How it all began

Back row left to right: Andy Gilchrist, Danny McGeechan, Tam Burns, Bill Callender, Barry McNab, Davy Shaw and youth treasurer John Simpson. Front row left to right: Michael Jamieson, Steve Adam, Dougie Wilkie, Jim Thomson and youth development officer Frank Reilly.
Back row left to right:
Andy Gilchrist, Danny McGeechan, Tam Burns, Bill Callender, Barry McNab, Davy Shaw and youth treasurer John Simpson.
Front row left to right:
Michael Jamieson, Steve Adam, Dougie Wilkie, Jim Thomson and youth development officer Frank Reilly.

As Scotland’s only amateur senior football club, Queen’s Park see youth football as a very necessary platform in developing the first team players of the future. Indeed many of our current squad have emerged from the youth ranks. Our motto Ludere causa ludendi – to play for the sake of the game is at the core of our philosophy of youth development. We encourage players to achieve their potential not only in footballing skills but in their personal development. We set out standards of dress, attitude and how to behave on a football park. We provide a comprehensive development programme incorporating technical, medical and sports science aspects of football. We provide excellent playing and training facilities. Boys currently train three night per week and play their matches on Sundays. We participate in SFA and SPFL national initiatives which involves extensive travel throughout the entire length of Scotland. From Stranraer in the south to Elgin in the north. Queen’s Park are proud of their commitment to the development to youth football. With many senior football teams cutting back on youth development, Queen’s Park are determined to continue with its investment in the future of football by supporting development squads in all age groups in youth football.

History of Youth Development at Queen’s

Queen’s Park was always interested in promoting youth football. Queen’s had, in addition to the first team, strollers (reserves), Victoria X1 (under 18s) and a Hamden X1 (which entered The Scottish Amateur Cup, SAFA League etc). In the early 1990s Queen’s Park formed an alliance with Wolves Boys’ Club. The connection was that Wolves B. C. would be a feeder club to Queen’s. In 1992 Queen’s formed an Under 16s squad. This squad, which was made up of mainly Wolves Boys’ Club players was managed by Archie Stormach and Malkie McKay. Also at that time the Victoria X1 were participants in the Scottish Amateur Leagues.

In 1994, committee member, Andy McGlennan had a vision of developing a youth structure at Hampden with teams from ages 12 through to 18. These teams would form the basis of future first team squad members. Andy convinced the then committee of the viability of the idea and was charged with developing the youth structure (as long as it was self-financing). Andy knew who he wanted to head up the development. He had known Frank Reilly for a number of years and had confidence in Frank’s ability to not only develop the football side of thinks but get the ‘right’ team of coaches and players into the club. Andy was concerned with football development but not at all costs. Too often in football wining was everything and boys’ physical development was central and their emotional and personal development was ignored. He wanted the conditions of good coaches, excellent training and playing facilities and strong discipline. This in turn would turn out the ‘right’ type of player for our first team.

The club’s motto ‘the game for the sake of the game’ would be a thread woven deeply into the philosophy of the youth development at Hampden. Frank spent most of season 1996/97 investigating the possibility of starting the next season with squad at 13, 14, 15, 16 & 18. He visited a number of existing youth structures, in particular Celtic and Newcastle. Former Queen’s player Alan Irvine was Academy Director at Newcastle and he took Frank and Andy down and showed them how he had developed Newcastle’s youth structure. Andy had thought that the club would start with a 13s squad and each season all another squad until in five years time we would have the complete set of squads. Frank had different ideas. He saw the potential to bring in a number of excellent coaches and players right now. In addition with more than one squad there was a momentum and the possibility of being in ‘top players’ at all levels throughout the season. Frank convinced Andy of the advantages of starting with ‘a bang’. He has worked hard at getting training and match facilities in place in addition the right coaches were keen to come to the club. The lure of playing for Queen’s Park was a big incentive for many youth players. So it came to pass that in season 1995-96 Queen’s Park Youth Section was born. Squads were created at 12, 13, 14, 15 age groups. Adding this to existing 16 and 18 levels Queen’s now had six squads.

At this time there was no SFA organised leagues so Frank entered teams in the most appropriate youth leagues.The 12s ands 13s were entered into East Kilbride Leagues. The 14s and 15s into Paisley & District Leagues. The 16s and 18s were entered into the Scottish Amateur league. The training facilities were Barlia Castlemilk which was one of the latest astro turf pitches in Scotland at that time and Cathkin Park the old home of Third Lanark Football Club. Andy and Frank quickly found new training and playing facilities for the developing youth squads.

One of the most important decisions was to lease the excellent grass pitches at Loretto, Bishopbriggs. Although quite a distance from Hampden, Queen’s saw the crucial importance of good grass playing surfaces in the development of our ‘passing game’ In addition with the availability of three pitches we could accommodate home fixtures for most teams. Strathclyde University’s facilities at Stepps were booked for training and Hutchinsons’ Grammar school provided indoor training facilities. Soon the final piece in the jigsaw was the use of Clydesdale Cricket Clubs’ astro hockey pitch meant that Queen’s youth squads had training and playing facilities that were second to none. Indeed they were the envy of many a senior club in the West of Scotland. Lesser Hampden was used by the 18s and Weir’s Recreation Pitches in Cathcart were used by the 12s and 13s squads first.

The youth teams took their leagues by storm. A combination of good coaching, skillful boys and discipline saw Queen’s win many of their matches. In 1999/2000 the 16s won every game season and got to the final of the Scottish Cup. The 18s also got to the final of the SYFA Scottish Cup. In these early years Frank saw the benefit of regular coaches in-service and sought the help from another Queen’s old boy Tommy Wilson. Tommy by now was Director of Youth Football with the SFA and he organised a programme of coach education that would develop our coaches and help them prepare for the coaching awards administered by the SFA. 2001 was a significant year in the development of youth football.

The SFA had decided to undertake the responsibility of administering what was to become known as The Youth Development Initiative (YDI). Head of Football Development Jim Sinclair (another old boy from Queen’s Park) envisaged the future of football in Scotland lay in youth development. The vision was to develop boys physically, technically, tactically and emotionally in a safe and nurturing environment. Coaches were to be the best, faculties were to be very good and competition was to be strictly limited. Queen’s welcomes the Initiative as its aims mirrored our own and applied for admission as soon as the Initiative was launched. Our application was successful and we were admitted into the Initiative level at 13s, 14s, 15s and 16s. (Note that the age groups had been moved up to ensure consistence across Europe for age groups 12s became 13s etc). Most of the senior clubs had by this time a youth structure. Some has all age groups such as Celtic and others started youth football at 16s ages.

The senior clubs welcomed the Initiative and most applied for admission that season. The YDI’s principles were that squads had to be no more than 18 in number and that boys were to get equal playing time throughout the season. Boys were also to be played in a number of positions and limited to how many games they played per season. In addition there was to be a ration of two training session to one match in order that individual development could be maximised

At the same time the Scottish Football League introduced their youth leagues and cup competition. Queen’s entered their 16 and 18s squads into these leagues. In 2002 the remarkable development of youth football at Queen’s Park was recognised by Frank Reilly receiving the ‘Coach of the year’ award from the SFA. Such was the success of Queen’s Park youth structure a number of clubs ‘poached’ some of our coaches. Michael O’Halloran moved to Celtic. Graeme Ogg moved to Motherwell. Craig Mulholland to Rangers and is now Academy manager there. Anton McIlhone who started with us as a coach and sports scientist is now in charge of Sports Science at Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) in London. Stevie Hanlon and Pater Gillies now coach with Motherwell. Kevin McGoldrick now coaches with Stenhousemuir. Brian Hamilton moved to become assistant manager with Cowdenbeath Football Club. Other coaches moved to full time jobs with the SFA. Andy Gilchrist is now Central Region Director. Danny Bisland is a Football Development Officer with Glasgow. Stuart Syme is handicapped development officer with the SFA. Barry Nicholson is development officer with Renfrew Council and St. Mirren Football Club.

Players also moved onto professional clubs. Layton Slack, Ryan Wilkie moved to Celtic. Brian McLean moved to Rangers and then Motherwell. Paul Weaver moved to Celtic then Blackburn Rovers. Adain McGeady played for Queen’s during season 1998/99 before moving to Celtic. Michael McGowan moved to Stenhousemuir and gained a full Northern Ireland Cap during his time with Clyde. Malky MacKay to Celtic then Norwich, West Ham and Watford where he is now their manager. In the past few years Paul Paton and Paul Cairney moved to Partick Thistle. Stewart Kettlelwell, Alan Trouton to Clyde. Neil Collins to Dumbarton then Sunderland. David Wetherston to St Johnstone. Derek Carcary to Rangers. Stuart Sanders and Garry Smith to Motherwell.

Developing Talents