Queen’s Park on the rise under Gus MacPherson

One of the surprise stories in League 2 so far has been the emergence of Queen’s Park in the top four just a few months after Scotland’s oldest senior side had endured their worst-ever season.
Gus MacPherson has taken his Queens Park side into the upper reaches of League 2. Picture: SNSGus MacPherson has taken his Queens Park side into the upper reaches of League 2. Picture: SNS
Gus MacPherson has taken his Queens Park side into the upper reaches of League 2. Picture: SNS

The Hampden amateurs lost a host of players in the summer of 2013, including Scotland star Andrew Robertson, moved out of their Hampden home to help facilitate the Commonwealth Games and parted company with the longest serving boss in the country when Gardner Speirs left last December.

At the end of a miserable season, the Glasgow side finished bottom of Scottish football. However, things are looking up under former St Mirren and Queen of the South manager Gus MacPherson.

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MacPherson ended more than 18 months out of football when he took over the reins of the Spiders last January and the 46-year-old is relishing the opportunity to build his own team.

“I love it here,” said MacPherson, before adding: “When you see players develop it gives you a great sense of satisfaction. Tommy McLean once asked me after I had been a few years at St Mirren – who motivates the motivator? The players here are doing that as I want to help them get even better.”

The job is different to what MacPherson is used to, as he explained: “I went to Elgin on Tuesday night to watch Albion Rovers and that was a first for me. I used to drive or fly down to England to take in Premiership reserve games, but we had Rovers on Saturday and have Elgin soon so it was a great opportunity”

“This is my job now and I am doing it properly.”

Doing the job properly has involved an almost complete overhaul of his playing staff. MacPherson also brought in former Hamilton manager Chris Hillcoat as his assistant. He added: “We are now over what was a frustrating start. When we came in, the players were lacking in confidence and the squad was lop-sided. It had too many youngsters, but that was a consequence of most of the first-team squad leaving six months before.”

“The famous Hampden production line of talent is still very much turned on. We have given a number of young players debuts recently, but we needed to bring in players with some experience and a hunger to do well at a senior level.”

Despite a career in the higher ranks, MacPherson had always been respectful of the game at a lower level. He explained: “I played with Tom Brown at Kilmarnock who came straight in from a junior side in Ayrshire, so I have known for a long time that talent is out there. I looked at players at various levels when I was in previous jobs as I believe that not all the talent is picked up.

“I have good contacts and they started passing names to me and I started the groundwork for this season last February. Bobby Dickson was part of Gardner’s coaching team and I kept him on as our head scout.

“He took the recommendations and looked at the players no matter what level they are playing at. He would look at players sometimes three or four times and he would then say yes, no or perhaps not now.

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“I would then look at his recommendations and I would be out every night of the week doing that at the end of last season.”

That effort was rewarded with ten players stepping up from the juniors, three from amateur sides, with only one – David McGregor – added from senior side Stranraer and Chris Duggan joining recently on loan from Partick Thistle.

The players were not just recruited on ability. “We had to ensure that we were bringing the right characters in,” said MacPherson. “Anyone coming in had to be willing to learn. We wanted guys who would listen whether we were talking about the technical or the tactical side of the game.”

With no wages on offer, MacPherson helped sell the benefits the steadfastly amateur Queen’s could offer. “Of course we used the facilities the club has to recruit players,” he said. “Next week we start using Lesser Hampden as our training base for the first time in a year and that means no more mini-buses to Toryglen. Come January, we start using Hampden for our games again and that was a factor in some of these boys coming in.”

“They have been waiting six months to play there and I am sure that it will be a fantastic motivation for them when it finally arrives.”

Will that motivation lift them to the play-offs? Said MacPherson: “The play-offs have never been mentioned, but actually we never set any targets.

“We started the season by losing to Berwick on penalties and then losing to Clyde after being ahead in the league. We had to see how the guys would handle that.

“They have handled it well and have grown this season. If they keep growing, some of them will go on to a higher level than Queen’s Park.”