2020/21 Season Preview - Hamilton Academical: The Great Escapists
In the 2013/14 playoff final, nobody expected that Hamilton Academical would relegate Hibs, especially after going 2-0 down in the first leg. But down them they did and even more surprisingly, Hamilton have remained resilient and remained in the league ever since. This will be the 7th straight season that Accies have been in the top flight which is an absolutely tremendous achievement for a club of Accies size.
Accies have been in the top flight more in consecutive years than the likes of Hibs, Hearts and Rangers whilst supporters of other sides love to bemoan Accies placement in the top flight. Of course, there are much bigger teams in Scotland than Hamilton, who can boast to have bigger attendancies week in and out and realistically, should be in their place within the top flight. But football is played on the pitch and whilst fans brag about crowd figures, Hamilton do what many don't and get the business done on the pitch, somehow.
Hamilton aren't an overly exciting side and in all honesty, at times do look a standard below the rest of the league. They're compact and look to frustrate teams with hopes to counter and capitalise on any mistakes from the opposition, working well last season as Brian Rice is slowly making improvements on the pitch. With the season ending at 30 games, you can see an improvement within Accies who shipped 11 fewer goals at the same point in the 2018/19 season, whilst also scoring 10 more in the process. A 21 goal swing is pretty monumental and considering how things were tight at the bottom, Brian Rice deserves huge credit for patching up some weaknesses. It's easy to look at the clubs positioning and write them off but the team at Accies work well within their budgets and make the necessary tweaks that has seen them stay up for many years now. Hamilton are never going to consistently compete with most of the teams within the top flight, with their fan base and resources much lower than a lot of the clubs. They might not be the most fun to watch at times but survival and ensuring their place in the league is top priority, and they've become pretty damn good at it lately.
With the budget that Accies possess, it's expected that they will always be lurking near the bottom and pitched as the nailed on relegation candidates. This season will be no different and will be magnified furthermore due to a couple of key players moving on. Aaron McGowan has moved onto Kilmarnock, a player who has started every single game Hamilton have win in the last two years and an ever-present figure at the back for Accies, even captaining the club on occasions. The biggest loss is undoubtedly that of Alex Gogic, a highly rated Centre Back/Mid who secured a move to Hibs following a couple of good seasons. The combative Gogic will be sorely missed, possessing great defensive abilities that helped Accies cut down on the goals they were conceding.
As for arrivals, Accies have picked up a few players from the Scottish leagues, with Ross Callachan and Charlie Trafford joining from St Johnstone and Inverness. Callachan has already had a few chances in the top flight but has failed to nail down a spot in the first team and it must be last chance for the midfielder to make a name for himself in the Premiership. Trafford as well will be wanting to make an impact in the top flight, the first time he'll be in the top league. The signing of Trafford could be a shrewd piece of business, as despite the robust midfielder losing his place in the Caley Thistle team, Brian Rice could tweak his game and allow the Canadian to flourish in a holding midfield position.
Realistically, Accies will be looking for another couple of signings, with their squad looking like it could need an extra few more quality signings. Keeping hold of David Templeton will certainly help add some quality but Accies do look a bit lightweight right now and with the 5 subs rule looking to be introduced, they could end up a little short-handed. It seems to be the usual for Accies this pre-season as many will be tipping them to go down this season. However, you can never rule Hamilton out as in recent years, they've managed to pull points out of nowhere that makes their eventual turnaround expected by this point. Whenever they look down and out, they claw back and pull off miraculous results gaining a reputation as escape artists. They're probably the favourites to go down but you can never ever rule out Hamilton, much to the frustration of many.