Louis Longridge – My life in football

Over the next few months we will be producing a series of in-depth articles about our players. How they got started in football, their best and worst moments, and their interests outside of the football bubble. Louis Longridge is first up to kick off the series.

Louis Longridge has been playing football since he was a young boy. He has had a unique pathway into senior football. Louis has played over 250 senior games, 133 in the Premiership. Now in his second season with Queen’s Park, Louis looks back on his career.

As a youngster, Louis lived in Pollok with his mum, dad and four brothers. Louis is second oldest. With five boys in the house, Louis’ dad encouraged the boys into sport as a way to channel their boundless energies. Although all five played football, it would be Louis, Jackson and Beau who played at a senior level.

Louis was a striker growing up, and even signed, as a striker, with his first professional club, Hamilton Accies. Nowadays, Louis does not think he is clinical enough to be an out and out striker. He likes setting up goals.

 “As long as I chip in with a fair number of assists and a few goals, I’ll be happy. And you get to do that in a midfield role. At Hamilton I was signed as a striker, but they moved me to winger and I either been a winger or number 10 ever since.

Louis started playing football with Hillwood Boys’ Club, carrying on a family tradition to play with the local club. Louis signed pro-youth with St Mirren aged 11 and played with the Paisley side until the age of sixteen. He was released as he was “too small”. Louis went back to playing with his pals, who were playing with another local team, Barrachnie, before returning to Hillwood. During his second spell at Hillwood, Louis, unfortunately, sustained a bad leg break, which kept him out of football of 18 months.

Coming back from injury, Louis signed with Tower Hearts, one of the best Under 21 teams in Glasgow, and played a year with them. Now almost twenty, Louis moved to Harmony Row, a local well-respected team in a sort of a ‘last chance’ of putting himself in the shop window for senior football. His aim was to try and score some goals, and do well, in a hope to attract some senior clubs.

Louis was very successful at Harmony Row, he scored in every game he played in. The senior clubs soon came calling. First Louis was in on trial with Ayr United, during Ayr’s Scottish Cup run in season 2011-12. But the Ayrshire team were focussed on their cup run and didn’t offer a contract. Hamilton Accies then came in for Louis with a trial. Louis had a successful time with Hamilton and was offered a full-time contract in February 2012.

At this time, Louis was deciding which university to go to as he was considering a degree in Business Law, having received a number of offers in January 2012.

He decided to follow his dream and sign as a full-time professional footballer.

Moving to, not just senior, but full-time football was a challenge. He had effectively jumped from boys’ club football to Championship level in one step. Most other boys progress through academies to first team, or junior to senior, so Louis found this jump hard in terms of fitness.

He started in the reserves, enjoying the transition. Hamilton played Queen of the South in the Reserve League Cup final. Louis scored both goals, and then the next week he made his senior debut.

Louis made his senior debut on 7th April 2012, away to Raith Rovers. Unfortunately, Accies lost the game 2-1.  It was a memorable day for Louis, with his family there to cheer him on. What was even more remarkable was Louis was playing Under 21 amateur football only a few months back.

Louis played 133 times for Hamilton Acces, scoring 14 goals. He has some great memories of his time with the Lanarkshire side.

I’ve played against a number of great players and got the tops to prove it. Virgil van Dijk, Scott Sinclair, Kieran Tierney, John McGinn, Bruno Alves. I also really enjoyed playing at the big grounds.

One memory in particular is firmly lodged in Louis’ mind:

Getting promoted to the Premiership was a great day. We beat Falkirk 2-1 in aggregate in the semi-final, before taking on Hibs in the final. We lost the first leg 2-0 at home, so no-one gave us much chance of turning it around in a packed Easter Road in the second leg.

“But in our camp, although we were a bit shocked with the first leg score-line, we as a group, and our manager, Alex Neil, thought that if we put them under pressure and score early in the game, we would be in with a chance.

“Easter Road was packed to the rafters for the second leg. The atmosphere was electric before the game. We got our wish when Jason Scotland opened the scoring in the 13th minute. Then Tony Andreu scored an injury time equaliser to force the game into extra-time then penalties which we won 4-3.

It’s a day I will remember for the rest of my life. It was a surreal experience. I remember, before the game, walking out the tunnel, all the Hibs fans thought they had done it, they were going to stay up. After all it was just wee Hamilton Accies coming and they had beat them 2-0 a few days before. Our manager said, if we score early the crowd will become really quiet and nervy, and that’s what happened when Jason scored. We managed to play quite well in the game and obviously won promotion.

Louis on the the day Hamilton beat Hibs to gain promotion to the Premiership in season 2013/14

On his Premiership debut 

I got injured the first game I played in the Premiership. It was against Inverness CT. I dislocated my toe and had to come off after about 10 minutes. Playing against the new level of opposition in that game was an eye opener. Just before I got injured, I lost the ball in our half. In lower leagues you perhaps could have got away with that and not get punished. Inverness broke and literally with two passes Billy McKay chipped our keeper. I think it was an eye opener for the entire squad seeing that if you make a mistake, you are more likely to be punished for them.”

Although it was a quick learning curve for the first few games for Louis, he loved travelling to new stadiums. Pittodrie, Tannadice, Celtic Park, Ibrox and Tynecastle were all great experiences for Louis.

One memory that stand out for Louis is:

We beat Celtic at Celtic Park in October 2014. Hamilton had been on a good run, top of the league, going to Parkhead needing a win to stay top. Celtic has some great players in their team: Gordon, van Dijk, Denayer to name a few.

“We rode our luck on the day to be fair, but Ali Crawford got us the win. My family was at the game so to beat a team of Celtic’s stature was a great memory.

Another great memory for Louis was the game Hamilton drew 1-1 with Rangers, in front of a packed Ibrox was another great memory.

On Hamilton’s finishing low in the Premiership season after season

I think there is times, in games, when you think you are getting punished for every mistake, and things are definitely not going your way.

“Given the size of club Hamilton is, we always went in as underdogs in every game we played. We were a tight knit group of players, who all worked hard for each other. Maybe we didn’t have as much ability as other teams, but we attempted to compensate by working harder than other teams.

“Toward the end of the season, the pressure obviously mounts up because you know every point is so vital, but Hamilton were in that position quite a number of years, that’s why everyone used to predict we would go down each season.

“So, the pressure of being at the wrong end of the Premiership didn’t affect us that much, when knew we had to give our all every game.

Louis scores for Raith Rovers against Rangers in season 2015/16

Louis loves the big occasions

I really enjoy playing in big games, before a packed stadium and a noisy atmosphere. It raises my game. I play better in these games. When we played against Rangers, at Ibrox, when they came back into the Premiership, you couldn’t hear yourself think. But these types of games I really enjoy and, I think, play better. Talking to teammates in these types of games in practically impossible, there is too much noise, so you need to stick to the game plan and be much more aware of what is round you.

In season 16/17 Hamilton were in the playoff to go down to the Championship.

I think there was more pressure on us to stay in the Premiership, rather Dundee United to go up in the playoffs. When we played Hibs, in the second leg of the Premiership playoffs, we were 2-0 down from the first leg, so we though let’s go for it, nothing really to lose, as at the worst we would stay in the Championship.

“But in the Championship playoffs, if we lost, we would be relegated. Dundee United had a side full of quality players. We had a number of injuries. We had players playing out of position.

“And that pressure showed at the end of the game as we celebrated as if we had won promotion. A lot of people said why celebrate staying in the division. It was because we were still there, and it meant a lot to the club. The staff as well. There are a lot of factors that come into play either going up or down a league. It’s not just the players that are affected by it. Members of staff can lose their jobs depending on the success of the team. So, it was a happy day when a Greig Docherty goal beat the size of club Dundee United are.

On moving on from Hamilton

Season 2017/18 I was playing, scoring and making assists, but then I was dropped for the Ross County game. I came on and played well, but still didn’t figure in the starting 11 for the Partick Thistle game.

“It looked like I was no longer in the manager’s plans, so I spoke to him about getting a fresh challenge, I then spoke to the chairman the next Sunday at an Under 20s game about a fresh start.

“Paul Hartley was in the dugout at New Douglas Park. He was there to watch Falkirk U20s play Hamilton. Paul had newly been appointed to the job. He found out about the possibility of Louis going out on loan and offered to take him to Falkirk.

So, in the space of 48 hours Louis had moved clubs. Louis played seven times for Falkirk on an emergency loan, between October and January. Although Hamilton were keen for Louis to stay, they didn’t stand in his way when Falkirk wanted him permanently. 

Louis signed for Falkirk after the emergency loan period ended in January 2018. He has a very successful period with them in the Championship, for the rest of that season, creating more than ten assists and scoring six times for the Bairns.

At the start of season 2018/19 Louis moved to Dunfermline Athletic. Louis knew Dunfermline were interested in both him and his brother, Jackson. For years Louis had a wish to play in the same team as Jackson, so he saw this as an opportunity to do so.

Louis playing alongside his brother Jackson with Dunfermline in season 2018/19

Louis signed for Dunfermline the same day as Jackson. The season didn’t go as planned. In October he sustained a groin injury, which need an operation. He came back but sustained a knee injury which took a while to resolve. Despite the frustrations Louis enjoyed his time at Dunfermline.

At the start of season 2019/20 Louis was on trial with St Mirren. He has a great training camp with the Buddies, in Spain, but budget restrictions meant they were unable to offer him a contract. Ray McKinnon, now the Falkirk manager, stepped in and offered Louis a deal.

Falkirk were in League 1, had a good squad and were one of the favourites for promotion, so Louis signed. He had a good season with the Bairns, playing 24 times and scoring six goals before COVID-19 brought the season to an abrupt end.

Moving to Queen’s Park

As the start of season 2020/21 Louis had a few teams interested in him, at Championship level, but when he spoke to Ray, and others associated with Queen’s Park, and was told about the plans and the direction the club was going in, Louis was convinced this was a plan he wanted to be part of.

I’ve loved every minute of it so far. It’s also local to me as well so everything is perfect. I’m very happy here. The club treat me superbly, it’s a good group of boys in the squad, Also I seem to be playing well. As long as I’m happy I’ll get the best out of myself.

On winning the League 2 Title in season 2020/21

 “Getting promotion through the playoffs was a buzz, but to actually win a trophy is great. Winning the league is a grind, for a full season. So, to win it is so good. It would have been better with fans there, so we could have shared the moment with them. But for me and my family, it’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. And doing it with Queen’s Park was a big factor in me coming here.

About playing this season is League 1

This season naturally we have to take it up a level, but on and off the park we have the ability to raise our game. We have a young squad, with a good older core. A good hard-working team and I think we are going to have success if everybody pushes in the same direction.

“Maybe at the start of the season we weren’t sure how we were doing to do, but after playing one round of games, there is nothing to fear, so we are just having to give our all and, the old cliche, in one game at a time. Like I said, I signed with Queen’s Park to win silverware. I’m fully focussed on winning this year and getting promoted.

Best memory at Queen’s Park

Scoring the goal against Edinburgh City, the night we lifted the League Trophy at Falkirk Stadium. Everything was on that game to make sure we won the game, so we could celebrate in style. To score a goal, and it was a good hit, was great. I knew I had to produce in that game. I kept saying to all the boys ‘we need to win’. So the relief of scoring, winning the game and lifting the League trophy will live with me forever.

Louis celebrating scoring against Edinburgh City before lifting the League 2 Trophy

On celebrating scoring

“People kind of wind me up about the fact I go a bit mental when I score. When I was young, my dad used to say to me ‘If you watched Ian Wright he used to celebrate and go wild, make the most of every goal.’ I watched a few of his goals and loved his celebrations. So even now after all these years there is no better feeling than scoring a goal, for me anyway so I just go crazy, in case it’s my last”

Louis celebrates scoring against Brechin City

Heroes in football

“As a wee boy Henrik Larsson was my hero. I used to emulate him with this signature tongue out celebration. And that’s why number seven was my favourite number. These days Messi my modern-day hero. What he does is out of this world.”

Best moment in football

“It has to be getting promoted with Hamilton. As a wee boy you dream of playing against the old firm and all the top teams, so to actually get there and play against them was a dream come true.”

On life after football

“I’ve been in professional football since I was 19 and I’m 30 now. Although I see myself playing as long as I can, I’d be naive to not to think I need to start to plan the next stage in my life. “I’m beginning to look into a number of options, and I’ve even returned to studying. I enjoyed studying at school and still like getting my mind back into that routine now. I’m also looking at getting some coaching qualifications as well. I love football, I love the day to day environment, it’s all I’ve known, so it’s an obvious career path to consider. I think I’ve got that personality that allow me to get on with most people.

Away from football, Louis is a very keen golfer. He plays off a handicap of 2. Any opportunity he gets, Louis is out on the golf course. Louis’ Uncle Paul, who taught him to play golf, plays off 2, and brother Beau also plays off 5, so Louis certainly has challenging partners.

Cycling is another aspect of Louis’ life. “Nothing better than getting on the bike and getting away.

Although Louis is first to join in with songs on pre-match playlists, he doesn’t have any particular favourites.

Louis enjoyed long-haul foreign travel with his girlfriend Kaitlin before the lockdown. So far, they’ve been to Thailand, Las Vegas and Dubai, and look forward to adding to that list once Covid regulations allow. Thailand, in particular, was a favourite with Louis: “The different culture and stunning scenery. Seeing different parts of the world is what I like, and Thailand was outstanding.

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