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
Two important (and tragic) anniversaries which affected the Club occur in 2018.
The first of these is the 40th anniversary of Queen’s Park’s ill-fated tour to Canada in 1978. That tour ended in tragedy when two of our players, Bernie Donnelly and David Ballantyne, were killed in a car crash, and a third, David Gillespie, was so seriously injured that he never played for us again. Wall plaques, which include pictures of the touring party and biographical details of those killed, will be put up in the JB McAlpine pavilion at Lesser Hampden. These have been sponsored by Craig Donnelly, who is Bernie’s brother, and by our former player Alan Mackin.
The second is, of course, the centenary of the ending of World War 1. In 2015 the Club embarked on a project to learn more about the 226 Queen’s Park members and players who served in the forces in the Great War, including the 34 now known to have lost their lives. The project also sought to examine the impact of the war on Queen’s Park, Hampden, and Scottish Football as a whole. It was assisted by grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Originally suggested by Colm Hickey of Middlesex Wanderers, the project has been championed by former President Jim Hastie. The historical research and most of the writing has been carried out by members Frank McCrossan and Fred Ellsworth; papers and a DVD have been produced and are available on the Club website, and the latter has published a book. Frank is in the process of producing a new paper with information about the nine QP men who died in 1918.
We have agreed that this project will end on Armistice day this year. Our task now is to consider how best to mark this event and how to recognise the eleven QP members and players who served in the war and who are not named on the memorial plaque which is currently housed in the Scottish Football Museum, as well as discussing with the Museum curators where the plaque is to be situated after November.
Some things don’t ever appear to change. One of the favourite targets for Scottish sports writers and pundits over the years has been Hampden Park. The access, the parking, the catering, the sightlines, the pitch, the atmosphere have all been criticised by some commentators who don’t mind taking a cheap shot.
Last week it was the turn of Sky Sports during their live coverage of Scotland v Costa Rica. One of their pundits claimed the pitch was in a bad state and was responsible for a number of instances of poor control by Scots players (strangely enough it didn’t seem to affect the Costa Ricans). Now I presume that we were both at the same game, but the pitch to me looked green and flat with no evidence of it cutting up. There were a couple of worn areas, but these were where concentrated warm-ups had taken place. Given the time of year and the poor recent weather which we have had I thought that the pitch was in very good condition, and certainly better than many around the country that we see on our television screens.
The other criticism that was made was that the atmosphere was flat. Would it have been any better in Murrayfield, which has a bigger capacity? The atmosphere in the ground is generated by what is happening on the park, not off it.
I had hoped that now that the Scottish FA have announced that their future lies in either Hampden or Murrayfield, and that Celtic Park and Ibrox Stadium are out of the reckoning, then the media might have given the griping about Hampden a rest. Sadly this has proved to be a bit naïve on my part.
Last week letters were sent to members of the Club inviting nominations for election to the vacancies on the Club’s committee to be filled at our Annual General Meeting in Hampden on May 17th.
This is likely to be an incredibly busy year for the committee. The obvious number 1 issue, and the one which has taken up most of our time in the past few months, is, of course, our relationship with the Scottish FA and the future of Hampden as Scotland’s National Stadium. At least one extra full committee meeting per month plus numerous subcommittee meetings, and meetings with representatives from Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government have been held where Hampden has been the only or main agenda item.
However, the danger of all this focus on one topic leaves us at risk of not paying enough attention to other extremely important matters. The major changes to our Youth Development programme because of Project Brave, and the recruitment and retention of players are both major issues, not to mention our current position in League 1. In addition to these we need to consider the ongoing problems of attracting new supporters and members, communications with all our stakeholders, and the continuing need to attract advertisers and sponsors, and to enhance the match-day experience for them and for all those attending our home games. Nor can we neglect our Community Football programmes.
The start of 2018 saw the end of our 150th Anniversary year, but it did not see the end of the Club’s project to identify and provide narrative about those members and players who served and sometimes died in World War 1. We have agreed that the project should officially end on Armistice day this year, but have still to decide how this is to be marked.
So, whichever members are elected to Committee this year are going to be working hard. We live in interesting times!
Since my last blog three weeks ago we have had further communications and meetings with the Scottish FA. In the course of these they have clarified their position regarding both the Hampden and Murrayfield options which they are continuing to consider as part of “Project Bright”.
Remaining at Hampden or moving their headquarters to Murrayfield are the only two options currently being considered. The SFA will remain at Hampden only if they own it. I have it from a number of sources that the Murrayfield option is definitely not a bluff.
The SFA recognise that their proposition is a difficult one for this Club, and would be an extremely difficult and emotional decision for us to make. From our point of view, we have been reliant on the income generated by Hampden since 1903, and if we are to consider giving up ownership there are many complex issues which would need to be addressed.
We have a long and proud history in the development and nurturing of the game of football both nationally and internationally. We also have been the owners of Scotland’s National Stadium for the past 115 years. No-one can take that heritage away from us. But perhaps the time has now come for us to accept that Scottish Football in the 21st century has changed, and that in order to survive we too have to change. We have an opportunity to ensure the survival of the Queen’s Park Football Club, free from potential liabilities.
We have reached a pivotal moment in our 150-year history, and now we will have to decide whether or not to sell Hampden to the SFA.
Last Tuesday at its board meeting the Scottish FA decided to continue to explore the options of remaining at Hampden Park as well as moving matches to Murrayfield in Edinburgh.
Queen’s Park welcome the Scottish FA’s decision to further explore remaining at Hampden Park, Scotland’s National Stadium, and are committed to working together with them to ensure the best possible outcome for Scottish Football as a whole, as well as for the club. It is fair to say that the Local Community and City of Glasgow will also welcome this decision given the revenue generated from stadium activities to these parties. Further, the footballing family would remain together housed in one building along with the Scottish Football Museum and the Sports Medicine Centre.
Over the past 17 years Hampden Park Ltd. have done an excellent job both in maintaining the stadium and attracting business to it.
It is fair to say that the stadium will require investment over the next 20 years and Queen’s Park have committed to work to engage with potential funders. Queen’s Park look forward to working with the Scottish FA and other stakeholders to this end, and to ensure, hopefully, the future of Scotland’s National Stadium and of its oldest football club.
Last Friday I was talking to Albion Rovers’ chairman Ronnie Boyd at an SPFL General Meeting in Hampden. Rovers were scheduled to play St. Johnstone at Cliftonhill in the cup on the following day, and, not surprisingly, he was anxious that the game should go ahead. The immediate surrounds had already been cleared of snow but despite the efforts of a number of volunteers (including some St. Johnstone fans), the heavy snow in Coatbridge on the Friday afternoon meant that the match was inevitably postponed.
The irony was that this was at the end of a week which had seen the worst weather of the winter so far, and just as the Premiership clubs were returning from their 3-week winter shutdown. Most of them (but not Rovers’ opponents) had spent some time in sunnier climes, enjoying warm-weather training, a break from competitive football, and the chance for some team bonding with their mates (one former player writing in the press used the phrase “extended stag weekend”). Most clubs played friendly matches while they were away, and some of them would have recouped their expenses as a result of these.
The purpose of these winter breaks cannot be to avoid the worst of the weather, because it is impossible to predict when that will occur, as happened last weekend when both the cup and league programmes were badly hit. In the past, the SPFL has asked the Championship, League 1, and League 2 clubs if they, too, would wish a winter break, and the consistent response has been “no thanks”. It is easy to see why: players still need to be paid during these shutdowns, and if there is no money coming through the gates or via sponsorship or hospitality, many of the clubs, particularly part-time ones, would find it very difficult to make ends meet.
Our own situation is a bit different, of course, because we don’t pay our players, and the above argument doesn’t apply to the same extent. However, I don’t think that a winter break is likely to happen at our level in the foreseeable future.
A very happy New Year to everyone reading this.
Tomorrow night sees one of the most enjoyable nights of the year. The Club is hosting its annual New Year function for playing, coaching, backroom and volunteer staff. It is one of our ways of thanking our players (all of whom are unpaid) and the others (many of whom are also unpaid) for their efforts throughout the season. It also gives us an opportunity to recognise players who have reached a particular milestone; for example, last year mementos were given to Sean Burns to mark his 200th appearance, and to Willie Muir to mark his 100th.
We are rightly proud of our amateur status. It was written into our DNA right from our formation, and it remains a cornerstone of the Club’s philosophy. There are those who would maintain that an amateur club playing in Scottish senior football is an anachronism, but I believe that we have proved that there is a place for us at this level, particularly when you look at how well our players are looked after even if they are not being paid a wage.
In 2018 circumstances could change and there are potential scenarios whereby the Club could be forced to re-examine its business model to see what would (and what would not) be needed in order for us to continue to play at the highest level possible, and to maintain our Youth Development and Community Football programmes.
One of the most common questions I am asked just now, particularly by the press, is this: If the Club were forced to re-examine its business model, would we need to turn professional? And my answer to that has been consistent. As long as the Club remains viable in senior football and in our community as an amateur club, then it will continue to be so.
Well, that’s it. Two more days and 2017, the year of our sesquicentennial, will be over. And what a year it has been. It hardly seems like 16 months ago but the first meeting of the 150th Anniversary Steering Group took place on 30th August 2016. The Group comprised myself, Ian Cairns, Gerry Crawley, David Gordon, Jim Hastie, Keith McAllister and Christine Wright. Following Ian Cairns’ resignation for health reasons Frank McCrossan joined. Let me express at once my gratitude to all of them for the hard work, and for ensuring that the Club’s and the Supporters’ Association’s celebratory plans ran smoothly and in parallel with each other.
Even before that first Steering Group meeting we had posted on line the first of a series of video presentations made in partnership with QTV Sports. In all seven of these were produced, covering our history and role in the development of Scottish Football, the first international match, and bringing us up to date with a tribute to Hampden. Two of the presentations were released on Armistice weekend 2016 to highlight the Club’s ongoing project to discover as much as possible about our players and members who served in WW1. Some of the material was used by STV to produce a 30-minute “Peoples’ History” documentary about the 150th Anniversary of Queen’s Park. In addition, the Scottish Football Museum has run a special 6-month exhibition marking our history and contribution to the game.
In May, there was the joint tour to Northern France organised by our friends from Middlesex Wanderers which included visits to memorials which contain the names of Queen’s Park and Wanderers players who gave their lives. Then came the Anniversary weekend itself. On Friday 7th we were granted a Civic Reception at the City Chambers at which our guest of honour was Sir Alex Ferguson. At the same time the Supporters’ Association held an event in Hampden Bowling Club which was significant, because in March of this year Graeme Brown, their Secretary, had unearthed a map in the Scottish Records Office which proved definitively that the first Hampden Park was indeed on the site occupied by their club. The Festival of Football on the Saturday and Sunday organised by the Supporters with assistance from former players, was a huge success despite the weather on the Sunday morning. It involved our youth and community programmes, plus supporters’ teams and teams of past players some of whom travelled from Canada and Australia. It culminated in a combined presentation and musical evening in Lesser. Elsewhere I have thanked a large number of individuals who contributed to the success of the weekend, so I will not name them all again; but it was well worth the effort.
Our team of 1883-84 was inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame at their dinner in October, in recognition of their role as the top team in Scotland at the time. Then the celebrations culminated in our Gala Dinner on 3rd November, when our guest speakers were Sir Alex, […]
This is the time of year when tradition has it that we should look back and reflect on what has happened in the last twelve months, and look forward to the New Year. Not being one who wishes to flaunt tradition (certainly not at a Club like Queen’s Park), I thought it might be appropriate to summarise those issues which have been exercising our minds during 2017.
The biggest and most important matter was, of course, our 150th anniversary. I shall say no more about that just now because I intend to return to that topic in a later blog.
At the beginning of the year I highlighted three other matters which could have far-reaching consequences for the Club: youth development (“Project Brave”), player registration, and the future of Hampden.
When Malky Mackay was appointed as the Scottish FA’s Performance Director in 2016 he inherited the proposed scheme. It would be fair to say that he was prepared to listen to clubs like ourselves with a well-developed and admired youth programme, but who are unable to meet the “Elite” criteria because we cannot offer full-time professional football. The result is that we have achieved a new category (Performance) which will allow us to continue to compete against other clubs at a high level. There will be some challenges ahead for us to meet the criteria of the new category, but I am happy that we will do so.
We got caught in some crossfire over player registration because of accusations being made that some clubs were not meeting National Minimum Wage requirements. Our old policy of signing former professional players on a professional form and paying them £1 “In lieu of expenses” was no longer appropriate, and all of our players are now on amateur forms. There are potential adverse consequences for our playing pool as a result, but hopefully these can be managed. The constant problem which we have of losing some of our best players at the end of each season means that player recruitment, whether from our own youths or from elsewhere, becomes more and more important.
Finally, we have been having informal discussions with the Scottish FA about the future of Hampden since February, but in reality, we will not be in a position to say more about this until the SFA inform us of their preferred “direction of travel”. There has been a lot of speculation in the press, not all of it helpful. It is beginning to look like both the Government and Glasgow Council are likely to get involved, but for now the situation remains: watch this space.
May I take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy Christmas.
During the course of the last month the Club has lost the services of both our Club Doctor and Head of Physiotherapy.
Dr. Phyllis Windsor came to us in July 2014. She brought with her a wealth of experience having spent 22 years working with Dundee FC and a further 8 years working with Dundee United before she joined us. Andy Harrison was with the Club for 17 years. Initially brought in to look after the strollers, Billy Stark asked him to work with the first team, assisting Bob Findlay. When Bob retired in May 2016 Andy was appointed to the post. I would like to thank both of them for their efforts and wish them the very best whatever they decide to do in the future.
However, it is very important that we find replacements for both of these posts as quickly as possible. We are grateful to Bob Findlay who has agreed to come back on a temporary basis, but we have to find a permanent Head of Physiotherapy as soon as possible. We have now been informed that our Youth Development programme has been awarded “Performance” level under Project Brave. This is the best that the Club could have aspired to, but one of the requirements of the new programme is that we need to have a physiotherapy presence at all our youth training sessions, as well as for the games. Whoever comes in as Head of Physiotherapy will have recruitment as part of their duties.
We are required to have a doctor present at all of our home matches. However, this is not enough. For our Club License we need to have a named Club Doctor for the assessment of players’ health and injuries. We are an amateur club who do not pay our players, but we pride ourselves that we look after their health and fitness as well as we are able; this means that if specialist investigations or treatment are required our doctor can refer them for these as quickly as possible.
So we are actively seeking to fill both of these posts. If you are reading this and know of someone who might be interested please ask them to get in touch with Company Secretary Christine Wright by phone on 0141 632 1275, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the Scottish FA Board move closer to announcing their preferred direction of travel with regard to the future of Hampden Park, more and more (largely negative) articles have started to appear in the press. I thought that it might be useful to think about some of the very positive reasons why the SFA should retain their occupancy of the ground.
The most important reason is that any alternative would mean the loss of an internationally recognised national stadium, which is independent of club loyalties (we receive no sporting advantage from owning it, because we do not pay our players), and which has unique features which give it FIFA Elite status, and allow it to host major athletics events. Hampden and Ibrox are the only two Scottish grounds to have Elite status, Celtic Park has dressing rooms which are too small, and has seats with restricted view.
Hampden is the only stadium which provides secure underground access for players, officials, visiting dignitaries (e.g. Heads of State), and emergency services, etc. Parking, access, and egress are as good as or better than any other major ground. It offers four dressing rooms with separate access to the playing surface for supporting acts, dedicated facilities for male and female match officials, and an internal warm up area for each of the competing teams. It is not an exaggeration to argue that the facilities for press and media, the luxury hospitality areas in both the south and north stands, the medical facilities, and the police control facilities, are better than anywhere else in the country.
It has been argued that the atmosphere in a half-full Hampden is quiet, but that is true of any ground; there is no doubt that the atmosphere inside a sold-out Hampden is electric.
In short, which other facility in Scotland can host football, athletics, concerts, and national and international conventions, while at the same time boasting the Scottish Football Museum and the Sports Medicine Clinic? (Answer: none)
Hampden Park, Friday 3rd November 2017, and the climax of our year of celebration for our 150th birthday. A reception in the Scottish Football Museum and Hall of Fame was followed by a formal Gala Dinner in the Nevis Suite attended by 450 members and guests. There were representatives from Scottish Government, Glasgow City Council, the Scottish FA, the SPFL, the Scottish Schools FA, the Scottish Amateur FA, and our fellow clubs who are members of the Glasgow FA. In addition, there were eleven representatives from Middlesex Wanderers, led by their Chairman, David Flint. I was personally delighted to see so many of our former players, many of whom I worked with during my 30 years as Club Doctor, as well as current players and staff. Rod Petrie, Vice President of the Scottish FA, made a presentation to the Club to mark our sesquicentennial. Our three speakers, Malky Mackay, Peter Martin, and of course, Sir Alex Ferguson, were all on top form. The occasion seems to have been enjoyed by all who were present, and all the feedback I have had so far has been positive.
Fittingly, much has been said and written over the past year about our history and our importance to the development of football both at home and abroad. Equally much has been published about the service and sacrifices made by our members and players during World War 1, and the research and writings of both Frank McCrossan and Fred Ellsworth has been invaluable. With the aid of the Club, the latter has published a book on the subject.
However, now is the time to look forward. We should be proud of our status in senior football, our excellent Youth Development programme, and the work we do promoting health and wellbeing in our community through football. These are times of uncertainty for the Club, with the Scottish FA’s lease of Hampden due to end in July 2020. Whatever they decide to do could have profound effects on Queen’s Park, and it is important that we are ready to meet any challenges we may face. We are currently in dialogue with the Scottish FA and with those bodies who contributed to the funding of the stadium redevelopment, with the aim of making sure that we continue doing what we do best into the next 150 years.
At the Scottish Football Hall of Fame Dinner in Hampden on Sunday 15th October, the Queen’s Park squad of 1883/1884 became the first team, as opposed to an individual, to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. (Yes, I know that the Lisbon Lions were also inducted on the same evening, but we were the first inductees of the night, and they were the last). My thanks go to all of you who signed up to support the nomination.
That team of 1883/1884 were truly remarkable; they won the Scottish Cup for the seventh time, they won the other major trophy available at the time, the Glasgow Merchants’ Charity Cup, and they were finalists in the FA Cup, losing 2-1 to Blackburn Rovers at Kennington Oval, in a game marked by some eccentric refereeing. (The referee apparently visited the QP hotel on the day after the match and told them that Rovers’ first goal was clearly offside, and that they had the ball a foot through Rovers’ posts, but as no-one from Queen’s had appealed on either occasion he had awarded the Rovers goal and disallowed the QP one.) However, Bob Christie made history by becoming the only Scot playing for a Scottish club to have scored a goal in an FA Cup Final.
The Hall of Fame induction also recognises the role that Queen’s Park played in developing and promoting the game of Association Football, indeed the history of Scottish Football up to the formation of the Scottish FA in 1873 is the history of Queen’s Park. The development of the passing game and the movement from the 1-1-8 system via 2-2-6 to the 3-5-2, which was used up until the early 1960s, is credited particularly to that team of 1883/1884. However, as I was at pains to point out when accepting the award, we must be equally proud of the part we have to play in the modern day; competing at a high level, and with Youth Development and Community Football programmes to be proud of.
Incidentally, the four Lisbon Lions who were there to accept their award, Jim Craig, Bertie Auld, John Clark, and Bobby Lennox, were not only true gentlemen, but were a class comedy act which had the audience in stitches at the end of the evening. To me it was obvious what an important part camaraderie and team spirit played in the success which that team enjoyed.
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.