With the first quarter, of the league, behind us, we thought we would take a look back and give you some updates from on and off the field.
Director Mark Blount, gave his thoughts on the first quarter and explains some of the off the field work thats been going on. "It has been a busy first quarter of the season, on and off the park. To begin with we had a restructuring with Jim Thomson being appointed football development manager to work alongside our new manager Gavin Skelton . Dan Armstrong was to take on some of Jim’s previous role as the new community development coach. There was the usual coming and goings of players but the new management team recruited some exciting new players in Grant Anderson , Jamie Hammill and Lyndon Dykes and the return of fan’s favourites in Lee Robinson and Stephen Dobbie. These players along with the emergence of the younger players bodes well for the future. The return of Dan Carmichael when he is fit after his operation will also add to this.
The team hit the ground running and had a successful Bet Fred League Cup campaign , the highlight being the second half display at Easter Road before succumbing to a defeat at Ibrox.This run again show the importance of how doing well in the Cups aids the financial burden . The Irn Bru Cup has also been a success for us and we have got a home tie in the quarter final against Alloa in November to look forward to. It doesn’t provide the same financial gain as the Bet Fred but with the addition of the Northern Irish and Welsh teams it has provided a bit of colour as seen in our last round tie at home to Linfield where they brought over a healthy support.
The league campaign started very well but has spluttered a bit in the last few weeks culminating in the home defeat on Saturday . However we can look back on the first quarter as a great success as we sit joint top of the division. Injuries have taken a toll on the team and it may be a case of getting through the next few weeks with damage limitation and hoping the young players can step up to the mark until the established players regain fitness. Be rest assured Gavin and Jim have been working hard to get players in as well but Premier Clubs seem happy to have players sitting in the stand than loaning them out to Championship clubs. There is nothing to be gained by getting players in for the sake of it as they have to be better than what we already have or it will stunt our own youngster’s progress.
Off the park there has been some structural changes at Palmerston. New Dug Outs have been installed with better seating and we have purchased a new Accessible toilet block . The feedback from the QOSDSA has been good and it is large enough to allow both mobility scooters and personal assistants. We will continue to work with the QOSDSA to make sure Accessible supporters enjoy their match day experience. The boardroom has had a refit to bring it into the 21st century but we also wanted it to retain its charm and all the memorabilia remains.
Dan Armstrong has been working hard in the community. One of his first tasks was to enter a QOS float into the annual parade. Over 200 children were involved in making decorative pieces for the float and they took a real pride in finishing second.
The soccer camps in the Summer averaged nearly 40 children a week for the 4 weeks that they were held. The camp covered all skill bases , passing , dribbling , shooting and control . The children also learnt about the history and culture of the club and they were presented with a new strip with Dan’s aim to turn Dumfries a Queens blue.
He is currently planning programmes that will be delivered over the next few years. This involves meeting with all concerned parties to work out how to implement them. Projects like a QOS breakfast club which will involve getting children active with a nutritious breakfast and a” wake up shake up “start which gets their blood pumping and this has shown to create more attentiveness in the classroom once they arrive at school.
Eddie Warwick and the Development Squad run the Wednesday club for ages 5-12 , although it incorporates a football skill set, it is revolved around fun and enjoyment. There are pre school sessions for 3-5 year olds to introduce them to football and hopefully they will fall in love with the club and become life long fans. There is a girls club on a Friday which is similar to the Wednesday club stimulated around fun and a feel good factor at the club. Information about these clubs can be found at the office although we are having a recruitment drive by visiting schools , leaving posters and we want to get as many people through that arena as possible. This will hopefully be of benefit to us in the long run with increasing our support.
A Walking Football group aimed at over 55’s has been started on a Monday morning and this is hoped to have an impact on both fitness and mental health to help stop isolation in this age group and encourage them to make new friends . The numbers will hopefully snowball and maybe stretch to an evening session as well.
Dan and Eddie have taken over Jim’s successful Why Try programme which is now invaluable to 2nd year pupils to help stop them from going down a negative pathway . Jim is still on hand to offer them advice as they get the pupils to focus on positive behaviour rather than negative.
We had the Singing Children of Africa at the club from Kenya and we donated to them a set of strips to which they were grateful after they had a fun session and a ground tour. The young singers were phenomenal and their eagerness to learn about the club was fantastic and there is now a small part of Africa that is Queen of the South daft.
The club was approached by Laing O’Rourke who were building the new hospital to help organise a charity event at Palmerston. 6 weeks worth of planning went into an event with a game between “old and new “ hospital and over £4000 was raised .
Other events in the pipeline or that have just passed are
Charity Event for Cash For Kids
Serving Christmas dinner with Salvation Army
Rwanda Kit Collection
Helping Alzheimer Scotland
Visiting Men’s Shed Project
Our aim is to keep progressing the community side with the hope of starting a community charity and then we can meet with funders and try to deliver a wide range of projects . Dan has the aim of Queens becoming the best community club in the country and with his hard work and dedication and the help of the community then there is no reason why that aim can’t be achieved.
We are still looking to increase our database for commercial reasons and there is will shortly be a vehicle on the website to allow supporters to be included in it. Some supporters should have received emails already about different commercial opportunities within the club. We are also looking at a “Live Chat” part to the website to give supporters another way of communicating with the club.
We have met up with Supporters Direct about a new role of a Supporters Liaison Officer which some clubs already have. Our aim would be to appoint someone to this role and then have more regular meetings with the different supporters clubs aligned to our Queens to increase dialogue between the club and the supporters.
Lastly , thanks again to all our supporters , volunteers , coaches, employees for their hard work in the first quarter of the season."
Gavin Skelton looks back on the season so far, "At the start of the season, if anyone had offered us 18 points from our first nine games, we would've bitten their hand off. So to have that at the end of the first quarter we have to be happy.
We lost our first league game of the season on Saturday which is disappointing as we wanted to end the first quarter positively, but we will learn from it.
Overall, we've made a great start, we've worked really hard and have shown that we can be fit and strong. We have been hit by injury recently and you can see we are short on numbers, so we are looking to get through the next few weeks and still be in a strong position when we have a more fuller squad to choose from.
During the first quarter Dean Brotherston, Owen Moxon, Jake Pickard are a few of the youngsters from our youth system who have featured regularly so that for me is just as pleasing as the number of points we've taken.
I'm delighted that the players have been playing at a high tempo since the season started with the League Cup group stages back in July.
And if we were to sum it all up, the league cup is a tournament where we came through the group stages, staged a great come back against Hibs and reached the quarter finals of. We are in the last eight of the Irn Bru Cup and sit joint top of the Championship, where we've averaged two points a game in the first quarter which is fantastic.
It's a start that we can be pleased with and one that we can build on and kick on from."
An ever present, so far, this season, summer signing Jamie Hamill reflected on the first quarter from the players point of view, "The Championship is so tight, you can see that from the way things stand in the table.
We have a good mixture of youth and experience within the squad and we've all pulled together to make a good start to the campaign. We've kept a number of clean-sheets already so the aim is for us to keep working hard, if not harder and get more of them throughout the season.
There's not much between any of the sides in the division, so following our first league defeat of the season we head into the next game looking to bounce back and get back on track."
Our physio, Ross Goodwin, provided an update on the players currently out injured.
Jim Atkinson tore his medial ligament in training. He should be back in the next 2/3 weeks.
Callum Tapping damaged his knee in a game vs Carlisle. He is going to see a knee surgeon but could be out for up to 6 months.
Dale Hilson injured his ankle in training. We are awaiting consultation with a specialist but he could be out for between 3 and 4 months.
Derek Lyle strained his calf in the warmup vs Dumbarton. He should be back in about 1 month.
Kyle Jacobs strained a hamstring vs Linfield. He has been in light training so has a slight chance for this weekend vs Ayr.
Chris Higgins cut his leg in training resulting in 9 stitches. He has a small chance vs Ayr depending on the wound closing but it may be the following weekend before he returns.
Jamie Hamill tweaked a calf vs Morton. He has a 50/50 chance for Ayr game. We will get a better assessment later in week.
Scott Hooper is feeling his back and ribs following a training collision. He will return as soon as he can manage the pain.
Dan Carmichael has a 5 week recovery period post groin surgery and is making good progress with his rehabilitation.
Despite Saturdays defeat this has been our best first quarter since promotion to the Championship in 2013, in fact, we have double the points compared to that first season back.
Our 18 points, is 4 more than recorded in the previous best in recent times, 2014/5, a season where we finished 4th and ran Rangers very close in the play-offs.
Defensively, the 9 goals conceded and 4 clean sheets is also the best record in this time, easily beating the 14 goals conceded in the previous 3 seasons … and, of course could have been even better!
In attack, only the previously mentioned 13/14 season saw more goals in the first quarter than this one with 16 to this seasons 14.
The first goal has been crucial so far this season, something we've managed in 12 of the 17 games played in all competitions. Of those 12 games, we've gone on to win 10 of them, draw 1 - against Dundee Utd on the opening day of the season - and lost just once – a Betfred Cup defeat by Partick Thistle.
Conversely, in the games we haven't scored first we've won just once – against Hibs in the Betfred Cup – drawn twice – both 0-0 – and lost twice – both 5-0!
Scoring first has made a big difference to the number of goals scored too – 29 in the 12 games compared to just 3 in the 5 games we havent scored first. Theres also a marked difference in the goals conceded – 7 in 12 against 11 in just 5.
This quarter also saw the first competitive game in a Scottish competition against a team from Northern Ireland, when Linfield came to Palmerston. A 2-0 extra time victory took us through to the quarter finals of the IRN BRU cup, that tie is due to be played next month.
After an impressive start in the new league stages of the Betfred Cup, the run ended with a bang, as we went down 5-0 to Rangers, at Ibrox.
Given that we've kept 8 clean sheets in 17 games, the two 5-0 defeats were as surprising as they were disappointing, but with a cup quarter final to look forward to and still sitting in second place in the league there are far more positives to take from the first quarter than negatives.