BRIAN Rice last night vowed to bring a little bit of Brian Clough to the party as he was unveiled as a left field choice to replace Martin Canning as head coach of Hamilton Academical. Rice, a career assistant manager who played under Clough at Nottingham Forest for six years, agrees with the great man’s famous assertion that while he wasn’t necessarily the best manager in the business, he was in the top one. As admirable as Accies’ efforts to avoid the drop have been in recent seasons, a staleness had crept in and Rice hopes some of Clough’s eccentricities might just re-invigorate the place.

“I’d be here until three in the morning talking about him – and I can’t do that because its deadline day,” said Rice. “He was an unbelievable character. And there is still a relevance. Get good players, organise them and let them play. It’s different now with 14 cameras and stuff to tell you how far someone runs. He didn’t have that but his eye told him.

“He was straightforward too,” Rice added. “He didn’t want you to play back the way, forward had to be the first option. He shouted ‘turn’ and ‘play it forward’. ‘If you want to play back then come and sit beside me’. That’s what we were always told.

“He hadn’t seen me play when I signed - if he had he wouldn’t have signed me!” Rice added. “He didn’t have me round on Christmas day either - I think that was Jim McInally. But he would take us to his house to train and have a spot of lunch and a few beers!

“He would take us to cricket or do something different. There wasn’t a day when you knew for sure what you were doing. There are clubs where you know what you do on a Monday and for me that brings a staleness. Okay, there has to be a structure and a timetable, but you have to keep players on their toes and provide a freshness.

“A lot of his players became managers - Nigel Clough, Stuart Pearce, Roy Keane, Johhny Metgod, Martin O’Neill and Robbo - there were loads of them. And I’d like to say he wouldn’t be surprised to find out I was a manager too.”

While Rice’s journey has been the path less travelled – he has spent in excess of 30 years coaching at a high level without ever taking the reins – he hasn’t reached the age of 55 without developing his own ideas at the game. While Accies as usual will be run in a collegiate fashion – as a former player of his at Clyde, Rice goes back a long way with new chairman Allan Maitland – this long-time background figure on the Scottish football scene knew it was now or never if he wanted to take a plunge and call the shots in his own right. Spending 14 years as an assistant manager before gaining his first manager’s job certainly didn’t seem to do Steve Clarke any harm.

“I’ve never wanted to be a manager,” said Rice. “I loved being there on the coaching field, dealing with the media and agents, other people did that. But I spoke to a few high-profile managers and they said that was the danger, that people saw me as a brilliant number two, but I’d never been a number one. But I’ve been in football since I was 16 and I’m 55 now. I’ve been out of work for six months in 39 years.”

It might not be the appointment Accies fans were craving, but it isn’t as eccentric as you might think. Not only did Rice spend long years working in largely successful sides at Falkirk, Inverness CT and Hibs under John Hughes, there was a short stint with Shaun Dyche at Watford. His knowledge is up to speed after seven months at the club’s relegation rivals St Mirren. And while a brief period at Al Zhor in Qatar saw him rack up major gambling debts, it also brought him into close contact with another football survivor in the form of Laszlo Boloni, the former Monaco and Sporting Lisbon coach who is now in charge of Antwerp. “I was sitting in his office one day and trying to pick his brains,” said Rice. “His English was not great but he pointed up at the television and said: ‘goalkeeper saves to his left.’ It was him taking a penalty against Barcelona in the European Cup Final the year Steaua Bucharest won the trophy.”

Rice - who has worked with the likes of Scott Arfield and Ryan Christie - has a remit which includes developing the club’s promising Uefa Youth League players. He dreams of taking away the fear factor and lifting the club’s horizons, but first comes Dundee on Saturday and a bid to secure the tenth placed finish which would secure Premiership survival. “In the short term, the aim has to be finishing 10th. But if we can do that the sky is the limit. I don’t mean winning the league, I don’t mean top six. I mean as individuals.”