How It All Started:
At the age of five I started kicking a ball around. Then about age six, I started playing football with Celtic Boys’ Club. A couple of years later, I was sent to Celtic’s Centre of Excellence. I spent six months there. Back then you got a letter telling you if you were to be kept on. I was released (“Not good enough”). Being so young, being released, didn’t affect me so much, as I still enjoyed playing football. I was more gutted because I was a Celtic fan, and it was always a dream to play for them.
After I left Celtic Boys Club, a coach who worked with me at Celtic started his own 7 a side club, Primo. I joined them and played at the newly built Toryglen Sports Complex.
Joining Queen’s Park:
Queen’s Park then showed interest and asked me to go for a trial. I played in a couple of friendly games and didn’t do too badly. I signed for Queen’s, aged eleven, and played for the Club’s first Under 12s team. Brendan McIlduff (now Liverpool’s kit manager) was my first coach. I played from 12s through to 17s. Trying hard each year to work as hard as I could, to make progress.
I loved it here with Queen’s Park. The youth set up was great. When I reached the 16s, we had a really good team. Players like Jordan Pender, Lee Connelly, Johnny Devlin, a lot of good players, coached by David Manderson. I remember going to Newcastle and winning 2-0. As I said a really good squad.
Our team continued to develop at the next level – Under 17s. I remember us beating Celtic, Rangers, Clyde and Partick Thistle in the Glasgow Cup.
First Team Debut:
That season, when I was playing at Under 17 level, I thought I was doing well. I was really enjoying my football. I remember we were due to train at Toryglen one Wednesday night in February 2016. My coach, David Manderson, phoned me during the day and said: “Come to training but you are not taking part”. That was the extent of the call. So, immediately I thought I had done something wrong, and was in trouble.
All the way to training I was worried. I got to Toryglen, and David said: “Go upstairs the gaffer wants to speak to you”. I went upstairs and Gus Macpherson was waiting for me. He sat me down and said: “I think you are ready to move up to the first team, I want you in training tomorrow night”.
This came as a bit of a shock to me. I was 16 and had only played a few 19s and reserve matches, so I was nervous making that step up.
The next night I trained with players like Willie Muir and David Galt. Guys I had watched from the stands at Hampden. I was made very welcome by the first team, probably they knew how I was feeling at the time.
I remember going out to train. The gaffer asked me if I was all right but that was all. I trained and thought I did ok. After training what usually happens is the players would come in and look at the team sheet, pinned on the wall, listing the squad for Saturday’s game. The gaffer took me aside and said: “You will be in the squad for Saturday”.
I’d never played at Hampden before. I had only been there for cup finals as a fan and to watch the first team. So, I went home and told my family. Everyone was buzzing for me.
On Saturday I didn’t even expect to be even a sub, but simply along for the experience. But I prepared right and would grasp the opportunity, if it came along. My dad dropped me off in the car park and said: “If you play get stuck in and enjoy it”.
My first challenge was finding the dressing room, as I’d never been there before. Once I found it, I was a bit shell shocked to be honest – To play at Hampden at 16 was certainly something special.
I remember the gaffer placing the tactics board in front of us as he read out the team. He actually named the team by their second names. When he said “Number 4 Brown”, I actually missed it. Sean Burns nudged me, and I saw my name on the board.
The gaffer then left the room to allow us to get changed. I looked at the board and saw I was playing centre midfield alongside Jamie McKernon. I just couldn’t believe it.
As soon as I stepped onto the park for the warmup, I felt ready to play, the nerves were gone. When we went out for the actual game, I looked round the stadium and thought to myself: “I’m meant to be here now. I can push on and show people that I deserve the chance”. I had a look up at my dad and gave him the thumbs up, and he would do the same back. Even now at 22, I still do it. It wasn’t a fairy-tale ending as we were beaten 3-0 by East Stirlingshire that day, but it was an experience I will never forget.
I thought I had played ok, but also thought there are a lot of good midfielders in this side so I didn’t think I’d made it. I went to the first team training that week and found myself in the side to face Arbroath away the next Saturday. A game we won 1-0.
Playing For Queen’s Park Aged 17:
I then played another thirteen times for the first team during season 2015-16, including the League 1 play-offs when we beat Cowdenbeath then Clyde to get promotion.
Playing the playoffs for promotion was a great experience. We had two hard games against Cowdenbeath before meeting Clyde in the final. I’m not saying we had won the final after beating Clyde 3-1 in the first leg, but it gave us a great advantage going back to Hampden for the second leg.
That Saturday – the 24th May 2016 – will again live in my memory. It was a roasting hot day, the pitch was immaculate, and although we lost the game 1-0, we were comfortable winners. It was great feeling to celebrate with our fans at the end of the game.
The next season I didn’t play as many games for the first team as I would have liked to, but it was great experience at seventeen to be in a first team squad playing at Hampden.
Scoring My First Senior Goal:
I scored my first senior goal away to Elgin City on 16 April 2016. We drew 1-1 that day. I remember making my way into the box, then getting a pass. I looked up to see where the keeper was, let the ball come across me before hitting it into the net. We were 1-0 down at the time so it was good to score.
I remember as soon as the ball hit the back of the net, I went numb. I turned and ran to our fans. My dad was in the crowd, so I raised my hand to celebrate with him. Another great memory.
The only other goal I scored for Queen’s was as a goal against Kilmarnock 20s in the Challenge Cup at the start of the next season. We won 5-2 that day after going behind at Hampden.
Playing At Hampden:
I loved playing at Hampden. For me, to think I was playing in the same stadium as Real Madrid, the Scotland National Team and all the cup finals that played there made me feel very lucky to have not only played there but played so many times on that famous pitch. It wasn’t until I left the club and looked back and thought, I’ve played at the National Stadium 18 times and that’s when it sunk in.
Leaving Queen’s Park:
Towards the end of season 2016-2017, a number of full-time clubs were interested in me. I went on trial with a few. I spent a week with St Mirren, then another week with Hearts. Hibs also wanted me to go in for a trial, but as they were in the Championship their season had finished. Also, at that time Lee Connelly went to Sunderland and there was talk of both of us going there.
After the season had finished Motherwell came in for me. James McFadden and Stephen Craigan asked me to go in and train with them. I was supposed to go in for the week, but after two days that sat me down and said they wanted to sign me.
Gus Macpherson wanted me to sign on for another season with Queen’s Park, but as I wanted full-time football, I took the Motherwell deal. I was sad to leave Queen’s Park. I had been there since I was eleven. The gaffer had given me my start as a senior player, and I had had the opportunity to play at Hampden. But at this stage in my development, full time football with a Premiership club was an opportunity I could not pass up.
When I signed, I expected to be in the 20s. It was a whole different ball game being full time. I was in training every day. It was intense. I felt I was under pressure, because you needed to do well to get a chance.
The coaches told me they saw me as a first team player in the future. I had ability but needed to work on aspects of my game. I took that advice on board and worked hard. I was in the gym before training. I pushed myself on the training pitch. I wanted to give my all, in an attempt to make it to the first team.
It took me a couple of months to get used to being there. I played with the 20s for my first season. I remember playing against Queen’s Park in the Challenge Cup in August 2017. We won 2-1 that day and I got booked.
By about Christmas that year, I started training with the first team. I felt that although I had a lot to learn, I could cope with the step up. I still needed to bulk up in size and get a bit stronger. I trained with the first team for the remainder of the season but continued to play for the 20s.
Motherwell were playing their last game of the Premiership season, home to Hamilton. During that week, in the lead up to the game, a few of the first team boys were saying to me” “You’ve got a chance of playing on Saturday”. Later in the week, I found out I was in the squad for the game.
I turned up on the Saturday expecting to not be in the team, just brought along to experience what it’s like on a match day. Stephen Robinson read out the team and the subs and I was one of the subs. I remember being told to get warmed up with 20 minutes to go. Then I was called back and told I was going on. To be honest, I didn’t have any time to think about it. Although standing at the side of the park, ready to go, I was thinking this is it I’m about to play in the Premiership. I got 17 minutes that day. Darren Lyon was playing centre mid for Hamilton. I remember winning my first header against Darren and once I got my first touch I settled into the game, and we won the game.
Then the following week we had the Scottish Cup final against Celtic. I was in the squad but knew the manager had to go with his strongest side. I wasn’t on the bench but enjoyed the experience of the build-up to the final, getting to Hampden, and being on the pitch at the end of the game.
That gave me a taste for first team football. I was determined to push on and hopefully make the step up the next season. We went away for pre-season training in Dublin in June 2018. I had put a lot of effort at the training camp and came back probably the fittest I had ever been in my life.
Then I started to get pain in one of my knees. It took a few months to diagnose and fix. In January 2019, the gaffer spoke to me about going out on loan to get some game time. I was lined up to go to Stirling Albion when the gaffer told me that had sold a player and I would be getting a chance again with the first team.
I played with the reserves on the following Monday and sustained an ankle injury which ruled me out for the rest of the season. It was gut wrenching for me as I was coming to the end of my two-year deal and had been out with injury for the best part of the second year. I wasn’t offered a new deal.
I enjoyed my time with Motherwell, a great bunch of guys. I was so disappointed that things didn’t work out for me in the second year.
Edinburgh Next Stop:
At the end of the season, I was released. A number of clubs were interested. Steve Crawford at Dunfermline was keen to sign me, but the club were reluctant due to my previous injuries. The time they took to make a decision left very little time to get fixed up before pre-season started.
A few days after Dunfermline told me they didn’t want to sign me, James McDonaugh of Edinburgh City got in touch with my agent to invite me in for training. At that time Edinburgh City were doing well and were ambitious to get promotion. Things went well at training on the Thursday and I signed with them the following Saturday.
I was back playing and enjoying my football again. We were doing well that season and possibly would have been right up there for promotion if COVID has not stopped the season early. Obviously, Cove Rangers were well in front, but we were close behind them.
Season 2020-2021 was strange with no fans in the ground, but we did well and got into the playoffs for League 1. Dumbarton beat us in the final so no promotion this year. I was, and still am, ambitious to play at the highest level possible so at the end of the season I was considering my next move.
Coming Back Home:
I had noticed that Queen’s Park had, firstly gone professional, then had won League 2 and were an ambitious club, so I thought it would be great to go back to my first club. I was very surprised when they got in touch and offered me a deal. It was easy to say yes. Everything slotted in. It was close to my home; it was the club I had started at as an eleven-year-old boy. The club had a great squad and were going places, so I signed the deal.
I believe I am the first player in Queen’s Park’s history for a fee to be paid to get me to the club. I am humbled and honoured by that and I will work hard to justify the transfer fee.
It was strange coming back. Obviously, there were familiar face still around. Willie Muir was still there, Galty had just left. I knew Darren from playing against him with Motherwell.
I honestly felt like I had never been away. Everyone was so welcoming. It’s a great group of players. We are a close group. I think I settled in fairly quickly. It was good to get back to full-time football. When I signed the gaffer emphasised that this would be a hard-working team which suited me.
From day one I worked hard to fit in. Most of the boys had won the league last year so the thinking was why not go and win League 1 this year. I know we have had our ups and downs this season, but our focus is still to win the league, that has never wavered.
It’s a tough league. Some great teams with great players. All the sides are very fit. I don’t think the full-time/part-time means much in terms of fitness. It’s just a matter of concentrating on ourselves and knowing what we are capable of.
Two Goals Against Falkirk:
I’ve been frustrated these past couple of weeks, knowing I’d had chances to make some assists and to score, but it didn’t happen. Maybe I’ve not been playing as well as I can, but on Saturday I felt I played much better, and it was great to score twice. That’s three goals I’ve scored this season. I’ll be looking for more.
Life Outside Football:
Football takes up most of my days, but on Fridays I usually go to play snooker with my mates, then back home to put the feet up to prepare for Saturday’s game. I like to watch some box sets on Netflix and on Sky. I also go to the gym to work on my fitness and relax in the steam room and sauna.
I have ambitions to play at the highest level possible, so I’ll be working hard to get Queen’s up the Leagues. I’m very happy here. I still have to work on many aspects of my game including the stuff I think I’m good at. I need to improve in all areas. I’ll stay grounded and continue to work hard and we’ll see what the future brings.
What Would I Do If I Was Not A Footballer:
That’s a tough one as all I’ve thought about is being a professional footballer and I was lucky to do that at 16. I’d probably have learned a trade and be working Monday to Friday and still playing football on the weekends.
My family support me and keep me really grounded. My dad has always been to most of my games and my granny also comes along to cheer me on. My dad would come in from work, get changed and drive me to my games while I was growing up. I’ll always be grateful for that support. And that support continues. For example, when we played Peterhead recently, they travelled up the night before, so that they could be there for me.