Hamilton Academical FC were formed in late 1874 by the Rector and pupils of the local school, thus the unusual name, but they are known universally as The Accies. The club became members of the SFA soon after and began competing in the Scottish Cup and Qualifying Cup and in the early years most games were friendlies or localised cup ties. Membership of the Scottish Football League came in November 1897 when Renton, one of the major clubs in the early days, were forced to resign and Accies were invited to take over their fixtures.
Although Accies went on to win the Second Division championship in 1904 they were not promoted to the First Division automatically as promotion was still by invitation at that time. However, they did make the step up shortly afterwards. The Scottish Cup Final was reached in 1911 but the club lost to Celtic in a replay. Again in 1935 Accies made the final, losing 2-1 to Rangers this time. In the early days of the century the club played in cerise and french grey, the colours of the then Duke of Hamilton. The 1930s saw Accies at their best. The club were amongst the top sides in the country and were regularly in the top six in the First Division. Two players were to be capped by Scotland while at Douglas Park and others were sold to top English sides. The club’s best ever player, Englishman David Wilson, scored 246 league goals in eleven seasons leading up to the war. Like so many other great players of that era his career was halted by the hostilities. During the war another great came to play for Accies – England ‘keeper Frank Swift, who would later tragically die in the Munich disaster.
When organised football resumed after the war Accies were relegated to the Second Division.
They would be promoted back to the top flight in 1953 and 1965 but were relegated after just one season each time. From the late 1960s through to the early 1970s the club were at a low point and were frequently at the bottom of the old Second Division. In 1971 Accies became the first British club to recruit players from behind the iron curtain when three Polish internationalists signed for the club amid great publicity.
Success came in the late 1980s when promotion to the Premier League was achieved in 1986 and 1988, going up as First Division champions on each occasion, but like the previous promotions the spell in the top division was for one season only. In 1991 and 1992 the club won the B&Q Cup, the competition for all non-Premier teams, firstly defeating Ayr 1-0 at Fir Park and then Morton 3-2 at Love Street. Promotion back to the Premier was also missed on goal difference that season.
New ground regulations imposed by the safety authorities saw the club vacate Douglas Park, home to the Accies since 1888, in 1994 but the hoped for move to a new stadium did not materialise as planned and the club ground shared with Albion Rovers and Partick Thistle (two spells) for seven years. That period was generally a low one for the club. Two relegations befell the club.
However the club were promoted straight back as Champions of the Third Division in 2001, winning the title on the final day of the season amidst great scenes at Montrose. Then July 2001 brought the long awaited return to Hamilton after seven years on the road. The new stadium seated 5400 fans (now 6018, as at 2018) and is yards from the old site at Douglas Park. The stadium was opened by a visit from Sunderland on 28th July 2001. After a change in ownership in 2003 promotion back to the First Division came in May 2004 following a 4-0 away win at Forfar. The club then installed an artificial fieldturf surface at the ground amidst great publicity and this has proved most beneficial for the stadium and the club’s youth and community plans.
2005-06 saw a concerted challenge at the top end of the First Division, the club were also in the final again of the Bell’s Cup (the B&Q when first won by Accies) and reached the quarter final replay stage of the Scottish Cup, the club’s best run in 39 years. Season 2007-08 saw the club top the table from first game to last as they won the First Division championship again to be promoted back to the SPL. Much of the club’s success was accredited to bringing through young players and manager Billy Reid giving them their chance and the names Easton, McArthur and McCarthy became synonymous with the good football played by the club. The club began the SPL season well, winning three of the first five fixtures, and topping the table for two weeks, and although results went up and down during the season, a great middle spell saw the club ultimately finish 9th in the SPL to deservedly earn a second successive season in the top flight for the first time in 70 years. The club also reached both quarter finals of the cups that season, losing to Rangers at Ibrox on each occasion.
The following season, 2009-10, the club finished in 7th place, it’s best ever top flight finish in 70 years. Relegation came at the end of season 2010-11 back to the SFL. The club reached the Challenge Cup Final (Ramsdens Cup) for a fourth time in 2012, losing 1-0 to Falkirk in the final at Livingston.
Promotion was gained again in 2014, this time via the play offs, following a penalty shoot out win at Hibs, and the club have remained in the top flight since.
In 2018 the club took part in the UEFA Youth League (u19s) for the first time, giving added recognition to our academy.