MARTIN CANNING is glad he no longer has to keep his appointment as Hamilton player/manager a secret.
At a press conference yesterday at New Douglas Park to confirm the 33-year-old defender in his new post, it was revealed he had known about his promotion since Alex Neil’s departure to Norwich on 9 January.
While the waters were muddied by Accies putting a deadline on applications for the post, Canning, in caretaker charge for three consecutive defeats, had to straight-bat questions about his position until the board had assembled a new management structure.
Former Hamilton player Chris Swailes, latterly working at Newcastle United’s academy, has been appointed assistant manager while another former Accies player, Guillaume Beuzelin, comes in as head coach after leaving his assistant’s post at Dumbarton, a role which involves also overseeing the youth set-up.
After a “turbulent” time, Canning was happy to be able to talk freely about his new job. He said: “It is not something you want to keep to yourself but it had to be until the directors had everything in place.
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“It is never easy and not something you like to do on a regular basis, but if it is for the greater good and the right purpose, sometimes it has to be done.
“It was about trying to keep things as normal as possible in the changing room and the pitch, although results have not been what we wanted. Behind the scenes it was in my thoughts. But it wasn’t something I wanted to discuss, it wasn’t the time to discuss it.
“I was delighted to get the opportunity and delighted the board have got the right people behind me.”
Another former Hamilton player, Brian Potter, comes in as goalkeeping coach from Dunfermline, while winger Dougie Imrie takes over the Under-17 side. Swailes and Beuzelin will take the training, which Canning believes will help with his desire to keep on playing.
The former Hibernian stopper said: “It is a great opportunity for me to go into management while marrying it with playing. A lot of player/managers play less or stop playing so that tells you that it is not an easy thing to do.
“But I feel as if I still have something to offer and as long as I think that I will continue to play. That’s why it is important to have a good backroom team to take as much strain off as possible.”
It was a busy day at the Lanarkshire club yesterday. Vice chairman Ronnie MacDonald revealed that he had turned down a bid of around £300,000 from Polish club Jagiellonia Bialystok for 21-year-old defender Ziggy Gordon, and that two top-flight English clubs have expressed an interest in 20-year-old left-back Stephen Hendrie, whose proposed move to West Ham had fallen through.
Chairman Les Gray also confirmed that defender Michael Devlin, 21, had agreed a three-year extension to his contract.
MacDonald, who also revealed that interest in midfielder Tony Andreu from a Chinese club had failed to materialise, said: “The night we knew Alex was going was the night we told Martin he was the new manager.
“We didn’t ask for applications but we received more than 60. We interviewed no one but we thank them all. We took the opportunity to re-organise the club. We take the long view, we want to do what’s right.”
Canning returns from suspension for the visit of in-form Inverness today and will go back into the Accies defence as they look for their first win in four games.
In contrast, John Hughes’ team travel to New Douglas Park having won their last four games and they currently occupy third place – a Europa League spot. Caley Thistle’s initial aim at the start of the season was to avoid relegation and, with top-flight status all but secure, assistant manager Russell Latapy believes that the team can push on further and finish in a European place.
He said: “Our first target was to maintain Premiership status. With 44 points we think we’ve done that, so we have to change our goals. Our goals now are top-six and getting as far up the table as we can get.
“If you look at the position that we’re in and if we continue in that vein, then that’s going to take us into a European place and that is a possibility.”
Latapy was coy on the prospect of Hughes making any new signings to boost the Highlanders’ European ambitions.
He said: “We think that we have a squad of a lot of quality players here and sometimes you bring in players for the sake of bringing in players.
“His (Hughes) view is that if we’re going to get in somebody then that person needs to contribute in a positive way. There’s no point in bringing in somebody that’s going to sit on the bench with the quality that we have.”
Inverness go into the game having won both encounters over Hamilton this season. Latapy emphasised that the Caley Jags would continue to play attractive football as long as they get results.
He said: “We’ve been passing the ball well and we passed it well against St Johnstone on Tuesday. We like to play with the football. We had a large percentage of the ball in the game, close to 60 per cent.
“That’s the way we like to play so that’s the way we play and we’ll continue to play that way as long as we get results.”