Tam McManus: Brian Rice could help Hamilton defy the odds again
By Tam McManus
HAMILTON Accies. At the start of every season they are chalked up as the bookies' favourite to get relegated. The Accies are perennial Premiership strugglers but year after year they prove so many of the pundits and so-called experts wrong. But I must admit in the latter part of Martin Canning's reign I did think that they would finally succumb to the dreaded drop. And obviously so did the Hamilton board.
Accies had won just four of their first 23 league games and the style of play under Canning I thought was more set up to try not to lose rather than having a go, being positive and going for three points every week.
I think the majority of the Hamilton fans would certainly agree with that. That’s not me having a go at Canning. Far from it. He achieved his objectives at Hamilton and kept them in the Premiership for three straight seasons. That is no mean feat. But, for me, football is an entertainment business. Yes, you need to get results, but supporters pay money and want to watch entertaining football. That’s why I think the Hamilton Accies fans have taken to Brian Rice straight away.
Chipper, as he is known among the football fraternity, is without doubt one of the most positive coaches I have ever worked under. He was John Hughes’s assistant manager at Falkirk when I was a player at the club back in 2006. Yogi himself is in much the same mould as Brian in that he wants his sides to be brave and attack. Neither of them ever set up that Falkirk side to be defensive or to nick a point. We had Russell Latapy in a free role and went and attacked teams home and away. That applied to both sides of the Old Firm, too. We took a couple of pastings along the way but we also beat Celtic at Parkhead and Rangers at The Falkirk Stadium.
We were open and expansive and the management team had massive confidence in the players. Basically, we were allowed to go and express ourselves with very little pressure. Brian was so attack-minded in his thinking and when I heard that he had been appointed Hamilton Accies manager I knew straight away that the Accies fans had the manager they craved.
I was actually at his debut game as a manager in what turned out to be a very watchable 1-1 draw with relegation rivals Dundee. Both Hamilton full-backs were bombing forward during the first 10 minutes. It was gung-ho stuff. They bombarded Dundee with shots and crosses and straight off the bat the Accies fans ,who had been starved of that kind of entertainment for years, were hooked. There was so much positivity on the park that it immediately transferred to the fans. I had a little smile to myself and said whatever happens between now and the end of the season, Hamilton Accies will be flat-out trying to win every game home and away. That’s what supporters want. Yes, there will be some tankings along the way simply because of the way Chipper will set them up – Accies certainly got one from Rangers in a 5-0 defeat – but I think the Accies fans will swallow that if they can go and beat teams of the calibre of Aberdeen, St Johnstone and Hearts, which they have done in recent weeks.
Of course, results matter and ultimately Brian needs to keep Hamilton Accies in the Premiership. They now have a six-point gap over Dundee and are seven points above St Mirren after a great win over Hearts at the weekend with the split just a few games away.
Accies will probably need another two or three wins between now and the end of the season to secure their Premiership status. What I do know is that they will probably come when people least expect it – much like winning at Pittodrie and beating the aforementioned Hearts.
The Hamilton fans are lapping up the football that is being played at the minute and the refreshing attacking tactics. I just hope that Chipper gets rewarded by keeping them in the division. I think coaches like him are a dying breed. They say fortune favours the brave. If that is indeed the case, then Brian Rice will get his just rewards. And once again Hamilton Accies will defy all the odds.