HAMILTON ACADEMICAL FC
Hamilton Academical FC were formed in late 1874 by the Rector and pupils of the local school, thus the unusual name, but they are known universally as The Accies. The club became members of the SFA soon after and began competing in the Scottish Cup and Qualifying Cup and in the early years most games were friendlies or localised cup ties. Membership of the Scottish Football League came in November 1897 when Renton, one of the major clubs in the early days, were forced to resign and Accies were invited to take over their fixtures.
Although Accies went on to win the Second Division championship in 1904 they were not promoted to the First Division automatically as promotion was still by invitation at that time. However, they did make the step up shortly afterwards. The Scottish Cup Final was reached in 1911 but the club lost to Celtic in a replay. Again in 1935 Accies made the final, losing 2-1 to Rangers this time. In the early days of the century the club played in cerise and french grey, the colours of the then Duke of Hamilton. The 1930s saw Accies at their best. The club were amongst the top sides in the country and were regularly in the top six in the First Division. Two players were to be capped by Scotland while at Douglas Park and others were sold to top English sides. The club's best ever player, Englishman David Wilson, scored 246 league goals in eleven seasons leading up to the war. Like so many other great players of that era his career was halted by the hostilities. During the war another great came to play for Accies - England 'keeper Frank Swift, who would later tragically die in the Munich disaster.
When organised football resumed after the war Accies were relegated to the Second Division. They would be promoted back to the top flight in 1953 and 1965 but were relegated after just one season each time. From the late 1960s through to the early 1970s the club were at a low point and were frequently at the bottom of the old Second Division. In 1971 Accies became the first British club to recruit players from behind the iron curtain when three Polish internationalists signed for the club amid great publicity.
Success came in the late 1980s when promotion to the Premier League was achieved in 1986 and 1988, going up as First Division champions on each occasion, but like the previous promotions the spell in the top division was for one season only. In 1991 and 1992 the club won the B&Q Cup, the competition for all non-Premier teams, firstly defeating Ayr 1-0 at Fir Park and then Morton 3-2 at Love Street. Promotion back to the Premier was also missed on goal difference that season.
New ground regulations imposed by the safety authorities saw the club vacate Douglas Park, home to the Accies since 1888, in 1994 but the hoped for move to a new stadium did not materialise as planned and the club ground shared with Albion Rovers and Partick Thistle (two spells) for seven years. That period was generally a low one for the club, even though they have topped the First Division twice in the last few seasons. Two relegations befell the club. However the club were promoted straight back as Champions of the Third Division in 2001, winning the title on the final day of the season amidst great scenes at Montrose. Then July 2001 brought the long awaited return to Hamilton after seven years on the road. The new stadium currently seats 6078 fans and is yards from the old site at Douglas Park. The stadium was opened v Sunderland on 28th July 2001.
After a change in ownership in 2003 promotion back to the First Division came in May 2004 following a 4-0 away win at Forfar. The club then installed an artificial fieldturf surface at the ground amidst great publicity and this has proved most beneficial for the stadium and the club’s youth and community plans. 2005-06 saw a concerted challenge at the top end of the First Division, the club were also in the final again of the Bell’s Cup (the B&Q when first won by Accies) and reached the quarter final replay stage of the Scottish Cup, the club’s best run in 39 years.
Season 2007-08 went very for the club as Accies led the First Division all season and eventually won the league by seven points from Dundee. Manager Billy Reid was voted as the PFA Scotland Manager of the Year.
The following season brought Accies' first venture into the top division for 20 years and they performed well, finishing in 9th position in the league. In addition, Accies reached the quarter final stage of both national cup competitions, although they were defeated at Ibrox both times. In May, James McCarthy won the PFA Scotland Young Player of the Year, ahead of James McArthur, while Billy Reid narrowly missed out on the manager's prize.
The club's transfer records were smashed in July 2009. Goalkeeper Tomas Cerny made his move from SK Sigma Olomouc permanent at £180,000 (triple the previous record), while James McCarthy moved to Wigan Athletic for almost £1,200,000 (again, triple the previous best sale).
In season 2009-10 the club finished in 7th place in the SPL, its highest top flight finish in over 70 years. The club were relegated from the SPL at the end of season 2010-11 and will compete in the Irn Bru Scottish Football League First Division this season.