He rubs shoulders with some of the best footballers in the world every week, but Scotland international midfielder James McArthur will never forget his debt to Hamilton Accies.
The Lanarkshire club’s players and supporters have revelled in the media spotlight following a famous win against Scottish Premiership champions Celtic at Parkhead on Sunday and McArthur has been quick to pay his own tribute to the club which helped him land a move to the English Premier League.
McArthur spent seven years with Accies before joining then English Premier League side Wigan Athletic for £500,000 in 2010.
Despite suffering relegation with the Latics, McArthur’s form convinced Crystal Palace manager Neil Warnock to spend a club record £7million transfer fee on the Glaswegian this summer.
However McArthur, who turned 27 yesterday, believes neither his big money moves or his 16 Scotland caps would have been possible had he not been given a grounding which allowed him to play first-team football at a young age.
McArthur is glad Accies – for who he made 192 appearances – have continued to give youth its chance and is not surprised to see the New Douglas Park outfit start the Premiership campaign impressively, with Alex Neil’s side sitting top of the table following the 1-0 win against Celtic on Sunday.
Preparing of Scotland’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Georgia at Ibrox on Saturday, McArthur said: “I don’t think I would be sitting here if I started at another club. I really believe that. If I was at another club I might not have got that chance. I might have been playing reserve football and not progressed as far. I owe a lot to Hamilton.
“I played quite a lot of games and the players there now have done that as well. You learn from playing games. When you have to win a match you’re playing for your career.
“I wouldn’t have changed anything. I would have always wanted to be at a club like Hamilton. They’re such a good club, they’re so close. They are a small club but they’re run very well.
“They’ve done brilliant. Alex Neil has done a remarkable job in the time he’s been manager. But former manager Billy Reid needs to get credit as well as he took these kids, nurtured them and brought them through. Alex has taken it on from there and done an amazing job.
“They’re not just good players because of how they’ve done this year, it’s because they’ve been given a chance for the last three or four seasons where they’ve played 80 to 100 games and learned.
“When you’re playing reserve football it’s much harder, you don’t get as much out of it. They’re getting a chance to learn the right way.
“I think Hamilton is a prime example of the way the game in Scotland is continuing to progress. They’ve done a great job, they’re producing a lot of young talent and that’s good for the Scotland national team as well.”
McArthur has been hugely impressed with the squad selected by Scotland manager Gordon Strachan, and reckons competition is healthy throughout the side.
Scotland are seeking their first points of the Euro 2016 qualification campaign against Georgia after losing 2-1 away to World Cup winners Germany last month. McArthur believes there are plenty positives to be taken from a spirited display in Dortmund.
McArthur added: “It’s the best squad I’ve been involved in. For the manager to pick a team is getting harder. But that can only be a good thing.
“We’ll take a lot from the Germany match. We ran the world champions really close.”