McAvoy is ready to step up a level

Frankie McAvoy with under-17s player Shaun Want
Frankie McAvoy with under-17s player Shaun Want

Hamilton Accies academy director Frankie McAvoy admits his side never expected to be kicking off in the top flight on Saturday.

The Scottish Premiership new boys entertain Inverness having earned their top flight status courtesy of a dramatic play-off victory offer Hibs.

McAvoy from Bellshill will be in the home dug-out as he splits his time between bringing through the club’s youngsters with assisting manager Alex Neil.

He said: “Our objective this time last year was just to get in the top four and secure a play-off spot, we never really expected to get promoted so quickly.

“However as the season went on we performed really well and in the end had a great chance to win the league, being rather disappointed we allowed Dundee to pip us to the title.

“However, the play-off against Hibs gave us a second chance at promotion and although we went two down after the first leg we felt we were the better footballing side.

“We thought if we get an early goal we could turn the tie around and so it proved.”

Last time Accies were in the top league they could call upon the likes of James McCarthy and James McArthur.

Those players have since gone on to carve out good careers for themselves in England, but McAvoy still believes the current squad will be able to compete.

He said: “We are under no illusions as to how tough it will be for us given we are moving up a level and our aim starting off is just to avoid relegation and stay in the top flight.

“Obviously we want to finish as high as we can, but if that ends up being 10th then we will consider it a very successful season.

“We don’t have the likes of McCarthy and McArthur this time around, but we have got a good squad that mixes experience and youth.

“Alex wanted to give the lads who have won us promotion their chance, although we have added a few new faces and think we have got a really good balance.

“We have the experience of Martin Canning, Alex Neil and Jason Scotland coupled with the potential of Ziggy Gordon, Ali Crawford and Grant Gillespie to name but a few so it’s a very exciting time.”

McAvoy will be busier than most assistants with Neil likely to spend a large portion of the season on the pitch.

He said: “Alex is still a very good player and an important part of the side on the pitch.

“It is my job to support him in whatever way I can and I think we make a good team, but there is no question that he is the manager and the final decision rests with him.

“Hopefully what we have done before will stand us in good stead and can continue our recent success in this coming season.”