Accies website reporter Martin McConnell spoke with the Head Coach and skipper (on his 250th Accies appearance) after the win on Saturday…
That second half saved you, it was very close.
“It wasn’t half. It was the proverbial game of two halves. The first half is as poor as I’ve seen since I’ve been at the club. You know, there was no energy, lack of enthusiasm, Airdrie were on top of us. Just really poor, we were really poor first half.”
What did you say to them at half time?
“Look, I just said to them ‘you’ve let yourself down, you’ve let the fans down’. I asked them at the beginning of the season that we qualify and give the fans something to cheer about you know. Get them on side. But it wasn’t good enough from everybody and I include myself in that. From every single player and I just asked for another 50% from everybody. We tweaked it a wee bit, the shape and that and asked them to play like they did at the end of last season. Get the ball forward a bit quicker and play on the front foot and get balls into the box.”
You’re not a shouter or a bawler either?
“No, I’m not a shouter or a bawler, I don’t go off my head you know. I think there’s ways to treat people. Some players can take that type of thing and others can’t. We work hard during the week and we should know what we’re doing but in the first half we looked like a bunch of strangers. We are a young team and the average age of the team was 23 today and it’s a new team that’s just come together. That’s no excuse as it’s got to be better than that. Like I said, it’s great credit to the lads for going out in the second half and not giving up and getting the result.”
Well you’re through to the last 16 so you got your wish.
“We’ll that was the target, the target was to win the group and if we couldn’t win the group then qualify. I believe we’ve qualified so they’ve achieved that first bit.”
It was some strike to win it considering that he missed one from two yards.
“We’ll, he’s a striker you know but if he misses I won’t be on his back. He’s in there. Marios has a lot of faults but he’s just a young lad that hasn’t played a lot of games. People seem to think because he’s a big lad with strength and power, that he must have played a lot of football. If you look at his record he’s not played a lot of football. He’s still learning the game and still adapting to Scottish football. I kept him on today, I’m not going to say that I thought he’d score but I thought that he was causing them problems. Yes he missed a chance but he was still getting in there and his goal was a magical strike.”
The two penalty kicks were big moments in the game.
“At 2-0 I said to them ‘if you get the next goal then anything can happen’, and fair play to young Ross, he stepped up and taken the first one. And then he’s got the courage to take the second as well. They’re big moments in the game.”
So moving forward, it’s more of the second half and you’ll not want to see that first half again I guess?
“No, I never want to see a half of football like that again and I want to see better than that second half as well. I think second half when we get that second goal, I felt that it was coming. I know that it was two penalty kicks but a penalty is a penalty. We’ve had a few against us since I’ve been here but I don’t think anyone could disagree that we were on top.”
Was your heart in your mouth when McGowan took out Eckersley?
“There’s a few things that happen in football. The referee makes the decisions, I’m not going to get involved with anything like that. Once we start talking about the referees then the game’s done. I want to talk about football not refereeing decisions. It’s a hard enough job, I know myself how hard it is. We rant and rave about them but see without them, we can’t have a game of football. So I’ll not be complaining about decisions either for or against.”
It was 250 appearances for Darian MacKinnon. Can we get a wee word on your Captain?
“I know what I’m getting from Darian. You know, Darian’s been through the course. He’s my leader out there and my leader every day at the club. He knows that he’s there on merit and he’s got to work hard to stay there, because there’s two or three young lads on the bench today that haven’t really been involved before. It’s great credit to Darian that he’s come back fit and like I say, the good thing about Darian is that I know exactly what I’m going to get from him. Good, bad or indifferent I know that I’ll get 100%. I’ll get full commitment from him and he’ll buy into everything I’m trying to do.”
It’s some achievement.
“It’s good, good numbers. I spoke to people earlier in the week, where I came from it’s crazy to think that. Especially the Captain of a Premiership club. It’s stuff that dreams are made of and I said that to some of the Hamilton guys just there. It is cringy to say that dreams do come true but it is. Because from where I came from in my life to get here is just phenomenal.”
It shows what hard work and perseverance can get you.
“It is. I say that to all the kids all the time, especially the ones that are breaking through like wee Jack Breen just now. He’s working his nuts off but it’s just not happening for him but listen, it could eventually, you’ve just got to keep digging away as you just don’t know when you’re chance will come. See to be fair, I was down and out when I first came here. Billy Reid didn’t really want me. So I had to get myself fit as anything just to prove him wrong and it just shows you. It gets you there.”
Can you reflect on 250 games, is there anything that stands out for you?
“I think the promotion time at Hibs away. That was surreal that day. Then the fear kicks in as you think ‘can I play in the Premiership?’. That was the day that stood out because that’s when you’ve made it.”
I was just going to say as you say, that’s the journey complete as you become a Premiership player but the fact that you’ve stayed there must give you a lot of satisfaction?
“No, it is. I can remember at the time Alex Neil pulled me in at the end of the season and I thought to say ‘brilliant season, well done, you’re one of my best players’, he said ‘l know what you’re thinking now, you’ll think you can’t cut it in the Premiership. I was the exact same’. He said ‘just get your head down and work and I’ll guarantee that you’ll be able to play there’. And I don’t know how many years that we’ve been here now.”
Were you full of self doubt when Alex pulled you in that day?
“Oh, it’s not self doubt it’s just in the back of your mind that you’re thinking ‘I was a good player in the Championship, if I stay there will I be a good player again?’ If you stay up you’re playing against better players so it’s in your head. Every player is like that, don’t let them kid you. Obviously the very top ones aren’t but you’re are always thinking ‘can I do it?’. Then when you get down the road you’re like ‘jeez, it’s just a game of fitba’. Then you just get comfortable but you always need to kick on, you can never rest on your laurels.”
Did your experience help you dig the team out of a hole today?
“I think the only problem in the game for us in the first half is our defenders winning the first ball. I don’t know what it was like for you in the stand but those big guys for them were winning everything. They were just coming straight at us and we’re just winning nothing as a team. In the second half I don’t think Airdrie have a chance, maybe one breakaway that’s it. And that’s it. If you win your first ball you’re always on the front foot.”
I suppose that first half sort of sums up Hamilton. You weren’t at it first half then that character, that spirit, never giving in and let’s show people that they’re wrong surfaces in the second half.
“Yes, well the manager wasn’t happy. You probably know him and know him well. He was angry because he had a wee pop at us before the game saying that we can’t keep playing in halves because if we play like that in the Premiership we’ll get destroyed. We’ll not come back from that in the Premiership but it does show good character to come back from two down here and win 3-2. In fact, is that the first time we’ve been through in this cup in ages?”
“So, it’s a target met. We’re on the up even though we’ve lost two goals. We’re on the up.”
With the target either winning or qualifying from the group now met, that’s the first milestone of the season met.
“Yes, it is. I don’t think we’ve been beaten either. That’s unlike us because we’ve been…I won’t say rubbish because that’s disrespectful. We’ve been to lower league teams like Annan and they’ve turned us over. So at least this year we haven’t been beaten. We haven’t played great but the target has been met.”
Does that set you up nice for the start of next season?
“It does as that’s the real stuff that starts now. We’ve had a tough preseason and brought in a lot of new ideas and a lot of the boys are feeling a wee bit leggy but they’ll taper it down a bit now and hopefully come the Ross County game we’ll be raring to go.’
It’s a hard start at Dingwall. It’s tough up there.
“It is a tough place to go but, touch wood, we’ve played well up there. We might not get the results but it’s a nice place to go and play, first game of the season. Listen, there’s nothing to fear it’s a game of fitba. If we can play like we did in the second half for the full game we’ll be okay.”