There has never been a better time to be an Accies fan. In May 2014, an unexpected and dramatic shoot-out win over Hibs gained Hamilton Academical promotion to the Scottish Premiership. Even more unexpectedly, once in the SPL, the Accies went to win at Celtic for the first time since 1938 – and top the top flight.
In the end, Hamilton finished mid-table, Tony Andreu finishing the season as top scorer despite leaving the club for Norwich in February 2015.
European football would have been a first. Britain’s only professional club founded from a school team, the Hamilton Academy, the Accies have few honours to show for 140 years of activity. Hamilton have reached two Scottish Cup finals – Celtic needed a replay to beat them in 1911 – and won the second-flight title, the old First Division, under Billy Reid in 2008.
The loyal Reid stayed at Hamilton until 2013, gaining occasionally impressive results in the SPL despite a young team that featured later internationals James McCarthy and James McArthur.
Current young prospects Stephen Hendrie, Ziggy Gordon, Grant Gillespie and Ali Crawford all played a major part in the successful promotion campaign of 2013-14 – but perhaps none more so than long-term player-manager Alex Neil and Monaco-trained forward Tony Andreu.
Scouted by Celtic legend John Collins, Andreu hit a purple patch at the very right time. From his first-half hat-trick in the 10-2 destruction of Morton in the match of the regular season, to his solitary goal in the play-off semi-final against Falkirk, the former Livingston striker keep Accies in the hunt.
But that was nothing compared to his 93rd minute drive to bring Hamilton back from the dead at Easter Road in the play-off final. Having lost 2-0 to SPL stalwarts Hibs at home, Hamilton went to Edinburgh with few giving them a chance.
Andreu’s equaliser sending the game to extra-time then penalties, Hamilton then dispatched four perfect spot-kicks to gain promotion against all the odds.
New Douglas Park was built next to the original Douglas Park in 2001. Opened in 1888, Douglas Park served Hamilton for more than a century before it was broken up, sections sold elsewhere around Scotland and the land developed by a supermarket.
Capacity is an all-seated 6,000, including the temporary-looking enclosure opposite the main stand. Away fans are generally allocated seats in the Spice of Life North Stand.
From the lower level platforms at Glasgow Central, trains leave every 15mins for Hamilton West (25min, £3.70). You’ll see the stadium to your left as you pull in. From platform 2, walk along the footpath in the direction you came from, with Sainsbury’s supermarket to your right. The stadium is 5min away.
With Hamilton’s promotion to the SPL, admission is an across-the-board £22 in cash at the turnstile, £10 for under 18s. Away fans are allocated the Spice of Life North Stand, with extra seats in the East Stand if needed.
The Accies Shop opens on match days, just to the right of the main entrance.
As the stadium is set in a retail park, there are no pubs in the immediate vicinity.
By the bridge over Hamilton West station, the Academical Vaults is the nearest drinking hole, a sport-focused pub with old regulars around the bar counter, horse racing on the many TVs and pictures of old Hamilton on the walls.
A little further from the station, at the junction where Almada Street meets Burnbank Road, the Tap Room attracts a younger clientele with its wider choice of beers, cocktails and meal deals. Diagonally opposite, Bar West is similarly trendy, with Sky Sports TV by day and partying by night.