Hamilton, the county town of deepest, darkest Lanarkshire. Hamilton, the home of crosses. The main two being the top cross and the bottom cross. The stretch in between, Quarry Street was the location of Saturday morning misery for many a primary schoolboy of my generation. Yer Maw indulged in retail therapy whilst we were content to pity our fellow drookit weans being hauled towards a coughing bus, waiting to take them twenty miles doon'n'roon ra county to Lanark, Biggar, and Shotts. Our reward for endurance was at another confluence of roads, Peacock Cross. Specifically Equi's Cafe, purveyor of pie and peas. Now, if we were in France, this delicacy would be a, 'produit regionaux' ; a white peppered mutton filling encased in pastry, accompanied by peas marinated in black peppered malt vinegar. Hamilton, the home of a culinary triumph.
Hamilton had, has a senior football club. Back in the day, it was viewed as an extension of the County school, Hamilton Academy. It's an ancient school, founded in 1588 and in my day its catchment area was the cream of the County Eleven Plus results. The Former Pupils had well organised rugby, athletics, cricket, football etc; clubs, all incorporating their own separate social clubs. The common currency is to refer to, 'the Accies', it was always the Acas, derived from Academicals. The County derby was always Motherwell v Airdrie; of course any permutation involving both mentioned and including Albion Rovers and Acas was a Lanarkshire derby, but not the county derby. Even the football ground, Douglas Park was a location for schools and amateur finals. Including playing and attending, I was inside the ground on no more than a couple of dozen occasions. In contrast, I attended both Fir Park and Broomfield on numerously more occasions. Despite living near to the ground, Acas supporters were hen's teeth. They were bottom of whatever division they competed, and their crowds were numbered just in excess of one thousand in the late sixties and early seventies.
Simply, Hamilton and the County ignored the Acas. Respite arrived in 1972, a local entrepreneur, Jan Stepek gained control of the club and appointed John Eric Smith as Manager. In those days, the vast majority of Lanarkshire rented both their TVs and radios, and most bought into those agreements at Hamilton's top cross, the home of, 'Stepeks'. Jan was a Polish immigrant viewing opportunity knocks and playing the generational game. Collectively, his customers were the Prisoner on easier terms. Any promising schoolboy footballer was also the recipient of those easier terms, Smith had a habit of offering 'S Form' terms to all and sundry, then filing those forms away in (several) drawers. If any were likely to make it, 'an administrative fee' was necessary to ensure progress. During his six year period as Manager, I think the only young player brought throw the Acas ranks, was promising centre forward, Paul Hegarty? It was Dundee United's Jim McLean who converted him to a central defender. Before real Acas fans lose interest, I should mention their victory over Leeds United in front of several thousand, 4-3 in a friendly.
A club viewed as haphazard by those closest, became hapless and homeless. Douglas Park was sold for retail development and the wandering of Maryhill and Cumbernauld began. Acas credibility was further undermined by their celebrity fan, Ian 'Fergie' Russell. His antics were more worthy than the football. It was the nadir. The right people (mostly) arrived and systematically put a plan in place to return the club to an elevated plane, by the correct route. Despite John Lambie's yo-yo interventions, the Manager responsible for implementing the component parts was Billy Reid. Raising their own became the mantra. The Acas youth system is now well respected within the game. I know a couple of Dads in the last decade who praise the experience to the highest. The success is measured in Acas maintaining their Premiership position for three seasons in a row. In selling on a number of subsequent internationals, M'Carthy and McArthur. In producing a Manager from the ranks, Alex Neil going on to take Norwich City to the Premiership. In playing a team containing several home grown early to mid-twenties lads, all with in excess of two hundred top team appearances. Basically, the Acas provide young hopefuls with the means to make a living from the game. The Acas are a model cub and a success.
For Friday evening, Martin Canning has selection problems. One of those toting a couple of hundred appearances, Darian MacKinnon is suspended. David Templeton is injured! Further, their 'keeper, Gary Woods is sidelined with a lacerated kidney, his successor, Darren Jamieson was recently in Junior football at Bo'ness. We, are without Lee Wallace and given New Douglas Park is a plastic surface, I suspect Alves will remain on the sidelines though John may make it. The rest will be carrying severely bruised egos from last Saturday. I hope we have spent the week working on preventing crosses coming into our box and have rectified our unwillingness to start the second half with the same energy we finish the first? My team to relieve the building pressure is below.
Possible team (4-4-2):
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