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The Annual Scottish Awayday: Hamilton Academical 0-1 Inverness CT

May 16, 2016

With the possibility of Albion being in the play-offs leaving me in limbo date-wise, this season’s Scottish jaunt was a hastily arranged affair. But displaying the same determination Phil Mitchell does when prowling for a bottle of voddy, I ensured this season’s Scottish Awayday was finally arranged!

It would be the first midweek trip for my first SPL fixture – Hamilton Academical vs Inverness Caledonian Thistle, with an overnight stay in Glasgow.

Hamilton are the only professional football club in Britain to originate from a school team – Hamilton Academy, hence their unique name.

As the train powered through Northumberland, southern Scotland, and some absolutely jaw-dropping scenery, I thought what a lucky buggar Michael Portillo is. He puts on his cool blazer and travels the country by rail for his TV show, basically getting paid to sit on a train and be posh! Chuck us some money and I’ll do that. Okay I might struggle with the posh bit, but I’m sure I could dig out a garish blazer from somewhere.

As the tower blocks of Motherwell came into view meaning we were getting closer to Glasgow, I started to get that feeling of excitement I’d get as a kid when travelling up this way to holiday with our grandparents.

My mind went back to a grey Saturday in summer 1994. I remember the train pulling into Glasgow Central and seeing our Grandad, Papa Jimmy, stood waiting for us. It must be because I’m now a father so I was thinking about family stuff, but Archie sees his grandparents weekly, whilst we’d visit my Granny Agnes and Papa Jimmy every summer. They must’ve missed us and looked forward to seeing us so much.

Anyway, just a little trip down memory lane there – but there’s more to the Scottish Awayday then just the footy. I just love coming back up here.

I checked into the Grasshopper hotel, freshened up, and got myself into the Royal Scot just after 3.30pm for my first Tennants of the day.

The bar was full of Glaswegian chat, and as I ordered my beer/burger meal I suddenly became self-conscious of the old English accent.

“Where about’s ye from?” a tall skinny woman turned and asked.

“Burton, it’s near Derby, in the midlands?” (Burtonians always feels the need to add “it’s near Derby”.)

“Och nae I dunnae know where that is. I have cousins in Northumberland, is it near there?”

She seemed friendly enough, and half-pissed to be fair, as I gave her a brief geography lesson before sitting down to sup my pint and devour my food.

Soon after I was in the Horseshoe bar. This famous old pub has stood since 1884. You walk in and are welcomed by a big bar in the middle of a large open room; it’s grand, it’s old-fashioned, and it’s a great setting for a beer. I purchased another Tennants, sat down, and wondered what this place is like on a packed summers Friday night. I gazed at all the pictures and huge imprinted mirrors adorning the walls, wow, this place just oozed history, if only the walls could talk!

Then a middle-aged couple straight from work sat next to me, started fraternising, he slapped her arse, so I left.

IMG_5221One of the huge mirrors adorning the walls of the Horseshoe

It was time to head to Hamilton so I returned to Central station, and down towards the low level. As I walked down the stairs to platform 16 the unmistakable cold blow of the low level brushed my skin, a welcome breeze on a hot afternoon.

The train was packed, full of commuters heading home to places such as Rutherglen, Cambuslang, Newton, and Blantyre.

“Reckon the ticket inspector will come?” asked the big bloke who’s gut was resting on me.

“I dare him!” replies the lady opposite, who then turns to the window before adding “no offence, but I’m claustrophobic and would rather face this way.”

This is the friendliest packed carriage I’ve been in!

25 minutes later and I’m walking off the train at Hamilton West. Straight up the stairs I go, and there over the road is my next drinking point: The Academical Vaults.

Sitting down with another Tennants as Oasis’ ‘Whatever’ played on the jukey, I was perfectly content and looking forward to the evening’s footy.

“Anywhere sitting there mate?”

“No”

“Are you an Inverness fan?”

“No mate, Burton Albion.”

I was joined by Eddie, a Hamilton fan. We got chatting, Eddie telling me about their season, the young manager Martin Canning, and the promising Accies team, a lot of whom have progressed from their youth side.

Eddie asked if I had a ticket, I said I didn’t, so he offered me one of his.

“Are you sure?” I asked, taken aback.

“’course! Forget paying twenty two pound for that shite.” replied Eddie. Nice one!

IMG_5224.JPG

More of Eddie’s mates had joined us by this point, including some of the ‘Red Division’ lads and lasses. I say lasses because off course, if you saw the BBC’s Football Fight Club documentary you’d have seen Brogan, the wee lass from the Hamilton casuals!

“Oh aye, Brogan, she’ll be here in a minute!” someone said, and right on cue in Brogan walked.

“Brogan, Burton Albion fan here who wants tae meet ya.”

Straight from work and looking smart, she looked totally different to the young casual from the documentary. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity so had a quick pic with Accies most famous fan.

IMG_5227Brogan

The chat and banter continued, as we discussed Antoine-Curier, super Lucas Akins, and Zander Diamond (one of the lads being a close mate of his).

As tickets were shared out and Accies awayday stories told, it struck me what a tight knit bunch these supporters were. It was like being in a proper little community and I was feeling well looked after.

We strolled to the ground, and I must admit I was feeling quite Oliver Twist by this point. It must’ve been the early start… Or it could be ‘cuz I’m a lightweight.

I popped into the club shop for a proggy, gave the famous red Hamilton bus (as seen on Sportscene) a quick wave, and walked through the red turnstiles…

Hamilton played at Douglas Park upto 2001. Douglas Park is now the adjacent Sainsbury’s, and what did they name their new ground? New Douglas Park, off course!

Eddie and Jeff, my hosts for the evening, led us to the end block of the main stand closest to the away end. From here we had a great view of the action, and were also right where the atmosphere was as the Accies support got chanting from the off.

IMG_5233.JPGView from the main stand

As for the rest of the ground – opposite us was a small 700-capacity stand which was unused tonight, behind the goal to our left was the away end containing 100-odd Caley supporters, whilst behind the other goal is empty, but does have the famous bus lurking in the corner!

IMG_5234.JPGThe travelling Caley fans in the away end

More info on New Douglas Park here – http://www.footballgroundguide.com/leagues/scottish-spl-premier-and-football-league-clubs/scottish-premier-league/hamilton-academical-new-douglas-park.html

The game kicked off on the artificial surface, Hamilton in their famous red and white hoops, Caley in their fetching red and blue strip.

First impressions were how young the Hamilton side looked, and how tall the Caley lads were.

IMG_5232.JPGThe stand filling up pre-match

The game fell into an unsettled, scrappy rhythm. There wasn’t much at stake with both sides safe from relegation but consigned to the bottom half.

Hamilton had just secured their SPL place for a 3rd consecutive year, a fine achievement for this small club when you consider some of the big clubs lower down the leagues, and also some satisfaction for under-fire boss Martin Canning.

There were half-chances for Hamilton’s young prospect Eamonn Brophy and tall Carlton Morris (Norwich loanee) but nothing clear-cut.

Caley put some good quick moves together at times, and managed to go into half-time ahead after Danny Devine scrambled the ball home past Northern Ireland international Michael McGovern.

At half-time I took the opportunity to get some pics for the Scottish Awayday archives with Eddie and Jeff, before trying unsuccessfully for a pic with Accies’ Dougie Imrie. Ah well, I’d rather have had a pic with Brogan than Dougie anyway.

IMG_5238Jeff, Eddie, me, mon the Accies!

With the darkness creeping in and the temperature suddenly dropping, the 2nd half commenced. Accies were trying hard to force an opening, whilst Caley were quick and decisive in possession but just lacking any serious goal-threat.

During lulls in play Eddie was pointing out different players and where they’ve come from, it’s great how many lads they’ve brought through the ranks at Hamilton and long may it continue.

In fact, the Accies actually looked more dangerous when more of their young lads came on.

Daniel Redmond, Greg Docherty and Ronan Hughes were the young lads in question, and had a good go at trying to pull things back into the Accies favour.

In between the subs was the strangest red card decision I’ve seen for a while. Team hard-man and tough-nut Darian Mackinnon seemed to be doing nothing more than shielding the ball from Ian Vigurs, his demeanour simply one of an aggressive midfielder holding onto possession.

The ref blows, books him… then sends him off?! Everyone’s just like “Hey?! What?” Mackinnon was absolutely fuming, and had to be encouraged from the field. (Not in the way a farmer encourages a sheepdog, more of a “Darian! Get your arse off that pitch!” type of way.)

Martin Canning was understandably very animated by this point as the ref went over to talk to him (apparently Mackinnon said something to the ref which bought out the 2nd yellow.. well I say bought out the 2nd yellow, it was already out as the ref hadn’t a chance to put it away before Mackinnon voiced his dis-pleasure).

It was a blow for the Accies as at this point they’d took control of the game in the vain search for an equaliser, but still they drove forward.

I was desperate for an Accies goal by now, not only so I could see the passionate home support go mental, but also so I could jump up and down to warm up a bit.

After a late spell of Accies pressure, a flurry of corners, and a couple of saves from Caley ‘keeper Owain Fon Williams, the full time whistle was blown and the final home game of the season had ended in defeat.

The noise from the home fans continued however, a big flag unfurled for Ziggy Gordon, the popular defender playing his last home game before leaving the club in the summer.

IMG_5249.JPG

Ziggy came over to applaud the fans, giving handshakes and hi-5’s to the fans gathered at the front, which included me! Haha, well I couldn’t resist, it was Ziggy Gordon after all!

IMG_5252.JPGOne Ziggy Gordon!

The fans departed New Douglas Park for the final time this season.

We strolled up the path towards the station in the cool spring dusk, Eddie telling us about his upcoming holiday to Vancouver.

It was finally time to go our separate ways; I shook hands with Eddie and Jeff, thanked them for their hospitality, and wished them all the best.

Hamilton Accies, what a great set of supporters you have. I’ll be looking out for your scores from now on, and wish you all the best for the future as you continue to hold your own in the SPL.

I struggled to stay awake on the train back to Glasgow, it had been a long day but it had been an absolutely brilliant day.

I love the Annual Scottish Awayday!


Hamilton 0-1 ICT (Att: 1,516)

Match ticket: Free (usually £22)

Train fares: £42.30 – £38 (advance Tutbury – Glasgow Central & return tickets) & £4.30 (Glasgow Central – Hamilton West return)

 

 

 

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