By Graeme Croser



dmg media (UK)


CHIEF executive Leeann Dempster has vowed that Queen’s Park will play at Lesser Hampden this season. Nomadic since vacating the national stadium in 2021, the Spiders have spent this season at Stenhousemuir’s Ochilview Park, having previously ground-shared with Falkirk and Partick Thistle. Queen’s own Lesser but issues over the construction of a new stand have delayed reopening of the refurbished ground, which will have an initial capacity of just over 1,000. Currently seven points clear at the top of the Championship, Owen Coyle’s team are on course to clinch automatic elevation to the Premiership for next season. In that case, Lesser would be too small for top-flight football, necessitating another groundshare. One option would be to move back into Hampden, which Queen’s benefactor Lord Willie Haughey helped place into the hands of the SFA in 2019. With a new playing surface laid and ready for use, Steve Clarke’s Scotland squad will this week train at Lesser in preparation for the Euro 2024 qualifiers against Cyprus and Spain. Dempster expects Queen’s to follow within weeks but refuses to discuss the club’s contingency plan for promotion. She said: ‘Our plan is to play here this season. We are going through the final formalities and sign-offs to allow supporters in. ‘It’s going to be open soon. We are going to have our first matches and have the pleasure of being in a great environment. ‘We have had two long, hard years to get here. We are looking to get it open rather than worry about what happens beyond that. ‘It’s tantalising that in three or four weeks’ time the club could have a game here.’ Plans are currently in place to expand Lesser further, but the eventual capacity of 1,700 is still well short of the top-flight minimum of 6,000. Dempster added: ‘We own Lesser which is a smaller stadium than we might need in the future. ‘But it has the potential to be further expanded. We are being quite diligent on this. Continuing on our long-term plan. We don’t want to talk about what happens at the end of the season until that comes upon us.’ Although there is an almost painful reticence to promote the ongoing work at Scotland’s oldest professional club, the romance of the Queen’s Park story is ripe for retelling. The Scottish FA have placed the club at the heart of this year’s 150th anniversary celebration of the first-ever international match between Scotland and England. Queen’s provided the entire starting XI for Scotland and also inspired the blue jerseys worn that day and ever since. The commemorative kit, which will be debuted next Saturday against Cyprus, features the Spiders’ now traditional black and white hoops on its sleeves. ‘I love the historical element. I am from Glasgow so I love the idea of it,’ said Dempster, who joined the club in January 2021. ‘I am very proud of the role Scotland played in the game that five billion people across the world watch in any one week. Scotland as a whole should look at that with pride.’ Formerly figurehead at Hibs and Motherwell, Dempster has deliberately sought a lower profile in her new role. She added: ‘I did a lot of media and promotional work at Hibs because it was necessary. ‘Here, it’s more the longerterm project led by Marijn (Beuker) on the football side. But there is also the infrastructure plan alongside that, the stadium, training centre, etc. and I have focused a lot on that. ‘We are now also part of Club Academy Scotland. ‘The community element also keeps me focused. ‘Football does great things. ‘There is massive room for it in Glasgow. Everywhere has financial pressures. Councils have to take decisions but ultimately it’s the poorer people who tend to suffer. ‘We want to be part of the solution and open our facilities up.’