Welcome to my blog
I have decided to write this blog in order to try and keep members and supporters up-to-date about significant happenings both within the Club and also in the wider area of Scottish Football.
It is my intention to write a new piece before each home game, with a view to keeping them as topical as possible.
I hope that you find them both interesting and informative.
Alan S. Hutchison
An old friend of mine recently gave me a scrapbook of his that he had found during a tidying up of his house. He had made it in 1969 & 1970 when he was 15 years old. At the time he was an avid Queen’s Park fan and QP was the subject of the scrapbook.
He meticulously included match reports, often from several newspapers about the same game, and among the star players during those years were names familiar to many of us now. They included Eddie Hunter, Ian Campbell, Tommy Barr, Neil Hopper, Ian Whitehead, and Malky Mackay.
However, the articles which particularly caught my eye were several about the state of the Club and about Hampden Park. At the time Queen’s were nearly £100,000 in debt. The reason for this was the continuous need to maintain and upgrade Hampden to match the standards of the stadia being built in Europe at the time. The floodlights had recently been installed, and the interest on the bank overdraft was crippling. Appeals to the Government, Glasgow Corporation, the Scottish League, and the SFA for financial assistance fell on deaf ears. Needless to say, some of the press articles were less than helpful. This may have been the first time that the word “anachronism” appeared in print in the same sentence as ”Queen’s Park”. Solutions which appeared in the press included Celtic buying Hampden; QP, Clyde and Partick Thistle combining into one club; and a summer tournament involving four top English and four top Scottish clubs for QP’s benefit.
None of this happened, of course. The Club increased its income by hiring the stadium for speedway and for concerts, and cut its costs by getting rid of the Victoria XI, and even cancelling the annual dinner. All these (apart from the concerts) were temporary measures and eventually the Club’s financial situation was stabilised and the danger averted.
Perhaps if football writers checked their archives they would find that what some of them have been writing recently about the Club and about Hampden is, in fact, nothing new.
I was in the Eternal City for a few days this week, which is my excuse for the shortness of this blog. During my trip I visited a stadium, about which local critics say the following: “All modern football stadia should be designed like this.”
It is an oval stadium capable of holding all types of sporting and other events. It is situated near the centre of the city. At one time it had a capacity of more than 50,000, yet it could be emptied in less than ten minutes.
Does any of this sound familiar?
The major difference between this stadium and Hampden Park is that Hampden is only 114 years old, whereas the Colosseum is nearly 2,000 years old. Yes, Hampden has been redeveloped constantly since 1903 and remains one of the best stadia in Europe (according to UEFA) but the basic design is one which has lasted since antiquity.
If the style was good enough for the Roman Emperors………
Isn’t it great to see Andy Robertson doing so well? In my (unbiased) opinion he was man of the match in both the recent Internationals, and his goal against Lithuania was just sublime. I first became aware of him when he was in our under-17s, and I am delighted that the promise that he showed then, coupled with his hard work and dedication, is paying off so handsomely seven years later. I’ll bet that the club who released him as a 14-year-old are kicking themselves.
Two other former Queen’s Park youth players have also been in the news recently. Blair Spittal has been getting rave reviews in Maryhill since he went to Partick Thistle from Dundee United this summer, and Paul McGinn has just signed for the same Premiership club after an injury-blighted spell with Chesterfield.
What have these three players got in common? They were all given the chance by us to play first team competitive football at an early age. There is no doubt that playing with senior players against senior players every week gave them an early edge when it came to being ready to play at a higher level.
Which brings me to the Irn Bru Cup. This time last year I argued that while the young players in the Premiership Colts teams would have gained valuable experience from playing against senior league clubs, it would in no way prepare them for the challenges of competitive football. This year the rules were changed to allow the Colts teams to field two over-age players, but despite this not one of them made it past round 2. In my opinion the only way that young players will develop the skills necessary to compete in senior football is to play in the first team. If their parent club is unable to find a pathway to allow them to do that, then the obvious solution is a development loan to another senior club. Look at the way Anthony Ralston has pushed his way into first team contention at Celtic. I firmly believe that his loan spell with us during season 2015/2016 at the age of 16 has played a big part in his development to this level, much more so than under-20s football could have done.
Good luck to all the players mentioned above, and indeed all who have benefited from being at Queen’s Park. I look forward to seeing and hearing more good news about our former players in the future.
The departure of Ryan McGeever for Brechin City during the close season meant that we needed to appoint a new Club Captain. The Club Captain (who is not necessarily the Playing Captain) is a role which carries a number of responsibilities. He is the person who is the players’ representative to the Club, and who will have at times to represent the Club at various football events. He will also have the task of making a speech at the Club’s annual New Year dinner for players, coaches, and backroom staff (and previous Club Captains will tell you that this duty could be the most daunting). In addition to Ryan, distinguished recent holders of this post have included Richard Sinclair and Anthony Quinn. The Committee decided that we should approach Sean Burns and invite him to take on the role. Sean has been with us since 2011, having previously been with Airdrie United and St. Mirren. He has made 235 first-team appearances to date, and has scored 22 goals from the left back or left wing-back positions which he has made his own. I am delighted to say that Sean immediately agreed to accept this honour, and we all wish him well in this new role (start writing the speech now).
Members and supporters will also have noticed the reappearance of a familiar figure in the dugout for the last three matches, that of Chris Hillcoat. Chris, who had a long and distinguished playing career with Hamilton Academicals, was our Assistant Head Coach from February 2014 until the end of the promotion-winning 2015/2016 season. He then had to stand down from the role because of the pressures of running his window-blind business. However, Gus has been very keen to have him back and we are all delighted that Chris now feels that he is able to re-join the first team coaching staff, which of course also includes James Evans and Anthony Quinn.
Finally, mention should be made of Denise Tonner, who has been the familiar face in reception at the JB McAlpine for the last couple of years. Denise is leaving us at the end of this month and is moving to York for family reasons.
I would like to wish all three of them all the very best of luck.
So here we are, four weeks into the 2017/2018 season, and this week will see us play our 6th and 7th matches. So, what’s the verdict so far?
I have to say that I found the four Betfred Cup games encouraging, despite the disappointment of the second half against Motherwell at Hampden. All that demonstrated was what we already know: if you make individual errors against teams of that quality, you will tend to get punished for them. The draw against Morton was excellent. While the loss of two goals in the last five minutes was disappointing in the timing, who of us would not have taken a 2-2 result at Cappielow at the start of the game? Then the wins against Edinburgh City and Berwick Rangers were both pretty comfortable, although the 3-2 score line against the latter suggests a tighter game than it actually was.
We always knew that last Saturday’s opening league match away to Arbroath would be a tough encounter. The Red Lichties finished last season very strongly, and Dick Campbell has subsequently strengthened his squad with some very good, experienced players. Six of his seven signings have come from other SPFL clubs. We have used eighteen players so far this season, at least half of whom could be described as having limited senior experience, and it is inevitable that some may take a little while to find their feet in League 1. We will see a different game against Albion Rovers at the very different surroundings of Hampden tomorrow, I am sure.
And then on Wednesday we open our IRN-BRU Cup campaign against Motherwell Colts at Forthbank. Personally, I find the choice of venue disappointing. When we played Partick Thistle Colts in the same competition last year the match was played at Firhill, and our hosts treated it and us with the respect that the tie deserved. Unfortunately, not all teams drawn to play away against a Premiership club’s Colts side last season found the same thing, and some complained that their hosts treated it as “just another under-20s game.”
The other big change (apart from the introduction of teams from the Republic of Ireland) is that this year the Colts teams will be allowed to field two overage players. This is clearly designed to make them more competitive than last year when only one Colts side made it past Round 2, and it remains to be seen whether this change will be effective. It’s certainly not designed to make it any easier for the clubs from the lower divisions, for whom the competition was originally intended.
Many of the 1590 people who attended our match against Motherwell last Saturday have commented favourably about the new electronic scoreboards at either end of Hampden. When the Scottish FA were successful in their bid to host some of the UEFA EURO 2020 games, they were required to make some changes to the stadium. One of these was to upgrade the scoreboards, which they duly did at the end of last season.
There is no doubt that the new scoreboards are a huge improvement on their predecessors. The images are much clearer, the functionality is better, and they allow for adverts to appear alongside the match details. However, inevitably there is a downside to this. The new scoreboards require to be operated by a trained professional, which, of course, carries a cost. Over the course of the season we could have as many as 25 home games, if we were to have a couple of cup runs or we were in the play-offs, and to have the scoreboards operating for all these games could cost us in excess of £3,000. Our scoreboard advertising last season brought in nowhere near that amount of money.
The Club’s view is that while it would be very nice to have the new scoreboards operating for all our home matches, they are not a “match-day essential”, and as things currently stand we could not justify the extra cost to our already under-pressure budget. Therefore, regrettably, unless we can find someone who is prepared to sponsor their operation, we will not be using the electronic scoreboards for our remaining home games this season.
P.S. Our new charity partner for season 2017/2018 is Barnardo’s. Their bucket collection at last week’s match against Motherwell raised £544, which is a record for a Queen’s Park game. Well done to all concerned.
Now that the excitement and celebrations of last weekend are behind us (for now) and we have entered our 151st year, it is time once again to turn our attention to season 2017/2018, and our first competitive match against Motherwell tomorrow at Hampden in the Betfred Cup. Tomorrow’s game is the first of our four Group F matches, the others being against Morton away on 18th July, Edinburgh City at Hampden on 22nd July, and Berwick Rangers away on 25th July.
Just like last year (and indeed almost every year) many of us viewed the close season which began only ten weeks ago with trepidation, wondering how many of our successful squad we would lose. And just like last year, I am happy to report that the departing numbers are comparatively small. Ryan McGeever, Jamie McKernon, Liam Brown, and Gavin Mitchell have all moved on, and we wish them well. However, the rest of the first team squad have re-signed (except for Gregor Fotheringham, who is still in Australia). Once again Gus has raided the junior ranks to help boost our competitiveness. We welcome Christopher Duff, brothers David and Kevin Green, and Luke Whelan, and there are at least half-a-dozen other new signings in the pipeline. I would like to wish all our players every success for the new season.
Tomorrow’s match is being shown live on BT Sport. Their cameras are going to be positioned in the North Stand so we are hoping for as big a crowd as possible in the South Stand. I hope you will come along and support the Spiders (unless of course you are a Motherwell fan reading this, in which case please come along and we will make you most welcome). Enjoy the game, and here’s to an enjoyable and successful season.
Wow! What a weekend. It was long, for many it was tiring, but it would not have happened without a great deal of hard work. From the Civic Reception and the event at Hampden Bowling Club on Friday, through the 2-day Festival of Football to the presentations in the Club last night, it was a fitting and enjoyable way to mark our 150th Anniversary.
A great many people put a huge amount of effort into making the weekend celebrations work, and it is appropriate that I thank as many as I can.
To those who provided the entertainment: Graeme Brown, Richard McBrearty, Ged O’Brien, Stephen Watt, and, of course, Jeff Templeman and the FP Big Band Ensemble
To those who put together the various Brochures and Programmes: Jim Hastie, Blair James, Frank McCrossan, and from South Lanarkshire College Mercedes Hoey and Taylor Wengenroth
To Christine Wright and her staff for their mammoth efforts: Rachael Clark and Denise Tonner in the office, and Lee Anne, Marie, Mark, Mhairi, and Terry in the bar and bistro
To Ian Cairns for taking the pictures and posting them on Facebook before you could blink
To Gardner Spiers and George Watson and all the QP Coaches who made sure that the weekend’s football events ran smoothly
To all the former players (and coaches) who came along on Saturday, either to play or to catch up with old pals, and especially to Gerry Crawley, David Hunter, Jim Nicholson and Anthony Quinn who contacted them
To all those members of Queen’s Park Supporters’ Association who contributed to the weekend, especially Ally Dick, Gregor Hall, Martin Harvey, Alan Raeburn, John Richmond, Graeme Shields, Lorna Shields, and Norrie Walker
And of course, to Keith McAllister, the driving force behind much of what went on over the weekend, someone who won’t take no for an answer, and someone who deserves huge credit for all his work
If I have missed anyone off this list, my apologies, but my grateful thanks go to you all.
Next weekend we return to playing football (remember that?), but the celebrations will continue; for example, the exhibition in the Scottish Football Museum will be there for six months, and we are in the midst of planning our Gala Dinner on 3rd November at Hampden, where the speakers will be Sir Alex Ferguson, Malcolm Mackay (jr.), and Peter Martin.
So here it is at last; our 150th Anniversary weekend has arrived. And what a busy weekend it’s going to be.
Friday night sees the Civic Reception at the City Chambers kindly hosted by Glasgow City Council, where our Guest of Honour will be Sir Alex Ferguson, as well as the social event (including a bit of history) at Hampden Bowling Club. Then on Saturday and Sunday the Supporters’ Association have organised a Festival of Football at Lesser Hampden. On Saturday there are tournaments for supporters (including walking football for the more senior ones), and for former players. On Sunday Gardner Spiers and George Watson have organised a Family Community day, which will involve a number of groups from our Youth Development and Community Football programmes, as well as various entertainments for the kids. In addition, on Saturday night there will be a whisky tasting, and on the Sunday night entertainment from FP Ensemble, as well as presentations from Richard McBrearty (Scottish Football Museum), Graeme Brown (Hampden Bowling Club), Stephen Watt (poet), and Ged O’Brien (historian). Oh, and me.
We have been informed that not only are we being joined for the celebrations by sixteen of our friends from Wattenscheid, but Shiyu Li, a supporter from Shanghai in China. But of course, this celebratory weekend is for ALL of the Queen’s Park family, whether they are players (or former players), coaches, members, supporters, or participants in our youth programme and our community programmes and their families.
I sometimes wonder what those “Number of Gentlemen” who met at No. 3 Eglinton Terrace on 9th July 1867 would have made of it all. Would they recognise the Club that they formed? What would they make of the 33 acres of the Hampden Complex with its magnificent National Stadium and the superb facilities at Lesser Hampden compared with the humbler beginnings that they had? Did they even think that we would still be here 150 years later? One thing is for sure; they would recognise that we have achieved and continue to achieve their initial objective: to promote the practice and play of football. They would be pleased that we are still amateur, and I am certain that they would be pleased that not only do we continue to hold our own in the higher levels of Scottish football, but that we remain an important and relevant part of our community.
Here’s to the next 150 years!
Many of us in the Queen’s Park family were shocked and saddened by the news that former first team goalkeeper and coach Ronnie Cant had died last Thursday at the age of 62.
Ronnie only played a couple of games for our first team in season 1979/80, and spent most of his playing career with Drumchapel Amateurs and St. Mungo’s Academy FP. He came back as a youth goalkeeping coach in the 1990s; his abilities were recognised by Head Coach John McCormack and he became an invaluable part of the backroom staff working not only with Cowboy, but also Kenny Brannigan, Billy Stark and Gardner Spiers. During that time, Queen’s won the League 3 Championship in 2000, and were promoted via the play-offs from League 3 in 2007. When Gardner Spiers was appointed as Head of Youth Development in 2016 he invited Ronnie back to help with coaching the young keepers.
As Club Doctor I was part of those same backroom teams. My personal recollections of Ronnie were that he was a big gentle bear of a man; he was genuinely good company and fun to be around.
Ronnie’s funeral will take place on Monday 19th June, starting with a service in Clincarthill Church on Cathcart Road at 12 noon, and thereafter to the Linn Crematorium at 1pm. Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time, particularly his son Jordan, and his fiancée Mandy, who he was due to marry in Spain last weekend.
Depending on the outcomes of the last two rounds of fixtures tomorrow and the following Saturday, this may or may not be my last blog of the season. The idea for these blogs came from Ian Cairns, who takes the photographs and looks after the Club website, and who suggested last July that I write one before every home game. This I have managed to do (and more), although it has not always been easy deciding which topic to write about. I have had some feedback, mostly positive, and as a result I intend to keep writing these pieces next season, unless I get the impression that to continue with them would not be welcome, in which case Ian can take the blame.
I don’t know about you, but I think that this season has flown in. As usual with watching Queen’s Park there have been some magnificent high spots and one or two low ones; and despite last week’s reversal at Livingston (I prefer to think of it as one loss in nine), the news that Peterhead had lost at home to Stenhousemuir which means that we cannot be relegated from League 1 made it hard to feel down about our result.
Make no mistake, according to many of the so-called “experts” we were favourites for relegation back in August, and what Gus, his coaching team of James Evans, Alan Mahood, and Anthony Quinn, and of course the players, have achieved this season is absolutely magnificent, whether we make the play-offs or not. As the season started we appeared to have a large squad, many of whom were new to senior football, but a combination of factors, including players going out on loan, being released for a variety of reasons, and one who went to Australia to continue his studies, meant that we have been operating with a much smaller player group which, like all teams, is susceptible to suspension and injury. What they have done has been absolutely superb, and big thanks must also go to our supporters who have backed them magnificently both at home and away.
Whatever the next two Saturdays hold, it’s been immensely enjoyable. The Club is facing some big challenges this year, as well as some important celebrations, of course, but I’m looking forward to next season already.
As I have indicated previously in these blogs, Queen’s Park have close ties with Middlesex Wanderers AFC, who are a touring club based in London, and whose aims are the promotion of the game of football and the fostering of fellowship through sport. Like ourselves, they have a long and proud history as football ambassadors, and undertook their first tour to northern France in 1906. Since 1953 until their most recent foreign tour in 2007 they have invited players from Queen’s Park to participate in their tours, and up till now a total of 44 of our players have taken part.
In recognition of our 150th Anniversary they have invited us to participate in a return tour to France next month, and I am pleased to say that the arrangements are now being finalised. The party will travel to France on Thursday 25th May and will return on Sunday 28th May. They will play two matches, against Union Sportive de Boulogne-sur-Mer Cote d’Opale, who play in the third tier of French football, and against Calais Racing Union FC who play in the fourth tier. They have asked if they can wear our 150th Anniversary blue strips in one of these games. They will visit three WW1 memorial sites; Oostaverne Wood Cemetery to visit the grave of Sidney Arthur Bryant who toured Spain with Middlesex Wanderers in April 1914; Loos en Gohelle to visit the graves of QP players and members William Anderson, Robin Ferguson, George Legge and Ebenezer Hamilton; and the Thiepval Memorial which contains the name of former player John Barbour, whose body was never recovered.
The members of the Queen’s Park playing contingent are currently being finalised, but both Tony Quinn (who will assist with coaching) and Andy Harrison (physiotherapist) have indicated their willingness to attend. Jim Hastie will represent the committee.
The Club is very grateful to Middlesex Wanderers for organising this tour as part of our 150th Anniversary celebrations, and looks forward to continuing close association with them.
The week before last a couple of articles appeared in the press centred on the future of Hampden Park. In one it was described as an “anachronism” and opinion was expressed that the Scottish FA should not take up their option to renew the lease in 2020. It also perpetuated the myths that Hampden Park is difficult to get to and to get away from (it’s not; there are main roads and bus routes on three sides of Hampden plus three railway stations within a short walk), and that moving Internationals and cup semi-finals and finals to other clubs’ grounds would result in a better playing surface for these games (it wouldn’t; the owning club would still be playing their home games on them). There weren’t too many complaints about the Hampden surface after Scotland’s victory over Slovenia a week past Sunday.
The opinions being expressed in the press are mixed, however. Another article advocated that Queen’s Park should be “kicked out of Hampden”, implying that the National Stadium should, after all, be retained for the showpiece games.
Whatever one thinks of the opinions expressed in these articles, the fact remains that the Scottish FA leased Hampden Park from us in 2000, and that there is an option for extension of that lease for a further 20 years. Indeed, the lease has an extra 6 months to run because we agreed to extend it to allow the bid for the 2020 European Championships to go ahead.
Official negotiations between ourselves and the Scottish FA regarding the renewal or otherwise of the lease are not due to begin until 2018. At this point in time nothing has been ruled in, and nothing has been ruled out. It is likely that many more stories will appear in the media on this subject during the course of the next couple of years, but members and supporters of Queen’s Park FC would be well advised to rely only on official announcements from ourselves and from the Scottish FA.
As I have previously intimated in these blogs, we have been granted a Civic Reception by Glasgow City Council on Friday 7th July. This will be held in the magnificent City Chambers building. Among our guests will be Sir Alex Ferguson.
Several months ago, we began to draw up a provisional list of those who are to be invited. As it is now less than four months to the event, we will soon need to be looking to finalise that list, and to contact potential invitees to ascertain their availability on that date.
Our list of guests will include players and coaches past and present, our Patron Lord Macfarlane, the Committee, Past Presidents, and benefactors of the Club. It will also include representation from clubs and bodies within football and with whom we have a close relationship. This will therefore include the other Glasgow clubs (we are members of the Glasgow Football Association), as well as the Scottish FA and the SPFL.
We also expect to be able to invite full members of the Club to attend. At this moment in time it is unclear how many places will be available for members, but numbers will be limited and it is likely that a ballot will be required. Members will be contacted in the near future inviting formal expressions of interest, but in the meantime it might be helpful for members to contact the Club on firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know whether they are interested in attending (or even whether they would not be available to attend because of holidays, etc.). I am aware that the Supporters’ Association is planning an event in Hampden Bowling Club on the same evening, but the numbers there will be limited to 45.
At last it’s beginning to feel like the 150th Anniversary celebrations are starting to take off.
Over the course of the last few years Queen’s Park FC has witnessed a steady decline in its membership. There are a number of potential reasons for this, which I will not go into, but at our AGM last May there were only 191 members both at home and abroad who had the potential to cast a vote.
The committee has been considering ways to halt this decline over a number of years. The introduction of the “Queen’s Park Life Member” category in 2011 gained us ten new members, but this was a fund-raising exercise as well as a bid to increase our numbers, and we have not had any further recruits to this category for a couple of years.
There has been a mood amongst the committee to try and increase the number of members who have played for the Club. With so few players staying amateur for their whole careers this was proving difficult, because up until May of last year it was not possible for former players who had gone professional to become members. However, the decision taken by the membership at the General Meeting to remove Article 10 from our constitution opened the door to allow ex-professionals to become members of the Club.
At the January committee meeting applications from ten current players, eight of whom were professionals, were approved. They will pay the usual current players’ annual fee of £10. However, the committee also agreed to admit former players, whether they had gone professional or not, as full members of the Club. In order to try and tempt ex-players to re-engage with the Club it was agreed that for just now they would pay a lower subscription which does not include admission to matches.
There is no doubt that there is a need to increase our membership to healthier numbers, and it is expected that these changes will allow us to do that.
On Saturday evening, after our match at Hampden with Alloa Athletic, we will be holding our annual Burns Supper in the J. B. McAlpine Pavilion. This is our first official function of 2017, our sesquicentennial year, and while it is not part of the 150th Anniversary celebrations, I am mentioning it in order to publicise something which we hope will play a central part in the events.
We have been given the opportunity to commission the design of a Queen’s Park tartan. The company involved has offered to create kilts, ladies’ kilts/skirts, trews, ties, and sashes/wraps and to sell them to us at cost price. That means that the kilts would cost £201.60p, ladies’ kilts would cost £114, trews £132, ties £9.54p, and wraps £29.28p (all prices include VAT).
After much deliberation, the committee has settled on a design which is created from four colours: It is mainly black and white (obviously), plus red and yellow, in line with the colours of our original members’ tie. You can see the proposed design on our website.
However in order for the project to go ahead, we need to have pre-orders for a minimum of twenty men’s’ kilts, and so far we have not achieved that number. I know this will appear to be blatant advertising (and it is), but I am very keen that we have some lasting legacies from our Anniversary year, and the creation of a Queen’s Park tartan would be one of these. If you are interested in pre-ordering any of these items (but particularly a kilt), please get in touch with Denise Tonner in the office (0141 632 1275, email@example.com) as soon as possible, but certainly by Sunday 26th February.
You will have seen on this website that Gregor Fotheringham has played his last game for us for this season. He has gone to Australia to continue his studies into Mechanical Engineering, and will not return until the summer. Gregor has been one of the successes of the season so far, and I would like to add my best wishes to him (along with the hope that we might see him back again next season).
Last week the Club was represented at a meeting with Malky Mackay and Stewart Regan (Scottish FA Performance Director and Chief Executive respectively) when the details of Project Brave were revealed. Aside from wondering about the mentality of the person who thought up that title, it appears to me that much of what came out of that meeting confirmed what had already been widely leaked to the media. However, there remain a number of uncertainties.
As has been reported, the number of Academies in Club Academy Scotland (CAS) will be reduced from 29 to a maximum of 16, and the number of registered “elite” players will fall from 2,500 to 1,200. Clubs will have to bid to become an Academy and the bidding process will begin this month. Those who are unsuccessful, or choose not to bid, but wish to continue with a Youth Development programme, will become Non-CAS Academies, and participate in Advance Talent and Community Development programmes, with a games programme and funding held at the present level for three years. The new format will begin in 2018, but some changes may be introduced next season. The reintroduction of under-18 teams, reserve teams, and the introduction of colts’ teams are all under consideration.
The expectation is that in the longer term these changes will improve the standard of Scottish football both at Club level and at International level, and it is to be hoped that this will be the case. Individual clubs will, however, have concerns about losing status, competitive games, and of course funding. The nature of Youth Football Development in Scotland is about to change dramatically, and clubs may well have to think carefully about the best way to proceed.
I was in Spain last week and took the opportunity to visit our squad of coaches, under-17, and under-16 players who were nearing the end of a 14-day training and educational trip to Albir, in the province of Alicante. The squad was led by Gardner Spiers, our Head of Youth Development. The visit was funded by the Erasmus Project, which is sponsored by the European Union. The Erasmus Project is the successor to the Da Vinci Educational Fund, of which many of you may have heard, and from which Queen’s Park coaches and youth players have benefited in the past.
The trip consisted of full-time (twice-a-day) training, educational and cultural visits, and matches against youth squads from Elche CF, Hércules CF, and Levante UD. All the players had to have achieved a basic coaching qualification prior to the trip. You may have seen the blogs containing updates from Albir on our website.
There is no doubt that both players and coaches will have benefited in a number of ways from the opportunity for concentrated training and learning in a different, and warmer, environment (they came home before the snows in Spain started). I know that Gardner will be looking for signs of those benefits being reflected in the players’ performances during the second half of the season. However, there is a potential problem.
We have received EU funding for these camps since 2009, as have other Scottish football clubs. In the normal way of things, we would expect to be able to continue to apply for funding so that our up-and-coming youth players and coaches will continue to benefit from these visits. However once Britain exits the EU it is likely that this source of funding will no longer be available to us. As an unintended consequence of Brexit this probably doesn’t rate too high for most politicians, but for our youth players and coaches it would be a great pity if this type of experience were to be denied to them.
I would like to wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year. Much has been said in the media about what a dreadful year 2016 was, but for Queen’s Park supporters the opposite is true. Winning promotion last May was a magnificent achievement, and to have amassed 27 points by half-way through the current season is well beyond even this wild optimist’s hopes.
Now that we have entered 2017 and are only seven months away from our 150th Anniversary, many of you have been asking what events are being planned to mark the occasion. The Club has a 150th Anniversary subcommittee, which has been working closely with the Supporters’ Association. Alone and jointly we have also been in discussion with Glasgow City Council, the Scottish Football Museum, and Hampden Bowling Club, to name but a few. As a result, and in no particular order, plans are being made for the following:
- A Civic Reception at the City Chambers on Friday 7th July.
- For those not attending the Civic Reception, an Exhibition and Social event in Hampden Bowling Club (the site of the first Hampden Park) on the same evening.
- A Festival of Football involving former players and community groups to be held over the weekend of 8th-9th July.
- A Gala Dinner in Hampden on Friday 3rd November.
- An exhibition in the Scottish Football Museum on Queen’s Park’s 150 years beginning in June 2017 for 6 months.
- A joint tour with Middlesex Wanderers to northern France at the end of May.
We are also looking at a few other things, such as designing one or more Heritage Trails. This might be a walking trail involving local places such as the three Hampdens, or a wider driven trail taking in places of importance to us around the city, such as Hamilton Crescent.
Finally, in partnership with QTV Sports we have produced a number of short pieces on the history of the Club on our website, and there are three more of these in the pipeline. We are still looking at the possibility of developing media coverage of our anniversary further.
First, let me begin by hoping that you all had a happy and peaceful Christmas.
The last couple of weeks have seen two appointments both of which will affect Queen’s Park, and one of which will be very important to Scottish Football as a whole.
In the first of these, the Queen’s Park Committee have moved to co-opt David Hunter on to the Board to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Ian Cairns earlier this year. David is a former first-team player and first-team coach (he filled that role jointly with Paul Martin after the departure of John McCormack). He is a senior banking executive, and the Committee felt that his skill-set and experience were exactly what we require at this time. David will be in post until the AGM in May 2017, when he will be free to stand for election.
The second appointment of importance was that of Malcolm Mackay Jr. to the role of Performance Director at the Scottish FA. Malky’s off-field issues and his problematic relationship with the owners of Cardiff City have been well documented, but even so I was astounded by some of the vitriol directed at him in the press. It does seem as though some Scottish sports writers have decided that he is a failure before he’s even had a chance to find his desk at Oriam. From my personal point of view I have always found Malky to be personable, pleasant, and honest. As a former Queen’s Park player with an excellent record in football management (Cardiff notwithstanding) I believe that he should be given every opportunity and support to bring his talents to his new role and hopefully bring success to a post that urgently requires it. I have called previously in this blog for the Scottish FA to get on with making this appointment; hopefully now we have someone who will understand that clubs like ours can contribute to the development of young talent in Scotland as well as the “elite” clubs, and ultimately he will be able to achieve the goal of an overall improvement in the standard and standing of Scottish football.
Many of you will have seen the article in Friday’s Daily Record which implied that Queen’s Park have abandoned 150 years of our amateur tradition, and further, that the forms we are asking some of our players to sign may be subject to scrutiny under employment legislation. I am posting this blog to reassure members and supporters that we remain totally committed to our philosophy of not paying our players, and to make the following points:
- We have been signing players who had previously been professional since 1995. At that time, we were advised by the SFL that we could not sign these players on an amateur form, so the pragmatic solution was to sign them on a professional form which stated explicitly that their wage would be £1 per week in lieu of expenses.
- When the SPFL came into being they produced a new form which did not have the facility to use the term “in lieu of expenses”. However, we explain to each player who signs a professional form with us that that is exactly what is meant, so there is no basis for doubt in the future.
- As a result, our players who are on professional forms are on exactly the same expenses structure (based on how far away they live) as those on amateur forms. The expenses, therefore, are solely for reimbursement of costs incurred.
- HMRC did not have a problem with this either at the time this solution was set up, or at our last payroll audit. Neither HMRC nor our accountants and auditors have questioned these arrangements.
Thus, I trust you will accept that nothing has changed as a result of this article; we remain bastions of the amateur game, and remain true to our motto: ludere causa ludendi. However, we will be taking up the issue of the wording of the forms with the SPFL, or alternatively we will look at what documentation would be required for players to confirm their commitment to the £1 per week in lieu of expenses.
You may be aware that Hampden Park will be used to host four UEFA Euro Championship matches in 2020. In order to make Hampden UEFA compliant some upgrading work to the North Stand Lounges and the Executive Boxes will be required. While the former is unlikely to affect us (unless we draw one of the Old Firm at home in the Scottish Cup) the work on the Executive Boxes in the South Stand will affect us on home match days. Part of the work on the Executive Boxes will be to move the glass windows back so that the seating for the Boxes will ultimately be outside the Box dining area. Whether it would still be possible to watch the game from within the revamped boxes remains to be seen (no pun intended).
Hampden Park Ltd. have informed us that the upgrading work will start this month. As a result, the Boxes on the West side of the stand will be unavailable to host guests on matchdays from Monday 12th December until Monday 27th March, and the boxes in the East side of the stand will be unavailable on matchdays from 23rd January until 27th March. Alternative arrangements will be made to house corporate guests in either the Lomond or Nevis Lounges. Also, during the period of the works there will be delineated areas in front of the Boxes which will need to be kept clear of spectators. This will result in some inconvenience to members and supporters, but hopefully this can be kept to a minimum.
Some members and supporters have been wondering why, following the Chapecoense disaster, we held a minute’s applause prior to our match against Montrose, and then a minute’s silence prior to the match against Brechin City. The answer is that the former was our own idea in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, and the latter was at the request of FIFA and the SPFL.
Finally, this will be my last blog before Christmas. May I take this opportunity to wish you and yours a very happy one.
On Friday 26th November, in the company of Past Presidents Peter Buchanan, Ross Caven, Jim Hastie, and Jim Nicholson, I represented the Club at the Annual Dinner of Middlesex Wanderers AFC in London.
Middlesex Wanderers have a long and proud history of being ambassadors of football throughout the world, and Queen’s Park have had an association with them since 1953. They were formed in 1905 as Richmond Town Wanderers, and undertook their first tour (to France) the following year. Their aim was to promote the game of football by sending representative teams on overseas tours and fostering good fellowship through sport. Touring parties were composed of players from different clubs. In 1912 they changed their name to Middlesex Wanderers to attract players from a wider area. They have visited more than 40 countries and have played against the national sides of many of them, including Japan, Nigeria, and South Korea, as well as clubs like Ajax, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich. Their impact on world football cannot be underestimated, and in 2003 they were presented with the Japanese Ambassador’s Commendation in recognition of their role in the promotion of football in Japan, as well as in the promotion of friendship between Japan and the UK.
The parallels between ourselves and Middlesex Wanderers as football ambassadors are clear (in 1914, just before the outbreak of war, we undertook our 5th continental tour). Thus, in 1953, seeking to expand the pool of players who could be selected for their tours, they now included players of Amateur International standard from all four Home Countries, and the association with Queen’s Park was formed. Between 1953 and 2007 when they last toured abroad, a total of 44 Queen’s Park players have participated in their tours, and many of you will remember that they visited Glasgow last year.
Middlesex Wanderers are planning a tour of northern France again next year, and as part of our 150th Anniversary celebrations they have invited Queen’s Park to make up a substantial portion of their party. The tour will take place over the last weekend in May; three matches are planned (against teams they played against during their early tours), as well as a visit to the war memorial at Thiepval. We have accepted their invitation in principle, and once we have some more details regarding what is involved we can hopefully begin the planning process in detail. Watch this space!
Over the Remembrance Weekend we published two more short videos* produced for us by QTV Sports. Not surprisingly, both commemorated the centenary of World War 1, but in two very different fashions. The first covered a visit by six QP members and players to the Digging In project at Pollok Park. The purpose of this project is to give people experience of what life was like in the trenches, the equipment that the servicemen had to wear and carry, and the hazards that they faced. The undoubted stars of the piece were two of our under-20s players, Cammy Foy and Andrew Henderson, both of whom spoke eloquently on camera about the experience. WW1 has now almost completely passed from living memory, but it is important that we keep teaching the younger generations about its significance and horrors, and it effects on our Club and Country, and on Europe and the wider world.
The second piece, Queen’s Park and the Great War, concentrates on our ongoing project** to uncover the histories of the 226 QP members and players known to have enlisted, and the 33 known to have made the ultimate sacrifice. The piece tells the individual stories of Eddie Garvie, John Barbour, and Walter Coulter, all of whom died in the War, and of Ralph Risk, who survived, and who is one of only two people who have served the Club twice as President. This project, initially suggested by Colm Hickey of Middlesex Wanderers AFC, is being led by Jim Hastie, but the historical research and compilation of the records is being carried out by members Fred Ellsworth and Frank McCrossan. The Club is grateful to them for their efforts, and to the relatives and friends of those who served who have come forward with information and memorabilia which they have allowed us to use. However, to date we have information about fewer than half of those who enlisted, and so the project is likely to last until 2018. We are currently considering the possibility of editing this piece to make it into an educational tool which can be taken into schools and libraries.
The videos which we have produced so far have all been about the history of the Club and the game (there is another pending about the first international, which will now be posted in June of next year). However, it is appropriate that we bring the series up-to-date and publicise what Queen’s Park is doing today. Accordingly, the next video to be commissioned will concentrate on our Youth Development and Community Football Programmes. It is hoped that this will be posted early in 2017.
*To view these videos, go to the Queen’s Park website, queensparkfc.co.uk, then click on Club, 150 Years Celebration, then 150 Years of Scottish Football – Videos.
**For more information on the Great War project, including links to the papers produced so far, click on Club, then The Great War.
Last week we received an email from Campbell Money, Performance Academy Officer at the Scottish FA. It was a routine notification of the Club Academy Scotland’s Games Programme 2 fixtures for the weekend of 5th/6th November, but it contained an additional item of serious interest. This was the league table for the Under-16/17s league as of 1st November. In a league of sixteen teams Queen’s Park are sitting in second place with 27 points from 11 games, on the same number of points as leaders Inverness, who have a goal difference of +19 compared to our +18. We are ahead of St. Johnstone (who admittedly have played one game less), Dundee, Ross County, Celtic, Queen of the South, and Airdrieonians, to name but a few.
Most, if not all, of these clubs enjoy “Elite” status for their Youth Programmes from the Scottish FA. We, however do not. The reason we are denied this is because for obvious reasons we are unable to offer 16-year-old boys a paid full-time contract, if it is felt that they merit it. Yet our record of developing players who are capable of playing first team football compares with any of them. Recent graduates from our Youth Development programme include Blair Spittal, Aiden Connolly, Paul McGinn, and Lawrence Shankland who have played in the Premiership, Andrew Robertson who is playing in the English Premier League, and who is, when fit, first choice left back for the Scotland international team, and Barry Douglas, who won the Polish Ekstraklasa with Lech Poznan, and who is now playing in Turkey. All of the above-named have one thing in common: they were rejected by “elite” clubs at a younger age because they were deemed to be too small.
Just now we are awaiting the Scottish FA’s much heralded (but so far undetailed) review of Youth Football. Until we see what they are proposing there will be continued uncertainty which affects our future planning which in turn leads to potential difficulties in recruiting players and coaches. The Scottish FA is currently looking for its third Performance Director who is supposed to be pushing through the reforms promoted by former First Minister Henry McLeish, but that post has been vacant for several months now.
We need some clarity about where the Scottish FA sees Youth Football development going, and how the funding is to be distributed. Equally, we need some clarity that the Scottish FA recognises that some players may be late developers, and that the so-called “Elite” clubs are not always the best placed to recognise who these players may be. Perhaps as a start the Scottish FA should consider appointing someone with a track record of developing young players in Scotland.
There aren’t many people who can claim to have supported their football club for nearly ninety years, but Ivy Riddell, our oldest member and supporter, could claim just that. Sadly, Ivy passed away on Thursday 13th October. She was always very coy about giving away her age, but she was taken to her first game by her father when she was only 4 years old.
Her family home was a bye-kick away from Hampden, and her husband and brother-in-law ran the cycle and model shop which was in the premises currently occupied by Hampden Cars, at the top end of Letherby Drive. Like myself, many Queen’s Park supporters grew up in that area, and will well remember that shop, either as a place to get your bike fixed, or to spend your pocket money on Airfix kits.
When her children were old enough, she started to follow Queen’s, home and away, whenever she could. She became a regular fixture on the supporter’ bus, no matter the distance or the weather.
In the late 1990s she was seriously ill, and it was thought that she might not survive. However, her spirit was such that she not only survived that scare, but she went on to actively support the team for many years afterwards. This included her infamous trip to Elgin when she got locked in the toilets at the end of the game. Fortunately her friends and companions on the supporters’ bus realised that she was missing, but before they could leave they had to prise her out of the Boroughbriggs boardroom, where she was being revived with a couple of large brandies.
Always immaculate in her appearance, Ivy was truly proud to be part of the Queen’s Park family. The respect that she was held in by her fellow members and supporters was reflected in the huge number who turned out for her funeral last Friday. She will be truly missed by all.
Football writing and commentaries are awash with clichés, and the term “one club player” is one of them, albeit one which is used less and less frequently in the modern era. In these post-Bosman days when players can move freely at the end of their contracts it is hardly surprising that such individuals are few and far between, and yet Queen’s Park have seen three players who have done just that in the current millennium: Ross Caven, Richard Sinclair, and Anthony Quinn. This is even more surprising because we are an amateur Club, and the temptations to move on and make some money from playing football are, for many, huge.
Ross Caven holds the record for total appearances for Queen’s Park. He combined a long playing career with the establishment of a successful consultancy business. He won a 3rd Division Champions’ medal in 2000. Richard Sinclair, a former captain of Scotland Youths and Club Captain of Queen’s Park, was also part of that championship-winning squad and of the squad which won promotion via the play-offs in 2007. His career was ended by a combination of a series of frustrating injuries, plus the time requirements of setting up his own plumbing and heating business.
And what of Anthony Quinn, also a plumber and heating engineer, who announced his retirement from playing last week at the age of 35? He came to us from amateur football in 2001 and during the course of the last 15 years he has been part of two promotion-winning teams, and has won Player of the Year awards on three occasions. He has scored many important goals for Queen’s Park (who will ever forget his extra-time winner against Arbroath in the 2014/2015 play-off semi-final?). He has also had the strength (mental as well as physical) to recover from two broken legs and a series of severe hip injuries which culminated in him requiring surgery earlier this year. He has worked amazingly hard to try and regain his playing fitness but unfortunately has had to admit defeat (probably for the first time in his life). Fortunately, he will continue with us as part of Gus’ coaching staff.
I cannot overstate my admiration for these guys. All of them had chances to turn professional yet stayed with us. Why was this? It is difficult to say. Loyalty? Love for the Club? The realisation that the grass may not be greener? Who knows. There is no doubt that each of them are proud men with a strong personality; perhaps that is important. Ross is a Past President, Richard sits on the Club Committee, and perhaps it is possible that one day Quinno will follow them onto Committee. All I can say is that the Club are immensely grateful to them.
Firstly, thanks to everyone who contributed to the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice bucket collection before the Alloa game at Hampden last Saturday. They raised more than £275.
Today I return (as I will repeatedly over the next fourteen months) to the topic of our 150th anniversary next year, and in particular how we are marking and celebrating it via electronic media.
Many members and supporters will have seen the short feature which was produced for the launch of our 150th anniversary strip and which was posted on our website last month (if you haven’t seen it it’s still available on the website; click on Club, then 150 Years Celebration, then 150 Years of Scottish Football.) That feature was produced by a company called QTV Sports, who specialise in this type of media. We were very pleased with the number of viewings of this feature, particularly on social media, although whether Paul Woods has a career in acting once he retires from playing remains to be seen.
I am pleased to be able to tell you that we have just reached agreement with QTV Sports to produce four further features in the first instance. The first of these features will be on the topic of Hampden Park and its significance to Scottish Football, and is due to be available by the end of October. Further productions will be on the subjects of Queen’s Park, Amateurism, and the Great War (the first part of which is due for posting over the Remembrance Weekend); the first International Football Match, which is due to be ready for the England v Scotland World Cup qualifier on 11th November; and Queen’s Park’s role in shaping the modern game, to be ready for the end of November.
These are exciting times for the Club, and we hope that the production of these features will raise awareness of the uniqueness and importance of Scotland’s oldest football club not only within our own QP family, but also in the local community, the wider Scottish football community, and beyond.
Every year the Club receives requests for help from a large number of charitable organisations. We may be asked to buy a table at a charity dinner, to sponsor some form of fund-raising event, or to allow a bucket collection at Hampden prior to one or more of our home games.
Because of the number of these requests, and the difficulty of prioritising between what are often extremely worthy causes, the Committee took the decision that we would nominate one charity to be our designated partner for each season. For 2016/2017 that charity is the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice (PPWH). This was not a difficult choice because Queen’s Park already have strong ties with the PPWH and our former Head Coach Eddie Hunter has been a prodigious fundraiser for them. Members and supporters will have seen in the press and on our website that this week we officially launched that partnership at Lesser Hampden.
The PPWH supports up to 1200 patients each year who have life-limiting or life-shortening illnesses, and their families, to achieve the best quality of life. It has a catchment population of 345,000. After 30 years in its current premises, a new facility is being built in Bellahouston Park, which will allow the PPWH to provide palliative care for young people aged 15 and above. Building work starts at the site this month, with a view to completion in early 2018, and the admission of the first patients in June of that year.
Our first fundraising event of the season takes the form of a bucket collection in the stadium prior to our game against Alloa tomorrow. I would encourage members and supporters (both home and away) to be generous and donate what they can to support this extremely worthy cause.
Tomorrow we play Morton at Hampden in the 3rd round of the Irn Bru Cup. This will be the first time in this competition that we have played against a senior team, because our previous two games have been against Premiership U-20s or “Colts” sides. One of the reasons put forward for re-designing the Challenge Cup this season was that the introduction of the Premiership U-20 teams would give their boys the chance to play “real” competitive football. I find it interesting then that only one of the Colts teams made it past round 2 (Celtic), and that some of them were put out by teams that don’t even play in the SPFL. I’m sure that this must have surprised those who were pushing for this change. Perhaps they should stop and ask themselves why it happened.
One reason may be that if you take a team of youngsters used to the rarefied atmosphere of the SPFL U-20 Development League, and pit them against a group of players who are seasoned week in and week out playing competitive senior football, then more often than not the youngsters will find themselves out of their comfort zone and probably out of their depth.
There are (at least) two possible solutions to this, and both involve giving young players the experience of playing competitive senior football. The first is to play them in your first team as soon as the coaches think that they are ready. Queen’s Park have always taken the view that one of the reasons (but not the only one) for promoting and supporting our extensive Youth Development Programme is to supply players for our first team, but it may be that some other clubs playing in higher leagues are more reluctant to do this. The second route is to loan them out to other clubs where the parent club feels that they will be both well looked after and that they will gain experience of competitive first team football. It certainly did Celtic’s Anthony Ralston no harm coming to play with us last season.
There is no question in my mind that there is nothing in an under-20 league which can match the experience of playing competitive first team senior football, whether it’s in the Premiership or in League 2. It will be interesting to see if the format of this cup competition changes again next season.
For our game against Livingston tomorrow we will be wearing our “new” home strips of navy blue tops, grey shorts, and navy socks, which we launched at Hampden this week. Although the famous black and white hoops are viewed as our traditional strip, they are not, in fact, our original colours. We wore navy and grey from our formation in 1867 until 1873. When Queen’s Park provided the entire team for the first international on 30th November 1872 we also wore our own navy strips. We were founder members of the Scottish Football Association in March 1873, and on 25th October of that year for our very first Scottish FA Cup tie we not only opened the first Hampden Park, but we also wore the hoops for the first time.
Our 150th Anniversary on 9th July next year will be a huge milestone for the Club, and we will be marking it in a number of ways, including a Civic Reception hosted by the Lord Provost of Glasgow on 7th July, a Gala Dinner in Hampden on 3rd November, and other events in the planning. The change of home strip is a visible marker of our Anniversary, and we will wear it for the remainder of this season and for season 2017/2018. The black and white hoops will be our away strip, and we still have the red and black outfit to fall back on if necessary.
In order to raise awareness of the Club and our Anniversary, members and supporters will see the phrase “150 Years of Scottish Football” appearing widely on our website. It is incorporated into the badge on the new strips and will appear elsewhere. We hope that not only our own followers but also others in the wider football community will soon become familiar with it and recognise its significance. Many of you will have seen the publicity surrounding the launch of the strips, both in the electronic media and printed press, and we intend to use these means to publicise our Anniversary whenever possible.
So that’s the preliminaries over. Five cup ties in less than three weeks and we’re ready to face the rigorous marathon of our campaign in SPFL League 1. As I’ve said here before, I thought that the performances in the Betfred Cup were hugely encouraging, but what are we to take from last Tuesday’s match against Kilmarnock Colts in the Irn Bru Cup? And were the expectations of the sponsors and the SPFL met by this week’s round of fixtures?
Certainly our 5-2 victory over Kilmarnock’s U-20s was comfortable, although we lost a couple of sloppy goals. I felt that we were in control for most of the game. Having said that I thought the Kilmarnock youngsters were pacey and skilful, and played some nice one- and two-touch football at times. Where they lost out was a lack of strength, particularly when defending set pieces. Whether they will have learned much from their competitive 90 minutes in the rain at Hampden is unclear. The same goes for the U-20s sides from Dundee, Inverness CT, Ross County, and St. Johnstone, all of whom exited the competition this week.
I’m not sure if the league or the sponsors will be terribly impressed by the attendances either. The first round at least didn’t capture the fans’ collective imaginations, with only two of the games (at Motherwell and Stirling) attracting gates of more than 400. Even Celtic’s U-20s playing Annan at Cappielow only drew a crowd of 216. It would seem that the format for this competition may not be as attractive as the format for the Betfred Cup.
However, the real business of the season is always going to be the league campaign which begins against Airdrie at Hampden this Saturday. I had the pleasure of speaking to the first team squad on Thursday evening prior to training. They were all in good spirits, which they should be following their early results and their training camp in St. Andrews last weekend. They, like all of us, are looking forward to what will hopefully be an enjoyable, exciting, and successful campaign.
Saturday’s defeat at Firhill saw our last involvement in this season’s Betfred Cup. Like the Irn Bru (Challenge) Cup, the format of the League Cup has been redesigned this year, and I wonder whether you think this is a good move or not. This year the new format seems to have been largely accepted by most of the clubs. Although Mark Warburton of Rangers was reported in Friday’s press as wanting a revamp, his only real gripe was that he wanted to play the highest-ranked team in the section (Motherwell) at the end of the fixtures rather than at the beginning. Of course the season started very early, but most clubs seem to have used the games as pre-season fixtures with a competitive edge. Opportunities have been taken to use as many of their squad players as possible, honing their fitness for the start of the League season. Crowd numbers have been reasonably good, despite the summer holidays, and the increased sponsorship payments to clubs are welcomed by treasurers, including our own. We have had the encouragement of a win and a draw against two of the teams in our league, which will hopefully give us some confidence heading into that campaign.
The changes to the Challenge Cup are much more radical, with the addition of Premier League under-20s sides, and teams from Northern Ireland and Wales in later rounds. These changes have apparently been made to attract improved sponsorship and TV money, but there is no doubt that this competition is no longer what it was originally intended to be; a cup competition exclusively for teams in the lower three senior leagues. We have reached the semi-final of the Challenge cup twice, most recently last season, but I suspect that our chances of repeating that feat will not be increased under the new format.
Once again I must apologise that concession prices will be £6 for tomorrow’s game against Kilmarnock U-20s at Hampden, and that there will be no parent-and-child gate. Although U-20s matches are normally free of charge, Kilmarnock refused to agree to us using our normal prices, and we therefore have no choice but to revert to the SPFL’s minimal pricing structure. I look forward to seeing you there.
Last Wednesday I represented the Club at the Annual General Meeting of the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL). Among the resolutions which were passed was one which amended the Rules of the SPFL on the topic of Unacceptable Conduct, to bring them into line with the changes made to the Articles of the Sottish Football Association at their AGM in June. The changes were designed to clearly define the duties of the Clubs with regard to unacceptable conduct at matches by their employees, officials, or supporters. Unacceptable conduct could cover the use of pyrotechnics or smoke bombs, unfurling offensive banners, discriminatory behaviour including discriminatory singing or chanting, running on to the pitch, or larger scale disorder. Clubs must have policies in place which warn those in attendance against such conduct, and have means to identify and deal with anyone guilty of such acts. There is no doubt that there is pressure on the Clubs to take these measures from the Scottish Government. At the SFA AGM Michael Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, spelt out in no uncertain terms that if football didn’t put its house in order, then the Government would.
You may think that these issues are really only the concern of the larger clubs, but that is patently not true. Unacceptable conduct can happen whether the attendance at a match is 250 or 50,000. In the last couple of years there have been two instances of our supporters encroaching onto the field of play, incidents that could have led to the Club being fined, docked points, or ejected from a tournament. It is therefore important that all of us who attend games ensure that unacceptable conduct does not occur, for the good of the Club.
On a brighter note, I’m sure that everyone who attended the Stenhousemuir match last Tuesday would have been delighted with the team’s performance. Not only were we comfortable winners, we were treated to one of the early candidates for goal of the season. League 1 football is going to involve a steep learning curve for many of our players, and it was heartening to see them play well against one of the League’s seasoned teams. Hopefully we can carry this into tomorrow’s match against Airdrie at Hampden, and beyond.
Nobody was more disappointed than I that we had to move the first home game of the season against Queen of the South to the Excelsior Stadium at Airdrie, but in truth we had little choice in the matter. The four concerts at Hampden over the summer were always going to compromise the pitch, and the fact that the SPFL scheduled us a home fixture for the first game of the season, only nine days after the Beyonce concert, meant that the Hampden ground staff were always going to have a very difficult job to get the pitch playable for last Saturday. The north side of the pitch from the centre circle had been covered with aluminium plates for nineteen days, and the rest of the pitch was covered in Terraplas meaning that little or no sunlight got to the grass. We therefore had little choice but to ask the Scottish FA for a formal pitch inspection last Wednesday, 13th July, at which the referee declared the that the pitch was not only unplayable, but would also not be playable on Saturday 16th July.
It took a sterling effort from Christine Wright and our staff to rearrange the fixture to Airdrie. I am very grateful to them and to our friends at the Excelsior for making sure that we were made welcome and that the match went ahead without a glitch. I am equally grateful to our members and supporters who made the effort to travel through to Airdrie for the game. The attendance of 410 was probably about 150 fewer than we might have expected had the game been played at Hampden, but I understand the difficulties that some members and supporters may have had getting to the Excelsior.
While the result on Saturday was not what we all might have hoped for, there were a number of players in the squad new to senior football, and Queen of the South are a very good Championship side who demonstrated to us the level of skill and physicality required to play at that level.
I look forward to seeing as many as possible of you at Ochilview tonight, and if not, for our next home game at HAMPDEN, against Airdrie, on Tuesday 26th July.
Alan S. Hutchison