The common perception about the Hamilton Accies season for 2016/17 will be that we were fortunate not to be relegated outright and just scraped past Dundee United in the play-off. While those are both correct statements, the simple fact is that our brush with relegation was entirely avoidable. It has been well documented that we threw away lots of games (I can’t face counting them) from winning positions with poor defending in the closing stages of games.
It’s galling to think that, had we clung on to our lead in just one of those games, then it would theoretically have been Dundee that were in the play-off instead of us. Many of the fans fell out with manager Martin Canning over this and he has to shoulder most of the responsibility for his team’s failure to see games through. It was particularly painful as we really played a lot of good football at times and certainly seemed to have improved since the season before. However, the league table doesn’t lie and our form in the post-split fixtures was very poor until the last couple of games when we came back to life and showed a lot of fight.
There was plenty of expectation that Dundee United would beat us in the play-off and regain their historical position as one of Scotland’s top clubs, but we showed ourselves to be superior in both of the matches and that was what pulled us through.
Remi Matthews – 7
Remi came to us on loan from Norwich City, as part of an agreement between Martin Canning and Alex Neil about us taking some of their players on that basis. He proved to be an excellent recruit, particularly in the autumn, but a shoulder injury after a heavy landing ruled him out for a quite a while. The highlight of his season was the penalty shoot-out in the Scottish Cup replay against Dunfermline, when he saved all of their efforts as we went through 3-0. It’s not been a perfect season – how can it be if you finish 11th in the league? But he did well in the main with few goals directly attributable to any wrong doing on his part. Remi didn’t have many clean sheets but the three consecutive matches when he did that against the Dundee clubs at the end of the season were crucial.
Gary Woods – 6
Gary did really well when presented with opportunities after Remi Matthews got injured and was unfortunate to lose his place back to his colleague. Many fans were of the opinion that he’s the better keeper and he’ll presumably take over for next term. We should be in safe hands.
Giannis Skondras – 7
The Greek full back joined us at the end of January and suddenly the defence improved, to the extent that nobody really mentions Ziggy Gordon any more. He links very well with the midfield and has goals in him as he showed with his absolute rasper against Dundee on the final day of the season.
Darren Lyon – 5
Young right back Darren only managed eight appearances before a hip injury wrecked his season. He looked as if he wasn’t quite ready for the Premiership, although he did score an absolute screamer up at Dens Park in August. He made a brief appearance in the second leg of the play-off final and it was great for him to be involved after such a long spell out. Hopefully a good pre-season will see him ready to push for a more regular game.
Grant Gillespie – 6
It was a strange and not entirely successful season for Grant. He was put in at right back after Gordon’s departure but really never looked to be comfortable there. Quite a few teams cottoned on to this and it was a definite area of weakness prior to Christmas. After Skondras arrived, he more or less took over that role which meant that Grant got back to his preferred position in midfield. He’s a talented, experienced player who doesn’t really grab the headlines but does a solid job.
Michael Devlin – 7
Mikey had a really good first season as team captain and there was a wee bit of hype about him getting a big move. He’s still young and not quite the finished article, but he’s learning his trade and gaining plenty of experience. He scored a couple of vital goals for us too, none more so that the winner in a remarkable televised game against Aberdeen. An unfortunate cruciate ligament injury against Dundee in May ruled him out of the play-off games against Dundee United and he’s unlikely to be available for some time. He’s rated by some as being our best player and the most likely to be the next one to move on to a better club, but that injury will put anything on hold for now.
Georgios Sarris – 6
Georgios made an immediate impression when he arrived from AEK Athens in the summer and went on to form a decent partnership with Mikey Devlin. He’s a good man for a last ditch tackle, although perhaps not always great in the air.
Scott McMann – 7
Scott had been a mainstay of the Development squad and, with Antons Kurakins really struggling in the first team, it seemed inevitable that he would get his chance. He got the opportunity towards the end of the year and quickly became our automatic first choice left back. He still has things to learn defensively, but has speed down the flank and can deliver a terrific cross ball too. Definitely destined for greater things.
Massimo Donati – 6
There was quite a lot of media hype when we signed Massimo in the summer (he did play for Celtic after all) and it seemed justified when he scored a lovely goal against St Mirren on his debut. He’s played most of the matches since then, either in the midfield just in front of the defence or in a straightforward defensive position. His experience has been priceless and he’s scored a couple of vital goals too, but sometimes he can be guilty of daft mistakes, none more so than the stupid penalty he conceded at Inverness in May. He’s with us for next season too, so the club must have been impressed with his fitness and influence as well as his football.
Alex Gogic – 7
The young Cypriot centre back has only recently broken into the first team after impressing in Development games and looks to be a very good footballer. Despite his lack of appearances, he gets a good rating because of his superb performances in the play-off final. A partnership between him and Mikey Devlin next season feels very appealing.
Ali Crawford – 7
It’s been another mixed bag of a season for Ali. He can win games for us and do superb things with a football, but sometimes he’s just anonymous. Normally in the autumn he’s superb and some of the more excitable parts of the Accies support start thinking in terms of an International call up. Then we hit the winter and his influence starts to wane a bit. But there’s no doubting his skill levels and he scored some superb goals for us this season.
Danny Redmond – 6
Danny’s another player who has tons of ability but doesn’t always get the chance to show it. He can certainly pick out that vital pass and did set up some crucial goals in the second half of the season. Danny has become an integral part of the squad and I hope he’s with us next season.
Greg Docherty – 7
How can you not love this guy? Greg had a decent season, gaining plenty of experience at the highest level that will be great for him long term. But I can’t not write about his performances in the two legs of the play-off final against Dundee United. We all know what a fine player Tony Andreu is – it was his performances for Accies that led to Norwich paying big money for him. So it was Greg’s job to harass him and nullify that threat and he did it superbly, so much so that over the 180 minutes Tony only had one decent opportunity. In addition, it was young Greg who scored the goal of his life to win the tie and I was particularly thrilled that came from a player who has been with us since he was just 8 years old. Fantastic.
Dougie Imrie – 7
Dougie is now one of our most experienced players and you can never question his energy and commitment. A couple of years ago just about every forward move went through him, but that’s not really the case anymore. His influence in games seems to be reducing although he’s still very committed to the cause. His attitude virtually ensures that the opposition fans will jeer him, but I bet most of them would love to have someone like him in their team. He showed so much spirit and leadership in the play-off final too, battling on right through the pain barrier despite having a rib injury.
Darian MacKinnon – 8
Darian is regarded by most Accies fans as our player of the year, he’s certainly the one who has improved the most. When he joined from Clydebank he seemed out of his depth both emotionally and in terms of his football, but he has gradually learned to control his temper and focus his energy on breaking up play, making tackles and passing to the ball players. Having said that, he did get a couple of avoidable red cards in the spring and his absence through suspension was deeply felt. Darian is hugely popular with the fans, who appreciate the way he has turned his life around to become an established top flight player.
David Templeton – 6
David’s career decline due to undiagnosed injury has been well documented and it’s been really gratifying to see the way he has turned it around since his self-funded operation. He’s a real box of tricks and is the kind of player we haven’t seen in the hoops since the days of wee Jose Quitongo. David has signed on for another year and I really look forward to seeing him after a good pre-season.
Louis Longridge – 5
Louis is a player who seems to have been on the edge of greatness for several seasons without ever really getting there. He’s clearly talented and can score goals, but somehow manages to miss chances more often than he should. This explains why he’s normally on the bench and not in the starting 11.
Eamonn Brophy – 5
Eamonn scored bucket loads of goals in the Development league a couple of seasons ago but has found the transition to the top team to be very difficult. Like every Accies striker, it’s not entirely his fault as we don’t create very many chances.
Rakish Bingham – 6
Rakish has played quite in most of the games this season and scored 7 goals, although it ought to have been more. He’s pretty fast but not exactly the predator that we need. Still, he’s a good player to have in the squad.
Alex D’Acol – 6
Alex is clearly a very talented player but took so long to get his first goal that we wondered if it would ever happen. He finally managed to score at Meadowbank Stadium in July and things became easier for him after that. He holds the ball up really well and fits nicely into out pattern of play. He didn’t score a huge number of goals, but the ones he did get, such as the winners against Aberdeen and St Johnstone, were absolutely critical.
Written by Gilbert Mowat