If you didn’t manage to get a match programme at yesterday’s cup final, here are Scott Struthers two programme interviews with John and Lewis.
Scott Struthers sat down with Accies Head Coach John Rankin….
Its your first season as a Manager, and you have reached a Cup Final. How do you feel?
JR: Cup Finals are a bonus, you don’t plan for them at the start of a season, but you always want to win every game. It’s very rewarding for the fans, players, staff and officials at the club.
The further you go in a cup competition you think you have a chance of getting to the final; and once you get to the final then obviously you think about winning it.
In each of the previous rounds this season we have always had difficult moments – the Rangers penalty in the match at Dumbarton, Inverness CT fielding an eleven we didn’t know with mostly youth players, Clyde going 2-1 up at NDP, and Queen of the South taking us to extra time, also at NDP, in the semi final.
It took the strength of character in the squad to see us through these difficult ties. When I say squad it really has been about the whole squad in this cup as we have used everyone, we’ve given every player every opportunity to be in the starting eleven, and it’s given us an opportunity to provide fitness for others on their way back from injury. It now provides us with a chance for the players to achieve something and enjoy the day. Let’s see what the day brings.
How have you found management this season, particularly at a club like Hamilton Accies where it is very much ‘all hands on deck’…?
JR: I have loved it. I have really enjoyed it. The workplace and the dynamic of the club, the environment we are trying to create has improved as we’ve gone along and we are a work in progress. We only have a small number of staff members and we all need (and do) work closely together. Each individual knows their strengths and each individual stays in their own lane, to get the best out of one another.
Results wise at times it has been difficult, sometimes extremely difficult, but we have to believe in what we are doing and stay consistent with it.
Football brings out the best in us, but can also bring out the worst. By having as close and tight a group as we have here, we have stuck together and now find ourselves with an opportunity this afternoon of lifting silverware.
What memories do you have of this particular competition?
JR: In the 2004 Cup Final at McDiarmid Park with Ross County, we lost 2-1 to Falkirk. I had had a cartilage operation earlier in the season and missed the previous rounds, and made my first start in a number of months in the Final.
I also scored my first senior goal in this competition, in 2003 (2nd August), first round, for Ross County against Cowdenbeath at Central Park.
How have you treated the build up to this Final, compared to a league game?
JR: No differently really. Obviously we have a change of strip, a one off for the players in the final today, and we have had SPFL Trust branded matchballs to train with, and to play with today. But apart from that the only other thing has been going for a pre match meal, which we only normally do when going up north.
We had more media in at the start of the week to interview players ahead of today’s game.
I think it is important we try and keep it as normal as possible, but also realise the importance of the game come kick off on Sunday.
While the club is still very much at the bottom end of the table, we are now facing seven league games in the month of April. What are your thoughts for this unusually busy period?
JR: It is an old cliché in football that you have to take each game as it comes. But since the turn of the year it has put us in good stead by doing exactly that.
Seven games in 22 days, such a short period of time, near the end of the season, is obviously not our preference. However, we will treat each game as we will today’s game, each game for us is a cup final, and hopefully we can take the three points that are available at the majority of these remaining games, and hopefully a win today to give us a chance for our players to put their names in the record books.
It’s a busy and intense period but we know what we have to do and we are all geared up for it.
Scott Struthers spoke with Accies player – and lifelong Accies fan – Lewis Smith
Lewis turned 23 just ten days ago and has scored 11 times in 112 Accies appearances. He has been with Hamilton Academical since he was 9 years old….
Lewis, you and your family are well known as Accies fans, indeed I recall selling your Grandpa and father season tickets in the 1980s and 1990s onwards. What’s the family background then?
My Grandpa (Bill Smith) had been a huge Accies fan his whole life and had been a season ticket holder for many years, at the old ground and here at the new. So there had only been one team in our family. My Dad (Graeme) has been going his whole life too. Then they started taking me and my brothers as we got old enough.
I signed here as a player when I was 9. It’s all I’ve ever known!
What are your early memories of watching Accies? And you’ve been a mascot too?
The first game I can recall being at was the promotion winning match when we won 4-0 at Forfar Athletic in May 2004. I was only 4, but I do remember it. We needed to win to get promoted. I also remember being on the pitch after the game (as a 4 year old and my Mum was raging!). Allan Maitland, the current Chairman, was the manager that day.
I was also mascot in April 2007, a 3-0 home win over Livingston [Accies team – Murdoch, Parratt, Swailes, McCarthy, Elebert, Easton, Winters, McArthur, Offiong, Neil, Gilhaney. Subs Gibson, Wilson, Wake]. It’s amazing that I am now playing with Easty! And Sean Murdoch actually refereed our reserve game on Tuesday!
My big brother had been a mascot before me, and my wee brother has since been a mascot too.
I can also remember being at our 2005 Final in this competition when we lost to St Mirren at Airdrie.
In the 2008-2011 period when we were in the Premier Division I went to a lot of games and I can remember watching Easty play before his move to Burnley. I remember the second promotion season in 2014 when we won the play off at Easter Road at the end of May. I had been at the first leg at NDP, which we lost, but I missed the second leg in Edinburgh. I think we had a youth fixture that afternoon too.
We then had a great spell of form at the start of the following season in the Premiership and we had three successive wins, which were all fantastic – beating Motherwell away 4-0, Celtic away 1-0 (to go top of the Premiership) then beating Aberdeen 3-0 at home in a Friday TV match. I was at those games, and remember well Ali Crawford’s goal at Celtic to send us top of the league. I later played with some of those players like Tony Andreu and Dougie Imrie. Those were good times.
Our last final in this competition was in 2012. What do you remember of that one?.
It was just after my 12th birthday, we lost 1-0 to Falkirk at Livingston, and I was very disappointed. I thought we had a good chance of winning that game, so was upset that we lost. And, as I’ve since been reminded, Andy Winter’s dad, Brian, was the referee that day too. I didn’t know it at the time obviously, but Andy mentions it now.
I wasn’t on the pitch that day!
What are your thoughts for this afternoon’s match?
Obviously I am very much looking forward to the game and we have a chance to lift some silverware. That’s what all players want to do. We all feel we have a real chance today and we are looking to be the winners. Raith Rovers are a strong team that we have played a lot recently. They are a good footballing side and are doing well. But this is a one off game, it’s a cup final, and you never know what is going to happen.
And after today’s game, we have eight league matches remaining, seven of which are in April. What’s your thoughts for the run in?
The matches are going to be coming thick and fast after today, and we have several Tuesday night games coming up. We must pick up as many points as we can get from these games and hopefully that will be enough to ensure we stay up.
Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday-Tuesday etc is great for the ones who are playing as they won’t train as much, they are just doing recovery and preparing for the next game. But for the others in the squad you have to keep working hard and be ready for selection.
I’m confident we will stay up. Our recent form shows we have got it in us to get results, but we need to get back to winning ways and that should hopefully be enough to keep us up.