HAMILTON Academical’s new caretaker player/manager Martin Canning has assured supporters that there will be no radical changes for the home Scottish Premiership match against Dundee United tonight.
The 33-year-old defender was promoted on Friday after Alex Neil’s move to Norwich City was confirmed.
Canning has been instrumental in what has been a remarkable season for the New Douglas Park side following promotion from the Championship.
A win over United takes the Lanarkshire men level on points with second-placed Celtic, albeit they will have played two more games than the champions.
It is with that form in mind that the former Gretna and Hibernian player will pick his first starting XI as a boss.
“Things have got to remain the same because what we have been doing has obviously been working,” said experienced defender Canning.
“The biggest thing for me is to try to maintain the continuity. There will be tweaks because obviously you have different ideas and different opinions on certain things but on the whole, what we have been doing has been working so there won’t be any wholesale changes.
“This will obviously be my first time picking a team and potentially playing in it – and that is decision I will need to think long and hard about. But we will be trying to keep it as similar as we can and hopefully we can play well on the night.
“Dundee United are a great side but we have done equally as well this season. It is live on the television so it will be a big occasion and we will be up for it.
“It has been a hectic week and there has been a bit of change but it is my job to make sure everyone is focused and concentrating.”
Canning, who joined Accies in September 2008 and who has been coaching Accies’ under-17s, is currently undergoing a crash course in management which he admits is a “whole different ball game” to simply being a player.
“It happened very quickly and it has been a whirlwind for everybody,” he said. “It is obviously a great opportunity for Alex and it has been pretty hectic for me. I didn’t work closely with Alex but I had a little insight into what he did and I will have to learn it as I go.
“It is a totally different working day. It will be a lot more hectic and there will be a lot more to do. Obviously on top of that I will still need to train. But I will find out what works for me and get on with it.”
Canning insists he is so busy preparing for the United game that he has not considered whether or not he wants his new post permanently.
“I am putting all my efforts into Monday and then maybe next week I can start thinking about other things,” he said. “If it is in your nature to stay in the game it is obviously in your thoughts but this has come totally out of the blue. It is an opportunity but it wasn’t something I was expecting this soon. We will take it day by day and see what happens.”
Dundee United manager Jackie McNamara, meanwhile, insists his side cannot afford to show the kind of complacency they did against Partick Thistle.
United ended up having to come from behind to earn a hard-fought 2-2 draw at Firhill last Sunday having been on top at the start.
Now they head for Lanarkshire to face Accies in their quest to return to winning ways, with McNamara warning them not to serve up a repeat of their last display.
He said: “Looking back, it was a frustrating game against Partick Thistle. Things didn’t go the way we would have liked.
“It was one of those days from our point of view which made it frustrating for me basically because I thought after the first 25 minutes that we were going to end up as convincing winners. We got an early goal which is always good but we didn’t manage to build on it.
“To be honest, it was worrying how we lost our shape for periods of the game. Unfortunately we were really all over the place, disjointed and showed fear. So that bad spell in the first-half cost us a couple of points at the end of the day. Hamilton are a side that can punish you, as we all saw when they played Motherwell the other week there.
“They are very hungry and hard-working. We need to make sure we match that hunger on Monday night when we go there.”
United are known for their free-flowing approach but McNamara would like to see them grind out results in the manner in which league leaders Aberdeen have been doing to help them reach the top in the Premiership.
He said: “We have to be mentally strong. You look at Aberdeen and see them grinding out results. You have to give them credit for that.
“They can get the one-nils and don’t really give much away. They don’t give things away because of silly mistakes and as a result you don’t see them get punished.
“Hamilton will be a tough test as ever but it’s one we’re looking forward to to try and push on again.”
United defender Callum Morris faces a race against time to be fit for the Accies match as he tries to shake off an Achilles injury.