Scottish 3rd Division
Queen’s Park FC v Elgin City FC
Saturday, 15th December 2012, 3pm
Entrance £12 (given complimentary ticket), Programme £2
Distance 387 miles, Attendance 466
“It reeks of nostalgia” exclaimed Supporters Association secretary, Keith McAllister holding up a club tie. Outside players were warming up but under the South Stand, the welcoming double act of Keith and Libby was in full swing in the club shop. Addressing folk by name, they painted a wonderful picture where customers are still supporters first and foremost. Eventually leaving them I headed for my “anywhere you like” seat in with the home support.
Without the need for handshakes, Queen’s Park soon went behind when Stewart Leslie slotted home from close range. As fans’ encouragement echoed around the cavernous ground and the minutes passed, the game evened out, and both Ricky Little and Aidan Connolly had great chances, before Elgin were thankfully denied twice. First Daniel Moore’s bullet hit the crossbar then; Peter Bradley’s perfectly timed tackle halted Craig Gunn in his tracks.
Just before the interval, superb build-up by Paul McGin and Michael Keenan allowed Andy Robertson to rifle a low equaliser from outside the box. The Specials “enjoyed themselves” in unison with the crowd. A great goal followed by great music; really what could be better? As it would turn out, not the second half. Despite witnessing more goal attempts at both ends, the score line remained even. Content watching the football, I realised the match was a sideshow amid something far grander.
My day started with a fascinating guided tour of Linthouse (home of a now defunct 1881 team), Govan (home of Alex Ferguson), and Ibrox (home of Queen’s Park’s original and current local rivals), before arriving in the city centre where – amongst festive shoppers – fantastic street music filled the sun-kissed air. Then, after lunch I took the bus out to Mount Florida; the home of the three Hampden Parks.
Founded in 1867, Queen’s Park is the oldest club in Scotland. Their first ground, by Hampden Terrace was vacated for railway expansion; the second is still visible in Cathkin Park. In 1903, the third “Hampden Park” was the biggest in the world. Though the current capacity is below the 149,415 record attendance, the stadium is leased out for the national side, and Cup Finals. It is also home to the enthralling Scottish Football Museum. To the west of the stadium sits “Lesser Hampden”; a 3G pitch which is home to this family club’s community schemes. Both facilities will become integral to the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Ground building aside, Queen’s Park is equally important to the history of football in general. The club were instrumental in developing the modern passing game, and at the centre of establishing the SFA, and organised the first ever international fixture between Scotland and England. As the entire Scottish team came from Queen’s Park they wore their club’s navy and white which were subsequently adopted by the national side; in 1873 Queen’s Park replaced their kit with the black and white hoops worn today.
As well as competing for early FA Cups, Queen’s Park won the 1881 Scottish Cup Final captained by Andrew Watson, the first black player. They’ve won nine more Cups, four divisional titles, twelve Scottish Amateur Cups, and the Sheriff of London Charity Shield (which Watford won last, in 1983). Their dominance only waned once Scottish football turned away from their amateur world.
To this day Queens’s Park are a lone amateur side in a professional world. Their motto “Ludere Causa Ludendi” – to play for the sake of playing – still rings true. Many wanted to discuss Malky, Fergie, Reilly and Johnston but, in my dealings with Keith and Libby, the generous Robbie Cant, an engaging Malky Mackay (Snr) and countless other staff and supporters it was clear that pride is at the heart of their relationship with their team.
Foreign fans come to Queen’s Park, I was told, because they’re “a little bit special”. They might not compete financially with the city’s big teams but 145 years after the nostalgic words: “Tonight at half past eight o’clock a number of gentlemen met at No. 3 Eglinton Terrace for the purpose of forming a football club”, the city of Glasgow still has a breathtakingly great side worthy of immense honour. This club should be on every supporter’s “must see” list (just give yourself more than a day to absorb it all).
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Initially appearing in this season’s Watford FC matchday programmes, consequently Groundhop 1881 reports will appear late on here. At the end of the journey, a book will be published telling the full story.