By Lewis Michie
Ahead of the new season it’s a stark reality for Queen’s Park and Mark Roberts that the spiders, despite being the oldest Scottish football club in existence, operate on a budget a fraction of that deployed by many other clubs in the nation. League Two looks set to be incredibly competitive this season, and the spiders, like many other clubs in the fourth tier, know they could end up at either end – we took a look at how the squad lines up ahead of 19/20.
It has been a big season of turnover for the Hampden club, 10 players have come through the doors with 18 first team players departing, that number not including someone like Michael Ruth who has joined Aberdeen’s youth system.
Just three of the most used 11 players from last season remain at Hampden, and they are respectively the 7th, 9th and 11th most used – with Scott Gibson who is 24 being the eldest – then James Grant, 18, and Billy Mortimer, also 21, sticking around too.
It is not out of the ordinary for Queen’s to have a high turnover, nor is it different for them to have a squad made of mostly young players – they are renowned for it, after bringing through the likes Andy Robertson and Lawrence Shankland. In fact of the 15 biggest minute earners last season, not a single one was over the age of 30 – only four were older than 25 and six were 21 or under.
Finishing 7th last term, the spiders were level on points with Elgin City below them and Cowdenbeath above them. Only two other teams – the bottom two – scored less than Queen’s, with Stirling Albion joining them on 44 goals. Defensively the three sides below Queen’s conceded far more, Cowdenbeath and Stirling only let in one and two less respectively.
One of the retained players – Scott Gibson is a centre-half. However, Queen’s often deployed a back five last season, so there are two other starting spots to fill next to him if they retain that formation. Be it for signings or promoting lesser used players from last term – 19 year old centre back Lewis Magee for example.
Lewis Hawke was top goalscorer last term with ten and he has departed for Stirling Albion, Scott McLean scored one less, but he has also left. The highest scoring player remaining at Hampden for the season is David Galt who netted six times, and after him is Gibson who notched three from defence.
The signings have covered all over the pitch – of course they are with such a number of departures. Two goalkeepers have arrived, bringing a bit more age to the side with 34 year old David Crawford coming out of retirement after leaving his last club, Stenhousemuir, in 2017. He’s there with 26 year old Willie Muir who joins from East Kilbride.
Defence is still quite populated with Gibson, Magee and Cammy Foy – all back-line players – retained. Cammy Clark’s last club was Livingston, the 18 year old left-back has been brought in along with 26 year old centre-back Creag Little who comes in from Largs Thistle in the Western Juniors and 22 year Nicky Jamieson is another centre back arriving from Largs.
Three registered midfielders have come in, including a loan for 19 year old Tommy Block from Hibernian – he signed for Hibs from English Isthmian League side Bognor Regis Town this summer. Luke Main is promoted from the under 18’s and 19 year old Jack Purdue arrives after previously being at Greenock Morton.
They make up the numbers in the centre along with Galt and Calvin McGrory who were already at the club.
Two forwards have come through the Hampden doors. Firstly 19 year old former Motherwell man Alfie Agyeman who is part Italian, part Ghanaian and another signing coming from a similarly diverse background is 23 year old striker Salim Kouider-Aissa, coming in from Kilsyth Rangers he is part Scottish, part Algerian.
In the league cup it appears the Spiders have continued to operate with a 3-5-2. Koudier-Aissa and Agyeman were up front recently against Airdrieonians, Billy Mortimer and Ciran Summers operated as the wing-backs, although Summers is not currently registered as a Queen’s player. Purdue, McGrory and Galt manned the midfield. Jamieson, Clark and Little took the centre-back slots with Muir in goals.
The age of the squad remains incredibly young, just Crawford is over the age of 30, Galt, Little and Muir are the only players over 25 and two of those are just 26. Meanwhile nine of the current first team squads are still teenagers.
As unpredictable as League Two could be this season, Mark Roberts probably won’t be getting ahead of himself in making too many aims this season. If things get off to a good start the opening could be there to make a claim for a play-off spot, it was just two seasons ago they were playing a tier higher. However, if it doesn’t get off to a good start, which is entirely possible with both a largely new and young squad, then it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibilities that there could be a relegation struggle on the horizon.