Billy Reid targets promotion for Hamilton Accies

By John BarnesBBC Scotland
Billy Reid.
Billy Reid's Hamilton Accies are looking forward to life in the First Division

Hamilton Accies manager Billy Reid believes the race for the Scottish Football League First Division title is wide open.

Accies, who were relegated in May after three seasons in the top flight, are aiming to make an immediate return.

"The ambition of the team coming down should always be to bounce straight back up," Reid told BBC Scotland.

"But if you think you're coming back into the First Division to cake walk it, that's not going to happen."

"I know exactly what the First Division is all about. I've had many seasons in it. Every game is difficult and there will be a few clubs fancying their chances to go up to the Premier League next season."

Dundee have been installed as favourites to win the title by bookmakers at 9/4. Accies are second favourites at 11/4, then come Falkirk at 5/1 and Livingston at 11/2.

However, the Accies boss hopes his men can defy the odds just like they did in 2008 when they won the First Division title.

"People say the bookies are never far wrong and that's probably true. But the season we won it you could get 12/1 on us winning the league," said Reid.

"I don't think there's a clear favourite. Normally I could pinpoint one or two clubs I think will be there, but I think it's really open.

"You can look at Dundee, Falkirk, Ross County, Morton and Queen of the South, with Gus MacPherson and Andy Millen in charge, won't be an easy nut to crack. I can guarantee that it'll be difficult and close.

"Look at Raith Rovers last season: they almost went all the way. I don't think anybody would have envisaged them going nearly to the Premier League."

But the Accies manager hopes a spell in the SFL will benefit his club in the longer term.

"I'd like to manage in the Scottish Premier League and for the club still to be there, but I've said before sometimes this club's got to take a step back and we're certainly having to do that.

"You look at our squad we've got 20 players and 10 of them are 19 years of age or under. So it shows our intention this season to go with youth.

"That's always the ethos of this club. It's the only way to survive and we'll certainly do that.

"It's a lot easier to ground young players in the First Division than in the SPL against bigger clubs, so I'm really looking forward to it."

The financial hit Accies have taken in being relegated is reflected in the size and strength of their squad. But Reid is aware his fellow bosses have the same problems to overcome.

"My squad's been cut massively in terms of numbers," said Reid.

"Managers will tell you they don't have big squads. I think Allan Moore at Morton is saying that he only has 14 of a squad, so that shows you need to keep your players fit. That's imperative and whoever does that will go a long way to deciding who wins the League."

Accies's quest to remain in the top tier of Scottish football last season was hampered by injuries to key players and poor home form which saw them record only one league win at New Douglas Park.

"We must start winning games at home," Reid added.

"If we can keep Tomas Cerny, Mark McLaughlin, Martin Canning, Simon Mensing, Dougie Imrie and our captain Alex Neil fit then that will be crucial to what we want to achieve.

"I'm fairly happy with the quality of player I've brought in," said Reid.

"Grant Anderson from Stenhousemuir two seasons ago was playing with Rob Roy juniors, so it shows the step up he's made.

"Willie McLaren scored 12 goals for Queen of the South last season, so if he can do that for me I'll certainly be really happy.

"Derek Lyle's back until Christmas to give him an opportunity to win a longer contract. We know we need to add to our strikeforce and I'm quite sure we should bring in two strikers before the window shuts."

The South Lanarkshire club begin their league campaign away to newly promoted Ayr United at Somerset Park and Reid has done his homework on the opposition.

"We've had a smashing pre-season. We've had Ayr United watched in a couple of games and they've had good results. They're an experienced team so we know exactly what to expect."

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