HAMILTON boss Alex Neil paid tribute to his players after their momentous 1-0 victory at champions Celtic propelled Accies to the top of the Scottish Premiership.
The newly-promoted side have enjoyed a dream start to their first top-flight season in three years, taking 20 points from nine league games so far.
It was the first time Hamilton, who were promoted via the play-offs at Hibernian’s expense in May, have won at Celtic Park in 23 attempts stretching back as far as 1938.
Speaking as a guest on BBC Scotland’s Sportscene programme, a modest Neil said the result “has sunk in” and is “historic for the club”.
The Lanarkshire outfit have recovered from their opening weekend defeat by Inverness in spectacular fashion with a 10-game unbeaten run in all competitions, which has prompted chairman Les Gray to re-assess their targets for the season.
But their 33-year-old player-manager insisted “all the credit” must go to his young squad, with eight academy graduates featuring either from the start or from the bench against the Hoops.
“The fact they are such a young group of players and have managed to turn it around, it’s all credit to them,” Neil said, after his side moved a point clear of second-placed Dundee United.
“They’ve been fantastic this season. We’re just enjoying it at the moment as much as we can.”
Before the game, Neil had ambitiously vowed that Hamilton would attack Celtic in the hope of claiming a famous victory – and his side achieved exactly that.
“We went there with a game plan,” he said.
“I had belief in the team and the players and I did say to them before the match that if they played to their full potential there was an opportunity we could get something from the game and that’s the way it happened.”
Neil acknowledged the profligacy of Celtic, who were guilty of missing a series of scoring chances but could not prevent their second league defeat of the campaign.
“I think at Celtic Park you are always going to have to ride your luck and I thought in the first half they didn’t have a great deal, a few bits and bobs,” the midfielder explained.
“Second half, they had some real good opportunities that they will probably think they should have done better.
“However, as the game wore on in the second half, we got some good opportunities ourselves. I think our opportunities as well are ones we really should score.”
Fellow pundit Steven Thompson admitted he was not shocked by the “deserved” result for Accies, claiming Celtic’s opponents now have greater belief when facing the champions and pinpointed their loss of a clinical touch in the final third.
The St Mirren striker said: “We played Celtic a couple of weeks ago [2-1 defeat at St Mirren Park] and I wasn’t really that impressed with them.
“They’re not showing the same ruthlessness as they did last year and you always feel as though you can get a goal against them just now.
“You can really sense that you can enter the game with belief. How many times do you go to Parkhead thinking we can get a result here and really believe in it, but Hamilton did that today.”
Calls for Celtic manager Ronny Deila to be dismissed have emerged on social media following his side’s stuttering start to the campaign but Thompson believes it is too early for a decision to be made about his immediate future.
“He’s only been in the job three months,” the 35-year-old added. “The expectation levels are so high and the form has been indifferent, but the squad is just too good and they will, in my opinion, go on to get better and win the league.”