Hamilton new boy Adam Phillips is braced for a tough test as he bids to shackle his former Cambridge United team-mate Uche Ikpeazu in Saturday’s Premiership opener against Hearts.
The pair spent the second half of last season together when Phillips was on loan at the Abbey Stadium from Norwich. Ikpeazu scored 14 goals for Cambridge last term, and the 20-year-old midfielder, who recently joined Accies on loan, expects the imposing new Hearts striker to be a dangerman when the two teams meet in Lanarkshire.
“Uche was a standout player for Cambridge. He was always working hard trying to get better so I felt it was only a matter of time before he got a move,” Phillips told the Evening News. “He is a very good player who works hard – he never gives up. He’s a big guy, a bit of a handful and obviously good in the air. He’s technically pretty good, he runs at players, can take people on and plays with both feet. He’s a very confident player, so he’ll be very hard to mark. If I play on Saturday I’ll probably be in the holding position so I’m sure I’ll come up against him in the match at some point.”
Ikpeazu isn’t the only former colleague Phillips will encounter this weekend as he worked with Steven Naismith at Norwich in the first half of last season. “I trained with him a few times and he’s a nice bloke who trains hard,” said Phillips. “He’s a very good player and even though he wasn’t having a great time, his professionalism was always there. He was always giving 100 per cent in training, no matter what.”
Hamilton go into the league opener with Hearts on the back of a group stage exit from the Betfred Cup.
“It will be a tough test because Hearts are a good team and have brought a lot of good players in but we’re ready for the first game and we can’t wait to get going,” said Phillips. “The Betfred Cup was a disappointment but we’ve put that behind us and everyone’s positive and looking forward to the Hearts game now. We know we’re going to have to fight for everything if we’re to get points on the board.”