Obituary: Charlie Church

Striker who played on 260 occasions for Queen's Park and scored 69 goals

Born: 7 July, 1929, in Troon.

Died: 11 April, 2010, in Newton Mearns, aged 80.

IF THE Old Firm is the powerhouse of Scottish football, then Queen's Park is the Keeper of the Flame; and few kept that flame – the spirit embodied in the club motto, "The Game for the Game's Sake" – more resolutely than Charlie Church.

Church was born in Troon, while his parents were on holiday there, but, back in Glasgow he attended St Aloysius' College, where his love of football was allowed to grow. Now a rugby-playing school, back then football was encouraged, as was athletics, where the young Church shone as a Scottish Schools Championship- winning sprinter and was, in his final year, Victor Ludorum in winning the most events at the annual sports.

From school, he joined the family bookmaking company. The Churches were the first firm to offer fixed-odds football coupons, but, in tandem with his growing role in the family business, he had, while still at school, found his second family – Queen's Park, graduating through the various XIs: the Victoria XI, the Strollers, until, still a teenager, he made his first-team debut in January 1948.

Future Lisbon Lions goalkeeper Ronnie Simpson was a contemporary; Church used to tell of how, after one training session Simpson challenged three young bucks, Church, Bert Cromar and "Junior" Omand, to a penalty kicks competition. He saved all nine fired at him, then scored with his own kicks.

Simpson moved on to international recognition, while Church, Cromar and Omand remained at Hampden, becoming key players for the old club over more than a decade.

Others went on to bigger professional clubs: George Herd, John Valentine, Davie Holt, Jim Cruickshank, Andy Roxburgh and a teenager named Alex Ferguson, of whom more later. Church and his two team-mates kept the flame alive.

These were interesting times for Queens: relegation in 1948, promotion as Division B champions in 1956, relegation again in 1958, then the low point of finishing second-bottom of Division B in 1959, covered some indifferent league campaigns.

In all, Church pulled on the famous narrow black and white hoops on 260 occasions, netting 69 goals, including two he particularly relished, which dumped Celtic, the team he supported as a boy, out of the Glasgow Cup at Hampden.

Many of his goals came thanks to his continued honing on the Hampden running track of the speed which marked his school days. A less-heralded aspect of his long service to the Hampden club was being sent off against Stranraer in November 1958, only the second "Spider" to be dismissed since the Second World War. That match, which Stranraer won 2-1, is more noted, however, for a scoring debut for Queens by the future Sir Alex Ferguson, then plain Alex, a 16-year-old pupil at Govan High School.

After playing football, Church continued to watch Queens, while his other sporting passion was golf.

Competition from the bigger bookmakers and law changes meant the winding-up of the Church bookmaking business, with Charlie transferring seamlessly to the Civil Service, working in the Social Security office until his retirement.

He was married to May, who pre-deceased him three years ago, for almost half a century. They had two sons, Charlie jnr and Philip, and a daughter, Louise, who survive him, along with 12 grandchildren.

Philip said: "According to my mum, Dad was as good as Henrik Larsson; he said he was merely Frank McGarvey." To that happy band, no longer perhaps wearing the club's trademark bowler hats, who continue to turn up at Hampden to support Queens, however, he will always be the one and only Charlie Church – one of the finest clubmen in a club which remains unique in world football.