Hamilton Accies boss: New deal ahead of play-offs put everyone at ease and helped seal promotion

Hamilton Accies boss John Rankin says penning a contract extension at the club before the play-offs put him and his players at ease, and helped inspire their promotion to the Championship.

The New Douglas Park side sealed an immediate return to the Championship last night with a superb showing in the Highlands, which saw them run out 3-2 winners over Inverness in the second leg and 5-3 victors on aggregate.

Over the course of the four play-off matches, Accies netted 10 goals and produced impressive displays to first see off a battling Alloa in the semi-finals before downing Duncan Ferguson's Caley Jags.

That came hot on the heels of the news that Rankin and his assistant has signed a three-year contract extension with the club, which did not go down well with some sections of the support after the club were beaten to the League One title by Falkirk and their Championship status was far from guaranteed.

However, after taking Accies straight back up and sending his old side down, Rankin says the decision by new Accies owner Seref Zengin to hand him a new deal was a catalyst for their play-off success.

He told Lanarkshire Live Sport : "There has been a lot of doubts from the supporters when we got relegated last season and I totally understand that. But hopefully this goes a long way in terms of the players that are still here and the coaching staff behind me, now we have made sure we got back to where we want to be right now.

"When you go into a play-off not knowing how it is going to go, you can be anxious. But having that mindset that I will be here next season and the players know that I am going to be here as well, that makes them want to stay here and want to commit and work hard for you.

"There are discussions with players to extend their deals and hopefully over the next couple of weeks we will see players committing themselves to the club for the long term.

"We've been to three cup finals in three years and we've won two [including the SPFL Trust Trophy last season] and lost one.

"Going into the Championship next season, I want us to compete. I don't want the same thing to happen as the last time we were there so we are going to have to build a squad that can compete.

"Talking to Seref and Gerry [Strain, the director of football], we are very committed to making sure we do that and we can hold our own against anyone in the league next season."

Early quick-fire goals from Kevin O'Hara and Lewis Smith, both fine finishes, put Accies well on their way inside 12 minutes at the Caledonian Stadium before Cammy Kerr pulled a goal back for Inverness in 31 minutes. But O'Hara's penalty as half-time approached sealed the deal for Hamilton, who conceded with the last kick of the ball to Alex Samuel in the ninth minute of stoppage time.

Rankin was thrilled with the performance as his players hit their rivals with an early sucker punch, just as they did in the first lef.

He added: "We tried to blow them away on Wednesday night and we felt it worked to an extent and I felt they would think we would sit in and defend our lead for the second game, so I wanted to catch them by surprise and go up and score not just one but I felt we could score two.

"I didn't think we would do it so early but when we did that, the players began to believe what we were saying to them in the week. You could see how hard they were working for one another and I am delighted for them.

"It was a strange feeling going into the last part of the game being so far ahead. The players have to take huge credit because they carried out the game plan and they did it with quality as well.

"When it is the last game of the season and you know you have a shot at promotion, very rarely can you feel that relaxed but we had a good cushion and I knew with the players we had on the pitch, they were unlikely to concede. We did concede right at the very end obviously but I am over for the moon."

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