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Hamilton boss Brian Rice lauds academy role as he calls for government aid

Hamilton Academical v Rangers – Scottish Premiership – Fountain of Youth Stadium
(Image credit: Jane Barlow)

Hamilton head coach Brian Rice highlighted the “crucial” role the club’s academy plays in their community as he asked for government support for football.

The Scottish football authorities this week warned of “catastrophic” consequences if clubs are deprived of gate money for most of the season.

The Scottish Government put back the potential return of fans for another three weeks at least but their UK counterparts had earlier warned that new measures to stifle the spread of Covid-19 could be in place for six months.

Scottish sports minister Joe Fitzpatrick has written to his equivalent in Whitehall to ask that sports north of the border get access to any rescue package on offer to English clubs and governing bodies and Rice believes such public backing could be vital.

“Bail us out, give us a hand,” he said. “Everybody’s on our knees, the country is on its knees. We all need a hand.

“We are not looking for favouritism, we are just looking for a hand, same as everybody else is.”

Unlike most of their Scottish Premiership rivals, Accies did not sell season tickets in the summer.

Rice said: “I’m not the chief executive, I’m not the owner, I’m just looking at it as a layman, and it’s very, very difficult.”

Accies have produced a number of players for their first team in recent years including Crystal Palace pair James McArthur and James McCarthy but Rice stressed that the youth set-up had many other benefits.

“The academy is the lifeblood of clubs like this, it’s the hub of the community,” he said. “This is the place they can come, this is their escape, maybe a pathway out of the existence they are in. This academy is crucial to this club.

“The academy isn’t just about football, it’s about coming into an environment where you meet new friends, about physical fitness, about enjoyment, about escapism. Because once you get out on that football pitch, you are in a different world.

“I spend a lot of time at nights training with them and looking at the coaches working with them, and it’s fantastic to see the kids out there with a ball and a smile on their face, enjoying themselves.

“It’s not just about making them football players., it’s about giving them something to look forward to in life.”

Rice hopes to have several players back in his squad for Saturday’s Scottish Premiership clash with Dundee United.

Kyle Munro and Ross Callachan dropped out last weekend after three players tested positive for Covid-19, and Lee Hodson was also self-isolating after his flatmate, St Mirren goalkeeper Jak Alnwick, was infected.

The three affected players have had fresh tests and will come into contention if they get the all-clear.

“They seem fine,” Rice said. “They obviously tested negative in the end but they have been in the house isolating for 10 days and it’s very difficult to be stuck in the house at any time. But when you’re a young fit lad and you know your team-mates are out there training, it’s really difficult.

“I keep saying, it’s not just the physical side of it, it’s the mental side of it too for me as well.

“It’s trying times for everybody in the country. We need to look after one another and anybody close by who we think is maybe struggling.”

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