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.

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