Today we take a moment to pause and reflect on the 4th anniversary of the tragic loss of ex-Academy player, our friend and colleague Matthew Craig, aged just 22.
Matthew was diagnosed with Leukaemia in May 2016 and bravely fought the illness with great courage and dignity.
Originally from East Kilbride, Matthew was a defender and had played for our club from U11s through to U19s; in addition, Matthew also represented Scotland playing in the U18s squad.
An integral part of a great Youth Academy, led by George Cairns, coming through the various age groups together in a squad who formed great friendships too with Stephen Hendrie, Craig Watson, Ryan Finnie, Andy Ryan, Dominic Green, Stuart Urquart, Alan Cairns and Mikey Thomson.
Darren Lyon was another who joined that group soon after, along with others like Aldin El Zubaidi and Eamon Brophy, James Martin, Greg Docherty and Scott McMann who were with Matt during his U17s and U18s years.
Matthew had to initially quit playing for the club due to a stomach illness. However, recovered well enough for a period to return to playing although soon switched thereafter to coaching and enrolled as an Academy coach.
In Matthew’s latter years at Hamilton Academical FC, he was one of our most highly esteemed senior coaches and is missed dearly. A hugely popular character with the kids he helped develop within his role and maintained our successful weekly community coaching sessions and seasonal camps.
Unfortunately due to Covid-19, we have been unable to host the Matthew Craig Memorial Trophy for a second year running, however, it is hoped this can perhaps take place this year.
Matthew’s younger brother David is notably seen around the stadium and for many a comforting reminder of Matthew given their alikeness. In addition, David is gaining valuable hands-on experience in our Sports Science Department to complement his studies towards a degree in this field and has been a great asset to the new community football programme helping weekly to coach around 50-70 children.
Along with our other Community coaches, John Cox and Ross McLellan the hard-working trio keep our local youngsters fit and happy, something Matthew would be proud of today! His caring attitude and focused work ethic continues and we strive to ensure this remains at the heart of our Matthew Craig Community Football Programme.
Academy Director, George Cairns said: “Matthew is missed by all and our memories of our friend and colleague will never be forgotten, community football projects dedicated in the name of such a gifted player, along with the many photos displayed on the walls of New Douglas Park; ensures that he will always remain part of our Club forever.”
Below are some heartwarming testimonies from a few of Matthew’s team mates…Class of ’95….
Greg Docherty: “You couldn’t come across a more down to earth and genuine guy as Matthew. I shared some great memories with him away with the Scotland School Boys Team where he was one of the most liked guys amongst the squad. He didn’t have one bad bone in his body and would always look out for everyone else.”
Eamonn Brophy: “He always had a smile on his face. We had some great memories on holiday together and he would always make you laugh. A really nice guy.”
Craig Watson: “Matt became a very close friend in the academy and we continued that friendship through into the full-time environment at Accies. We have some amazing memories together both on and off the pitch. I had some of the funniest moments of my life with Matt on holiday. He will always we missed.”
Stephen Hendrie: “Matt was such a lovely boy, that wouldn’t say a bad word about anyone. Very hard-working and never failed to have a smile on his face. I had great experiences coming through the academy with him.”
Scott McMann: “Matt was a top guy that always had a smile on his face. He was brilliant to have around when coming through the academy. Without a doubt one of the hardest working guys at the club. When he stopped playing it was great seeing him about the place helping the young kids he coached every day to be better.”
Our thoughts are with Matthew’s friends and family at this time.