Neil surprised after ‘reinventing wheel’
ALEX NEIL is happy that his allaction approach is paying dividends for Hamilton Academical, but admits his surprise that it has caught so many observers off guard.
Hamilton head for Dens Park today a point clear at the top of the SPFL Premiership and unbeaten in nine league games. Their defensive resolve, work ethic and free-flowing attacking has attracted glowing reviews. “It amazes me that people are surprised when the opposition have got the ball we go and try and get it back,” Neil said. “That should be a given as far as I am concerned.
“We don’t want to sit off the ball and let people pass it in front of us. That’s not how I want my teams to play. We are up and at them, we want the ball and to control the game rather than worry about the opposition. There has been a lot made of it and, to be honest, it has surprised me.
“It is as if we have reinvented the wheel a bit. Teams have done it for years, it just so happens that we do it really well.”
The f i nely tuned Hamilton machine have made history with wins over Motherwell, Celtic and Aberdeen in a stunning start to the season for the top-flight newcomers, and Neil received a pre-match boost yesterday when young pair Ali Crawford and Grant Gillespie put pen to paper on new deals until 2018.
“The chairman and the board at this club are really savvy when it comes to business,” Neil said. “I don’t think any of our young players have walked out the door for free unless we have let them. To get the lads tied down for another three years safeguards us against that happening. We have invested a lot of time and money raising these guys as footballers.”
Hamilton’s young guns will have unhappy memories of Greg Stewart, the Dundee striker, after he put them to the sword while playing for Cowdenbeath last season.
Stewart is on top form, after scoring in last weekend’s 3-1 league win away to Motherwell, and insists he is aiming for more goals at Dens today.
“We [Cowdenbeath] beat them 4-3 away from home last season,” he said. “And we drew with them at home as well. So we took a few points off them and I scored a few against them in the process. You could say I enjoyed my fair share of success against them.
“I think I scored three against them in total and to score another one this Saturday would be great. It was very satisfying to get the win and the goal against Motherwell last week. It’s obviously good for confidence.
“But mainly it was just to get back on track after four defeats in a row. You always want to get a victory to get things going again. Now it makes us ready for this game against Hamilton who are flying.”
Hamilton have not tasted defeat since suffering an opening-day set-back at the hands of Inverness Caledonian Thistle, but Stewart believes his side have the tools to end the league leaders’ 10-game unbeaten run.
“Hamilton have done really well this season,” he said. “But there’s no fear from our point of view. That’s another thing, the fact we haven’t won at home this season in the league. We want to change that.
“You want to win every home game, and we were unlucky not to do so against Celtic earlier in the season here at Dens. The boys have been saying that it’s much the same team they have from last season when they didn’t manage to beat us.
“So, hopefully, that will be playing in their heads a bit and we can beat them. It could be in their minds so we’ll see what happens. I didn’t think they were going to go up in the playoffs last season. But fair play to them, with a lot of young players they did brilliantly and have just kicked on.”
PEN TO PAPER: Ali Crawford and Grant Gillespie sign deals until 2018.