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Hamilton Academicals and commitment to youth, as Everton, Crystal Palace and Norwich take advantage

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he path of Scottish footballers often leads to the English game, with a host of players from the country earning a living south of the border.

While few, if any, are playing in the Premier League’s elite clubs, there has been a proven track record that the Scottish game has been a lucrative hunting ground for English teams.

Southampton have successfully raided the Scottish Premiership’s top team Celtic for stars Victor Wanyama and Virgil van Dijk in recent years, but there is also a case to suggest that Scotland’s young starlets are worthing paying attention to.

The example of modest club Hamilton Academicals in recent times deserves exposure, with the club on the outskirts of Glasgow producing some stellar players that are now thriving in the Premier League.

The New Douglas Park outfit have established themselves as a solid outfit in the Scottish top flight over the last 12 months, with much of their success being based around the development of players from their youth academy.

The latest crop of young stars are a new generation yet to be fully appreciated by the wider footballing populace, but signs are that some have the potential to follow in the footsteps of other Accies players in heading to England.

The 2008 Hamilton team that won the Scottish First Division had three figures that the English footballing public will recognise well.

James McCarthy is arguably the most illustrious of the club’s recent alumni, graduating from the youth academy and was given his first taste of senior football as a 15-year-old.

Fast forward almost ten years and the all-action midfielder is an ever-present in an expansive Everton midfield and a Republic of Ireland international boasting over 30 caps.

Wigan were first to recognise the potential of the box-to-box man, taking both him and Accies team-mate James McArthur to the DW Stadium at the turn of the decade.

Like the Everton man, McArthur also thrived at the Greater Manchester club and has since moved on to Crystal Palace, who continue to impress under Alan Pardew.

The Scotland international has become an important man for both club and country over the last couple of years and showed his calibre with two goals and a commanding performance in the recent 5-1 thumping of Newcastle.

Alex NeilBetween the pair, their current employers paid a combined £20 million for their services, with both signing recent contract extensions also to ward off potential suitors.

A hip injury to McCarthy prevented the duo from locking horns last night, as Everton and Palace played out a high-quality 1-1 draw at Goodison Park.

Another member of Accies’ 2008 title-winning side has since graduated to management, with Alex Neil previously playing alongside the midfield pair.

The Bellshill-born man evolved into a player manager at the Scottish club, before being poached by Norwich earlier this year.

The Canaries took quite the gamble on the Scotsman given that he was only 33 when he moved to manage the Carrow Road club in January, but Neil’s move south couldn’t have went better.

The passionate coach led Norwich to the Championship play-offs and eventual promotion last season, with the side in yellow proving competitive under his stewardship in the Premier League this term.

With the trio from modest backgrounds excelling in England, the South Lanarkshire club’s production line looks far from finished.

West Ham signed Scotland under-21 full-back Stephen Hendrie from Accies in the summer, with the forward-thinking left-back looking to have a bright future in the game.

The figure of England hopeful Aaron Cresswell has blocked the Scot’s path into the first-team, with potential for a loan switch to a Championship club to win first-team football in the near future.

With Hamilton currently sitting fifth in the Scottish Premiership and a host of youngsters getting a chance to feature in new player/manager Martin Canning’s side, there is every chance that the next McCarthy, McArthur and Neil are being bred at New Douglas Park.

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