Why the future may be bright for Hamilton Accies as Brian Rice praises youngsters

Hamilton Accies’ time in the top-flight is officially up. After seven seasons and 258 games they return to the second tier for the first time since 2014.

Hamilton boss Brian Rice will now prepare to get the team back into the Premiership after relegation. Picture: SNS

Despite their ability to dodge the drop, put important runs together and record famous results no one saw coming, that staying power could never last, despite what so many thought.

After all, after averaging 1.40 points-per-game in their first season back in the Premiership that continued to drop season on season. Despite a small rise to 0.90 in last season’s truncated campaign, this term it fell to a low of 0.79.

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Yet, even on a day where manager Brian Rice admitted to being “devastated”, he was encouraged by the return of Lewis Smith and a host of academy graduates who performed admirably in the 2-0 loss to an experienced Kilmarnock side.

There were four 19-year-olds starting, including goalkeeper Jamie Smith who produced a wonderful penalty stop to deny Mitch Pinnock a hat-trick, a moment Rice said he will “remember for the rest of his life”.

Youth will have a “big" role to play in Accies' Championship team.

“They are on the pitch because they are good players, it just so happens some of them were academy graduates but they showed out there today against a Kilmarnock team that had to win that they have got what it takes,” Rice said.

"So the experience they get from playing in the Premiership, hopefully, if they have a good summer, good pre-season they are ready to go next season.

"It’s a horrible day. I will go away with the positives of seeing some of the young lads performances today. I thought some of them were outstanding and to get one or two back on the pitch after the season they have had with their injuries.

"I’m standing at the side of the pitch watching Lewis Smith. That's his first start since August and I’m willing him to get the ball because to me he is head and shoulders above everyone else on the pitch.

"A young lad, his season has been ruined. Last season was fantastic, he was in Scotland Under-21s. Just to get him on the pitch today and see him getting on the ball and getting at players, that gives me hope and inspires me.”

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