Redevelopment sends Spiders to Airdrie
26 November ~ On Saturday, Scotland's oldest football club, Queen's Park, played their final home game at Hampden Park until the 2014-15 season due to redevelopment work taking place in preparation for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Scotland's national stadium will host the athletics events and is to have a new running track especially fitted. It was an unhappy farewell to Hampden for the Spiders, who are planted at the foot of the fourth tier of Scottish football. They were trounced 5-0 by visitors Peterhead the same club they faced in very different circumstances last May when the two met during the promotion play-offs.
Not much has gone right so far this campaign for the amateurs from Glasgow's southside, having won just once from their opening 13 league fixtures with a mere 12 goals scored in the process. This is in stark contrast to last season when Gardner Spiers's team gave valiant, but never-threatening, chase to the utterly dominant champions, Rangers.
Queen's Park might normally have been allowed to play at Lesser Hampden, with its 3G astroturf pitch and limited facilities in the shadow of the national stadium, given the proximity and ability to accommodate the club's low average attendance, which stands at 440 for this season so far. However, Lesser Hampden is also subject to renovation work and will be turned into a training area for the athletes.
For the next 15 months, Queen's Park will be calling Airdrieonians' Excelsior Stadium home. Not only will they be exchanging the superb facilities of their UEFA category four stadium in Glasgow for the 10,171 capacity ground in North Lanarkshire, but they must quickly become accustomed to the switch from the lush, wide-open spaces of Hampden's manicured turf to Airdrie's 4G artificial playing surface.
Despite their long-term association with Hampden, this won't be the first time in recent years that Queen's have had to temporarily relocate. During the 2012 London Olympics football tournament, when several games were staged at their home of 110 years, the club briefly played at Partick Thistle's Firhill Stadium just five miles away on the opposite side of the River Clyde.
For fans of the Spiders, the prospect of the 16-mile trek east to Airdrie for home games when the team is in such dismal form may prove too much. In expectation of some supporter abstention, the club has arranged for special buses to transport season ticket holders to and from home games for free, while supporters' club members and other match-goers will be charged £1 and £2 respectively for their return journeys. Carpooling has also been actively encouraged as part of the measures to retain as many of their regular support as possible.
On the pitch, Queen's Park need results to improve dramatically if they are to avoid being cut adrift. Luckily, a relegation play-off with the winners of the Highland and Lowland League showdown won't come into effect for the team that finishes bottom of Scottish League Two until the 2014-15 season. Mark Godfrey