The high-flying Lanarkshire club moved back into top spot in the table on Sunday with a stunning first win against Celtic at Parkhead in 76 years. The 1-0 victory means Alex Neil’s side have lost just once this season – their opening league match against Inverness Caledonian Thistle back on 9 August.
For a team that was promoted via a narrow play-off triumph over Hibernian, and who refused the temptation to tinker with their home-grown squad during the close season, it has been a stunning reintroduction to the top division after three years away.
However, the goal of securing their place in the top echelon of Scottish football for next term remains, according to Gray, who has described a top-six finish as “beyond our dreams”.
Gray is also adamant that Hamilton’s model of developing their own players will not be jettisoned to follow that fantasy just because they currently sit proudly as the best team in Scotland. He said: “I don’t think it gets better than this for us, to be honest. I think the boys should enjoy it while it lasts. They’ve worked very hard and Alex has done a terrific job with a young group who have a lot of potential. I think continuity [is the secret]. We’ve talked about our model for some time now and Alex has been part of this for eight or nine years and been groomed as an under-17 manager, under-20 manager, now the first-team coach and player. He’s played with a lot of these boys and brought them through, and I think he finished [Sunday’s] game with eight academy players on the pitch. That stands testament to the model.
“It works for us. A lot is said about budgets and money, but that doesn’t really come into it for us, we’ve got a model that works for us. We bring kids in at a very young age and they’re not paid a lot of money but are highly incentivised to get to the first team, to win.
“I think that’s the way we will continue to progress and if that doesn’t work and we end up in the bottom tier, we’ll still do it our way. We won’t change our philosophy. We started the season looking to stay in the league. That hasn’t changed. We’ve had a terrific start and we’re sitting at the top but we’re not stupid.
“The way things are looking for us at the moment it’s pretty positive, but staying in the league is our priority – the top six would be beyond our dreams, probably.”
Hamilton have found their bank account strengthened in recent times by the sale – and resale – of the likes of James McArthur, James McCarthy and Brian Easton. And Gray is clear that there is no reason why the continuity that has brought Accies success so far this season would be abandoned.
He added: “Absolutely, of course it is [sustainable]. If we are to aim for a top-six position and get the budget that goes with that and the distribution then that would allow us to plough more money into our set-up.”