There was a time when big, big things were expected of David Templeton. For the past couple of years, most people – including the player himself – feared those days were behind him.
But, always a player for the big occasion, he is back, free from injury and displaying enough of his old sparkle to have those who know him predicting he could be the difference between Hamilton spending next season in the top flight or slumping into the Championship.
“One of his biggest attributes is that the big occasion does not faze him,” said Gary Locke, a man who saw him blossom as a young talent at Hearts. From the reserves to Europa League qualifying nights against Liverpool, the former Gorgie coach said it was always evident that there was something special about the attacking midfielder. “The two Liverpool games, for me, and I’m obviously not saying he is as good as Gerard or Suarez, but over those two games he was the best player on the park.” His goal at Anfield gave him legendary status at Tynecastle and elevated his worth, precipitating a move to Rangers, where injury struck and the mental demons took hold.
Having taken so long to solve the mystery of a knee injury that forced an almost two-year lay-off, the 28-year-old is back being hailed as an influential livewire and with Accies manager Martin Canning facing several injury conundrums, Locke believes the player who has battled back from his own hell could be the one to compensate for the other losses with the kind of game-changing performances he is able to muster up.
“I still actually keep in touch with Temps,” said Locke, who engineered Cowdenbeath’s league survival this term. “I think the world of him and think he is a great player. He never quite fulfilled his potential at a big club like Rangers, but he was in an out the team and was injured a lot. Certainly if he stays fit and if he gets back to the way he was playing at Hearts, then he could be a sensational player and he is somebody who can get you on the edge of your seat because when he gets on the ball there is always something likely to happen.
“Like he showed at Tannadice for the chance Hamilton missed in the first half, if he gets the ball in the right area then he sees a pass then he is capable of taking out two or three players with it or he is capable of making a run that takes out two or three players and then scoring a goal. That makes him worth every penny that you would pay for him because there are not many players who can do that nowadays.”
Once described as lightweight, Templeton’s spell in injury exile has toughened him up mentally and given him extra drive and desire to make up for lost time, according to Locke, who himself came through career-threatening knee injuries and knows the psychological toll they can take.
“When you are injured you have that much time to think about things and when you look at what Temps has been through, I’ve been through that myself, it’s tough,” said Locke. “You are flying and then you get a knee problem and it’s a slow process, you feel like you are not getting any better and you start worrying about everything; you start worrying if you are going to have to go and get another job, if you will ever play again, will I be as good, all that kind of stuff. You have to be mentally strong and I’m delighted for him that there now seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.”
Confident he can be a game-changer and give the home side the advantage in this afternoon’s Premiership play-off second leg against Dundee United, Locke also believes it won’t be too long before Templeton is aiming even higher.
“I don’t mean any disrespect to Hamilton who have given him the opportunity, but if he is fit then he could play at a higher level and anything is possible,” said Locke. “He certainly should be looking to getting into the Scotland squad and get back playing at a really, really high level. The type of player that Temps is, there are very, very few players like that who are Scottish or playing in Scotland. There is the likes of Patrick Roberts at Celtic but very few others who can get the ball and then out of nothing beat three, four players and score. Like Roberts, when Temps is running at you, he is very, very difficult to defend against and Hamilton have won a watch if they can get him fully fit.”