to the Hamilton West train station making it one of the most accessible grounds in Scotland. The first sight of the stadium isn't half bad as well.

The Stadium (quirkiness and comfort) 9/10

Surveying the outside of the ground before kick off, it seemed that only two stands were of a good size and in operation. One end looked completely open and opposite the Main Stand seemed to sit a temporary unit of some kind. Away fans are housed in the North (unusually named Spice of Life) Stand, with the temporary East stand made available on match days where bigger crowds are expected.

Colours of the world....Spice Up Your Life!

The two bigger stands, I discovered on entering the ground, are unusual in that they are raised well above pitch level. This is a clever design in that it not only allows the catering units and toilets to be situated at ground level but it also ensures an excellent view for spectators – even those in the front row who would traditionally be faced with a horrific pitch-level experience.

The design of these two stands impressed me (some may say I am easily impressed) and deservedly results in some strong scoring for quirkiness – especially when you factor in the bizarre open end and temporary stand at the other side of the ground!

Catering (quality and price) 7/10

The aforementioned catering was something I was less than excited about taking on board. Actually, I had received more than one tweet prior to the game warning me to “look out for the pies” - and not in a good way! That said, I braved I always do...and ordered the standard tea and pie combo which totalled £3.50 and was served up by some lovely and extremely bubbly young ladies behind the counter. That's where the positivity ended on the pie front, I'm afraid, as the crusty edging made it difficult to get stuck into. A decent filling saved it somewhat and the cup of tea was quite outstanding.

The sum of all this is not a bad scran at all...once you pick the crust off.

Fans (scored on both atmosphere & conduct – sporting behaviour, welcoming nature etc) 21/25

Having never in my life met a Hamilton Accies fan, I had no idea what to expect. However, I was pretty pleased with my experience all round as the sets of fans around me ticked all the boxes I like at a footie ground. 1) Old man and middle aged son combination. 2) Younger dad and a couple of his kids combination. 3) Kids clearly supporting their local team. 4) A good mix of fellas and ladies.

One old man even brought his own seat cushion and made me feel really very welcome indeed with some pleasant banter. In fact, even when the game wasn't really going in Accies favour in the first half (I say not in their favour...they were taking an absolutely pasting) the fans stuck with their team and created a decent enough atmosphere. In the second half, as the home side rallied, the fans created a bit of a racket and at the end....despite a loss....each of them to a man stayed behind to applaud their team.

A breeding ground for Hamilton fans attached to the ground!

A doff of the proverbial cap to the fans.

Entertainment on the pitch (quite self explanatory) 16/25

Sadly, this is where Hamilton score quite poorly, mostly due to their first half display which was simply terrible. St Mirren are a very good SPL team but Hamilton did absolutely nothing to even make it awkward for their visitors. At times they were unable to string two passes together, were extremely disjointed and seemed to lack the necessary shape to make a game of it.

A tweak to the system at half time did make for a better second half in which the Accies created a few decent chances and nearly scored an undeserved equaliser late on when Dougie Imrie's 40 yard effort came smashing back off the post. Overall though, Graham Carey's first half strike for St Mirren resulted in a merited win for the visitors.

Some home players worth a mention:

Dougie Imrie – I have to judge him as a Hamilton player, despite the fact he has now signed for St Mirren (!) but on the night he did a fantastic job up top on his own. Taking the ball well into feet and bringing others into the game in the second half, Imrie is a very good player indeed and will be sorely missed at New Douglas.

Ali Crawford – this boy seemed to take a serious whipping from one grumpy guy behind me in the first half, but I like the kid. I like him because he's keen to get on the ball, isn't scared to try a difficult pass (not in the frustrating Charlie Adam sort of way) and seems to have bags and bags of energy. I think he'll end up a decent player with the right coaching and opportunity to develop.

Value for money (what you get for your buck) 20/30

For £16 I was reasonably pleased with my night. The ground has a pleasing quirk-factor about it, the catering could have been worse and the fans were enjoyable company. It is unfortunate that Hamilton didn't really put on much of a show on the park, otherwise they would probably have scored even higher than the respectable total they have accrued. Overall, give New Douglas Park a try, says Ode to the Wee Red Book. Worst case scenario? You leave early and get your Sainsbury's shop on the way home!

Overall Score for Hamilton Academical: 73/100

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