History of the Club

The minutes of a meeting held on July 9, 1867 begin with the 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.”

They might not seem the most noteworthy comments ever made, but they are the prelude to possibly the most important moment in the history of Scottish Football. That meeting in 3 Eglinton Terrace on the south side of Glasgow saw the formation of Queen’s Park Football Club, and the start of Scottish Football.

The game had been played before then, in public schools where they had their own code and their own established rules. But it was Queen’s who really set the ball rolling. The club set about laying down the foundation of the modern game, adopting a passing style of play which employed skilful ball control. The team worked as a unit, utilising team tactics, unlike that of their contemporaries of the day who played an ‘individualistic’ style of game which used kick-and-rush tactics, ‘dribbling’ with the ball, hacking and rough play.

It also took a decision that its players would not be paid ; adopting the motto: “Ludere causa Ludendi” – to play for the sake of playing.

That amateur status is just one of the many factors that made Queen’s Park unique in world of senior football.

The fact their players don’t get paid has never stopped the club from being at the forefront of much of the history of the game in this country. Queen’s Park was at the centre of establishing the Scottish Football Association. It organised and administered the first international meeting between Scotland and England under association rules – and indeed it was Queen’s Park who supplied the entire Scottish side on that very first meeting on 30th November 1872.

The Scottish side wore their club jerseys for that international which was then dark blue in colour, the same dark blue as worn today by the national team. More than 4000 spectators watched the sides play out a 0-0 draw on St Andrew’s Day.

Queen’s Park looked to other competitions too, and when invited to take part in the first ever English F.A Cup in 1872, they took up the challenge, entering at the semi-final stage against the famous public school side, Wanderers. The game ended goalless. Unable to remain for the replay due to financial constraints, Queen’s were compelled to scratch.

The club finished runners-up in the famous trophy on two occasions – 1884 when the amateurs scored a total of 32 goals with only one conceded, to reach the final. The final itself saw Queen’s Park battle it out against Blackburn Rovers at Kensington Oval. The Lancashire side won 2-1 to lift the trophy.

The following year, Queen’s Park found themselves in the F.A. Cup final once more. Blackburn Rovers were the opponents again and for the second time. it was the Lancashire side who emerged victors, this time by a 2-0 scoreline.

A year later, in 1873, the Scottish Football Association and the Scottish Cup was instituted, with Queen’s Park as founder members. The cup competition got under way on October 18, with Queen’s Park entering on 25 October 1873.

This was to be an important day for the club as they opened their new ground – Hampden Park – the first of their three grounds to bear the famous name. On that day too, the ‘glorious’ black and white hooped shirt was introduced for the very first time. Queen’s Park won the tie against Dumbreck 7-0 and went on to win the cup for the very first time.

Outside the domestic scene, Queen’s Park journeyed far and wide to spread the concept of organised football. One such sojourn was to Ireland in 1879 when Queen’s played an exhibition match against Caledonians at the Ulster Cricket ground in Ballymafeigh. The game caused so much excitement amongst the local crowd that the first Irish soccer club, Cliftonville, was founded soon after the visit. A year later, the Irish Football Association was formed.

As a club, Queen’s introduced new concepts into the game such as crossbars, half-time and free-kicks, all of which were later incorporated into the modern game.

Towards the end of the 19th century, Association football had become the people’s game in Victorian society for both players and spectators. Soon this once recreational activity was to become a profession with high stakes to play for.

By 1890 the Scottish Football league was formed, but despite being invited to join, Queen’s Park resisted this new league set-up. Remaining true to their amateur ethics, they staunchly repelled the new ‘professionalism’ creeping into the sport and rejected joining a league that would ultimately involve professional clubs.

There was another reason for the ‘amateurs’ resisting the new league.Queen’s felt that rather than nurture the smaller and weaker clubs, the league would ultimately cause their demise. As a club that saw themselves as pioneers of the game, Queen’s Park felt they could not be party to such a potentially destructive element.

Queen’s Park remained outside the Scottish Football League for several years,during which time the club found it increasingly hard to arrange fixtures, especially with those who were members of the new league structure. In effect, Queen’s Park had been ‘frozen out’.

The lure of regular weekly fixtures was too hard to refuse; the club eventually entered the league in 1900. That same year, Queen’s Park reached the Scottish Cup final for one more time. The game, played at Ibrox in front of a crowd of 17,000, saw Celtic emerge 4-3 victors after a thrilling match.

By the time Queen’s Park had been elected into the Scottish League (the First Division no less), the club was already in decline as a major force in Scottish football. The League looked on kindly to amateur stalwarts and granted them special dispensation, preventing them from relegation into the second division. At the end of their first season, the ‘amateurs’ finished in 8th position (on goal difference) out of a league of eleven teams.

In reality however, Queen’s Park did not distinguish themselves well in league football, their best season being 1917-18, when the club finished 7th in a league of 18 clubs.

Fearing the prospect that its best players could be poached at anytime by other clubs, Queen’s Park had asked the League for protection for amateur players. In 1910, the club had made an official complaint against rivals, Clyde, who had made an approach to one of their players, Willie McAndrew. The league ruled that Queen’s Park had the right to retain their players until April 30 each year. 

Increasingly, the ‘amateurs’ found it difficult to compete against their professional counterparts and at the end of season 1921-22, the club experienced relegation for the very first time, having finished second bottom in a league of 22 clubs. The special dispensation which protected the club from taking the drop into the second division, no longer applied.

Life in Division Two was short lived and a year later they returned to the upper tier of the Scottish League as newly crowned second division champions, winning 24 of their 38 games. They remained in division one up until the outbreak of World War Two.

Major structural changes to the Scottish league took place during the war years. Rationing of fuel and travel restrictions meant clubs could no longer travel freely to fulfil fixtures. Also, all clubs experienced depletion of its staff as players and officials went to war or took up essential wartime work. As war raged in Europe and further afield, football had to take a back seat.

Throughout the war years, regional competitions were set-up around Scotland. Although these leagues were unofficial, they did provide some diversion for a population ravaged by war as well as being a vehicle to help raise much needed funds for the war effort too.

Queen’s Park entered the Scottish Southern league. The club fielded youngsters to replace those who had left to go to war. It even managed to field its distinguished reserve side – the ‘Strollers’.

Despite no formal reserve football being during this period the ‘Strollers’ played ‘friendlies’. By the time the war ended, those youngsters had grown into competent players. Players such as Tommy Gallacher the son of Celtic legend, Patsy, were more than ready for league football.

As the world began to get back to some sort of normality after years of war, the Scottish league announced its resumption in 1945, and Queen’s Park found itself competing in Scottish league ‘A’ Division.

The club’s inclusion had more to do with the capacity of Hampden Park rather than the amateurs’ playing record in the topflight.

The club remained in this division until the end of season 1947-48, when the side finished last in a league of 16 clubs. As champions, they returned to the top tier, now re-named – Scottish League Division One. Once again, the club struggled to make much headway in the top division. ‘B’ Division football followed, and there the club played for the following eight years. Success was again achieved in season 1955-56, when the team pictured (right) finished top of their division.

Then, as now, success at the club usually meant the loss of its top players to the professional ranks. Relegation followed at the end of season 1957-58.

The period between season 1958-59 and 1974-75 was undistinguished as the club remained in the Division Two. During this time the amateurs’ best showing was in 1964-65 and again in the club’s centenary year 1967-68. On both occasions, they finished in 4th place.

It is worth noting that during this period, two young players at the club were later to become influential characters in the world of football. Alex Ferguson (or Sir Alex) went on to play for Rangers and Dunfermline before becoming a successful manager at St. Mirren, Aberdeen and most famously – Manchester United.

Andy Roxbourgh later became manager of the Scotland national side and then FIFA technical director. No doubt, both men used the experiences they gleaned whilst at Queen’s Park to great use in later life.

Season 1975-76 brought about restructuring of the Scottish league. A new Premier league was introduced for the top clubs, followed by a first and second division respectively.

The amateurs found themselves in the second division consisting of 14 teams. They did well and finished 4th that season. Five years later (1980-81), the club won promotion, the first time since season 1955-56. The amateurs topped the table, despite only winning 16 of their 39 league games. On 18 occasions, their games ended in a draw.

Champions once again, Queen’s Park returned to the First division, although, a first division no longer consisting of the ‘top-guns’ of Celtic, Rangers and the growing force of the ‘new firm’ – Aberdeen and Dundee United.

The club could only hold on to their first division status for two seasons before relegation once more loomed and at the beginning of season 1983-84, Queen’s took their place once again in the second division. In 1988 they came close to clinching promotion, finishing 3rd after winning 21 of their 39 games.

Further restructuring of the Scottish took place from season 1994-95. Four divisions of 10 clubs were formed, Queen’s Park found themselves in the basement – Scottish Third Division. This new league had two new sides – Ross County and newly amalgamated Caledonian Thistle (later, Inverness Caledonian Thistle).

Queen’s Park underwent major changes too. Eddie Hunter, whose name was synonymous with the club both as a player and even more so as a long serving head coach, left the club half way through the league campaign. The side could do no more than finish mid-table at the end of the season.

The next few season saw little achieved in league terms, but a significant change to the constitution saw the bar lifted on former professionals. They could now turn out for Queen’s, as long as they were not paid.

There was also the matter of the redevelopment of Hampden, which resulted in the magnificent stadium we now all enjoy – even though there was considerable heartache along the way. While the redevelopment was under way, the club decanted temporarily to Lesser Hampden.

We also saw another piece of history, with the appointment of our first full-time head coach. John ‘Cowboy’ McCormack took charge in time for the beginning of season 1998-99. He successfully argued for another tweak to the amateur status which would allow us to bring in professionals on loan. Again these players were never paid by Queen’s Park.

The turn of the Millennium proved a good one for Queen’s and our new coach. We charged to the league title in 1999-2000, and saw the Hampden project come to fruition when the doors opened on the new stadium.

Queen’s Park then began life in the second division well, storming to the top of the table. It didn’t last, however, and we slipped into trouble, eventually being relegated on goal difference after finishing in second last spot.

Cowboy rode off into the sunset to be replaced by former player Kenny Brannigan. But his term wasn’t a success and he departed to be replaced by former Scots international Billy Stark.

Billy set about rebuilding the team, and boosting links with the local community. He also turned the clock full circle, going back to the passing style of play adopted all those years ago by the founding fathers of the club. That, and an influx of talent through the club’s youth ranks, saw us make a late charge into title contention in season 2006-07.

We fell just short of that goal, but achieved another couple of firsts – winning promotion without winning the league, and achieving the goal at our first-ever entry into the play-offs. That success came at a price, however, and the exploits of our manager earned him the post of Scotland Under-21 boss.

He was replaced at Hampden by Gardner Speirs, who faced a tough task after coming in midway through the following season. Although we retained our place in Division 2 at the end of that term, a number of players moved on, and relegation via the play-offs was our next fate.

Despite consistent appearances in the play-offs Gardner was unable to achieve promotion, and he stepped down in 2013. During that year the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) was formed, the Premier League clubs having split from the Scottish Football League in 1997. The new league structure consisted of the Premiership, the Championship, League 1 and League 2. Queen’s began in this new body in League 2.

Gardner’s replacement was Angus “Gus” MacPherson. He was able to recruit well and the club was promoted to League 1 via the play-offs in 2015 – 2016. Despite dire predictions we comfortably retained our place in season 2016 – 2017, but the following year the inevitable loss of our best players again made it hard for us to remain competitive and we were relegated via the play-offs.

Gus decided to move on in September 2018, and was succeeded by his deputy, Mark Roberts. Mark stayed with the club until the end of 2019.

By the middle of the 1880s Queen’s Park could draw in 10,000 spectators to watch a ‘friendly’. Recognising that a purpose-built stadium for supporters was the way ahead, plans were soon put in place for a new ground to accommodate the huge interest the public was taking in the round ball game.

After leaving the original Hampden, which incidentally had turnstiles at entry gates already in place – the first of its kind at any sporting venue – Queen’s Park moved into an all-purpose built stadium near Crosshill in 1884. This new venue retained the original name – Hampden Park – although this was later to become home to Third Lanark and its name was changed to Cathkin Park.

As popularity in the game took immense strides, the thoughts of Queen’s Park members turned once again towards accommodating a public turning out in great numbers to watch the game. By 1900 plans were put in place, starting with the purchase of 12 acres of farmland at Mount Florida.

The intention was to build a brand new stadium that would offer comfortable surroundings in a pleasant environment. This, the present day Hampden Park, was finally completed three years later and officially opened on October 31, 1903. More innovations followed – a press box in 1906 and, towards the end of the 1920s, crush barriers had been introduced as well as a tannoy system and a car park outside the ground. Other firsts followed including the world’s first all-ticket match – a game against the ‘Auld Enemy’ in 1937.

Hampden Park hosted the 1960 European Cup Final between Real Madrid and Eintracht Frankfurt. It was said by many who were present that this game, won 7–3 by Real, was the best they had ever seen. The following year floodlights were installed using four massive pylons, and in 1967 a cover was built over the west terracing to mark the club’s centenary. Further redevelopment took place in two phases during the 1990s, by the end of which all four sides were all-seated and covered by a cantilevered roof; the South Stand had been replaced by a magnificent double-tiered stand with state-of-the art facilities for players, spectators, and press; and the floodlight pylons had been replaced by banks of lights along the roofs. The stadium, which has a capacity of 52,000, re-opened with a celebrity match on 21st May 1999. It was awarded 5-star status by UEFA, and hosted the 2002 Champions League final between Real Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen, and the 2007 UEFA Cup final between Sevilla and Espanyol, plus four matches for the UEFA 2020 Tournament (not played until June 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic).

The stadium was also converted into a 40,000-capacity athletics arena and was the principal venue for the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

In April 2000 the Scottish Football Association signed a 20-year lease with Queen’s Park which allowed them to take over the running of the stadium, while at the same time guaranteeing our right to play our home matches there.

The 20-year lease agreement between the club and the Scottish FA included an option for the SFA to extend it for a further 20 years. From the club’s point of view this would have been the cheapest and most convenient solution. Negotiations between the two parties began early in 2017, but it quickly became apparent that an extension of the lease was not favoured by the Scottish FA. They decided to explore other potential options, including the possibility of relocating their offices and all major games to Murrayfield, the headquarters of Scottish Rugby in Edinburgh. However, their preferred option was to take over ownership of The National Stadium from Queen’s Park.

After protracted negotiations, and bearing in mind that the club’s top priority was its own survival, Queen’s Park reluctantly agreed to sell Hampden Park to the Scottish FA during the summer of 2018. That transfer of ownership took place when the previous lease ended on 31st July 2020 (its term had been extended from April 2020 to accommodate the UEFA 2020 matches, which of course did not finally take place until June 2021). It should be noted that the sale might not have happened had it not been for the generous intervention of businessmen and philanthropists Lord Willie Haughey and Sir Tom Hunter.

The priority now became the redevelopment of Lesser Hampden into a stadium capable of housing senior football matches. A new pavilion and office space, the J. B. McAlpine Pavilion, had been completed in 2013 with generous help from the McAlpine family, but otherwise the facility would require a complete rebuild. Although work started in the summer of 2020 there were numerous delays, not least because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and a change in contractor, so that the new stadium would not be completed until May 2023. However, it was worth the wait; in addition to a 1,000-seater east stand with all necessary facilities, there is a state-of-the-art hybrid pitch which has been moved 8 metres to the north to accommodate extra seating in the future, new floodlighting, dressing rooms similar in design and standard to the Tottenham Hotspur stadium, and a hospitality area. The interior of the J. B. McAlpine Pavilion has been modernised to allow its use for functions and hospitality, as well as accommodating members and supporters. The Scottish FA have been so impressed by the facility that they have requested to use it as a training facility for its international teams. As a result, Queen’s Park will again play its home matches at The National Stadium, Hampden Park, from September 2023.

Season 2018-2019 was a difficult one for the club, and the first team finished 7th out of 10 in League 2. It was becoming very difficult to recruit players of a sufficient standard to play unpaid senior football, and the lure of playing home matches at Hampden Park was scheduled to cease in the spring of 2021. The pyramid system meant that there was a real danger of the club being relegated into the Lowland League, from which it would have been extremely difficult to return to the SPFL. Finally, the club’s under-18 team reached the semi-final of the SFA Youth Cup, as a result of which four players were signed by Premiership teams, with no compensation due to an amateur club like Queen’s Park.

After debating the situation for some time, the Committee agreed to call a General Meeting in order to amend the Articles of Association to allow the club to turn professional. That meeting was held on 14th November 2019, and the two necessary amendments were voted through by more than 90%. We were offered a generous sponsorship deal to make this possible by Lord Haughey, which allowed the playing staff to become full-time.

The changes became apparent almost immediately. Experienced manager Ray McKinnon was brought in as Head Coach at the beginning of January 2020, and he immediately set about strengthening the playing squad, making 6 signings during the January transfer window. Queen’s won six and drew three of his first ten league matches, and were a point off of a play-off spot when all football was shut down because of the Covid-19 pandemic on 13th March. The league positions were eventually and controversially decided on a “points-per-game-played” basis, which led to the relegation of Hearts, Partick Thistle, and Stranraer, plus a failed attempt at league reconstruction.

However, the club’s ambition was not solely about success for the men’s first team on the park. For some time, we had prized ourselves on having healthy Youth Development and Community Football programmes, but the sponsorship allowed us to take these on to a new level. We had previously been unable to achieve Elite status for our youth programmes because of our inability to be able to offer full-time professional contracts to young players, but that was now possible, and Elite status was achieved in 2023. The Queen’s Park Charitable Foundation has been formed and is working to expand and promote Community football, including our women’s team, which plays in SWPL 2. Work is underway to provide new facilities to support these initiatives.

The extent of the club’s ambition was highlighted by two major signings off the park. In January 2021 the highly thought of Leeann Dempster came on board as Chief Executive. Leeann had previously been with Motherwell and Hibernian in this role and brought a wealth of experience and valuable contacts.

The other major signing was that of Dutchman Marijn Beuker, who was appointed Director of Football Operations at the end of November 2021. Beuker is seen as a revolutionary in the development of players, making great use of scientific and analytical data. In 14 years at AZ Alkmaar his methods had transformed them from a provincial club into league champions and regular competitors in Europe. Further, eventually around 50% of their first team were products of their Academy, and many of these players were sold on, bringing in significant revenue. Beuker was given control of a 10-year project to transform our coaching, youth development and community programmes, and to develop first team players in the same way (and in the same numbers) as he had done at AZ Alkmaar.

Football resumed, albeit behind closed doors, on 10th October 2020. Indeed, supporters were not permitted to attend matches in Scotland until August 2021. Despite a further break in the programme for Leagues 1 and 2 due to Covid-19 between 10th January and 2nd March, it was agreed that the League teams would play 18 games, following which there would be a split into the top five and bottom five, and a final 4 matches to finish the season would then be played. Queen’s won 17 of the 22 games, losing only twice, and won League 2 by 16 points, gaining promotion to League 1. After 20th March 2021 we played our home games at Falkirk Stadium.

For season 2021-2022 our “home” was Partick Thistle’s Firhill Stadium. Ray McKinnon had left the club in May 2021 and was replaced by his deputy, Laurie Ellis. The Club made history by paying its first transfer fee to Edinburgh City for Liam Brown in June 2021. Unfortunately, things did not go well and Laurie left at the end of December. Marijn took control of the first team until experienced manager Owen Coyle was ready to take over. He had been managing in India and although not officially employed by us until June 2022, he was able to take control in March. After drawing 18 of the 36 games Queen’s Park finished in 4th place, 28 points behind the winners Cove Rangers, and 21 points behind Airdrieonians in 2nd place. These margins did not matter in the play-offs. Having narrowly beaten Dunfermline who had finished 9th in the Championship 1-0 on aggregate, we went into the 2nd leg of the play-off final at Airdrie tied at 1-1. The match was drawn 1-1 after 90 minutes, but a 114th minute penalty by Simon Murray saw us promoted for the second season in a row.

We began season 2022-2023 in the unfamiliar surrounds of the Scottish Championship, and playing our home games at Stenhousemuir’s Ochilview. To say that we were unfancied would be an understatement but we confounded the critics (and the bookmakers) by remaining competitive throughout the season, and at one stage held a 7-point lead at the top of the table. We also played one league game and one Scottish FA Cup tie at Hampden Park. However, our form faltered in the last few weeks and after losing our last scheduled “winner takes all” match 5-3 to Dundee on 5th May we finished 3rd and in a play-off against in-form Partick Thistle. They were better than us over the two games and promotion to the Premiership remained a dream for another season.

So, as we approach our 156th birthday, where does the summer of 2023 find the Queen’s Park Football Club? A full-time professional club about to play our second season in the Scottish Championship. No longer owners of The National Stadium, Hampden Park, but planning to play our home matches at a newly-rebuilt Lesser Hampden and at the National Stadium from mid-September. And two years into a 10-year project looking to transform us again into one of the most prominent football clubs in Scotland, with Youth Development and Community Football programmes which will be the envy of those around us.

“To Play for the Sake of Playing”? Perhaps not our sole raison d’etre any more, but the love of football and its continued development will always be at the forefront of Queen’s Park’s ethos.

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