Speirs has never won a two-legged play off game as Queens Park boss. That record continued at the tail end of last season as Stranraer managed to edge past the Spiders at Hampden. It followed having lost to Albion Rovers the year before, to Arbroath the year before that and Queens Park even slipped from the 2nd to the 3rd through the play offs – they lost that year to Stenhousemuir.
If progress was wanted by the Queens Park faithful then Speirs has at least achieved that. He managed to keep the Spiders in the 2nd in his 1st year in charge before they lost their 2nd Division status. In his first year in the 3rd he managed the play offs from 4th and has managed to take Queens Park closer to automatic promotion year on year. If this progress continues then Queen’s Park should win the title this year. I have a funny feeling they won’t though. The troops Speirs has assembled for yet another assault at getting out the 3rd is relatively impressive. It is the bulk of the squad that completed the 2011/12 season. How did they fair last year?
2011/12 saw a first round exit in the Ramsdens – 2-0 to Hamilton; a first round exit in the Scottish Communities Cup – 2-1 to Ross County; and a 4th round exit to Motherwell 4-0 in the Scottish Cup. It did mean that early season there was no cup run to distract them and by the time the Scottish Cup arrived they were beginning to find some kind of form. Their league form continued the same story they had been telling for the last three seasons; Sluggish starters but strong finishers.
Just to prove that pint – August saw them lose 5-2 away at Annan in the very first game of the season. A result not meant to inspire confidence, September was a month of mixed results before October saw 4 wins out of 4 games. If that was a high, then along came the low in November when not one win was registered. December saw a couple of wins on the board to restore some faith before a 6-0 win at Elgin gave an indication that the Spiders could achieve that play off spot. In February they managed a 5-0 win against Montrose; in March a 4-1 victory against Berwick Rangers; and in April a 5-1 win against East Stirling. Their pretensions to the title fell with a 4-0 loss to eventual Champions, Alloa Athletic but the momentum was set. Not one but two 3-2 victories against play off rivals Stranraer sealed the place they sought but for Speirs it was not to be a lucky omen; it was Stranraer who put them out in the play offs.
Speirs has managed to retain most of the squad from last season with Neil Parry confirmed in the number one spot. Their second choice from last year, Adam Strain, has been quoted as being looked at by Ayr United in the 2nd, so they may be looking for back up.
In defence the loss of the 3rd Division’s Player of the Year, Daryl Meggat to Alloa Athletic, may be a significant dent in their defence. With Richard Sinclair, James Brough, Paul Gallacher and Peter Bradley back in the squad Speirs has a decent defensive line up.
Speirs has brought in Michael Keenan, returning to the club, in midfield from Arthurlie to bolster midfield. Tony Quinn, Owen Ronald, David Anderson, Guiseppe Capuano and Alan Urquhurt have resigned for this year. Michael O’Hara has still to be announced in or out of the club. Some of the youth squad have been brought in particularly Lawrence Shankland and Keiran Kennedy. It’s a midfield that knows each other well and the training the Youth Squads do with the First team should help cement that area of the park.
Up front he has retained top goal scorer, Jamie Longworth who had attracted the interest of Airdrie United whilst Ian Watt, Craig Smith, and Sean Burns have all resigned for the club. The loss of Martin McBride and Michael Daly (to Annan Athletic) may not therefore be so significant.
No matter what happens this coming season, Speirs enters a twilight zone; his 5th full campaign. It may be the one in which people make judgements on his tenure. The Queens Park job is never one quoted in the top ten most sought after post playing days but it is a job that has had some fairly interesting names attached. Billy Stark was Speirs’ predecessor; Kenny Brannigan honed a management style whilst there; John “Cowboy” McCormack took the hot seat in between Dundee and Morton. Speirs’ own managerial record is not quite as impressive you feel it ought to be. He has been in and around the game for some while and his name has always been quoted as one worth watching. Perhaps this year he shall achieve promotion though he would hope it might not be through those pesky play offs.