It doesn’t get much more daunting in the Scottish Premiership than the four-game run Hamilton will kick off at Celtic Park on Tuesday, writes Andrew Smith.
Three days later, Rangers will be their visitors, before a Christmas Eve hosting of Brendan Rodgers’ men and then a festive trek to Aberdeen the following midweek.
At least they have Ali Crawford in their corner for these contests, a player who has been able to punch above his weight in such lop-sided bouts. The accomplished midfielder can boast a winning goal at Celtic Park just over two years ago and a strike at Ibrox in August that pooped Rangers’ Premiership-here-we-go party.
Crawford tends to impress in such company, and it’s perplexing that he does not keep it more often. The 25-year-old feels like the one gifted home-grown Hamilton product who hasn’t got away.
His club have not stood in his way. Instead, as manager Martin Canning admitted this week, his slight 5ft 7in frame has probably resulted in a variety of teams failing to follow up on good scouting reports.
Crawford, though, can take care of himself, as Canning also acknowledged, and the player continues to believe his talents will take care of his career trajectory. “I’m at an age now, 25, and been here ten years so I’ve served my time here like the others did, [James] McCarthy and [James] McArthur. They did their bit and then they moved on. So that’s something I’d look to do too. If it’s January or next year then so be it. If it comes, it comes. If it doesn’t then I’ve still got a year and a half left of my contract.
“I’ve been a first-team regular since I was 19 or 20 and that’s given me that experience of coming up from the Championship and playing in the Premiership and I’ve now played 200-odd game for Hamilton. That’s good experience and hopefully that can help get me to the next stage.”
Crawford is entitled to be wounded he hasn’t been given bigger stage for his abilities. “I’m not wounded about it,” he said. “I’ve come up from the Championship and we had a good first season with Alex Neil [across 2014-15].
“I signed a three-year deal at that stage so if there had been interest at that stage that might have put people off as I think clubs would have had to pay a bit of money for me. That might have had something to do with it.
“Now I’ve only got a year and a half left so maybe it will be a reduced fee, depending on what Hamilton are looking for.”
What Crawford is looking for is a club to give him the opportunity he has earned.