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Move to Queen's Park has reignited McParland's love for football

The narrative which will follow Tony McParland into Ibrox tomorrow is already well-rehearsed.

Tony McParland is back enjoying football with Queen's Park after walking away from the game altogether following a frustrating series of ill-fated moves. Picture: SNS
Tony McParland is back enjoying football with Queen's Park after walking away from the game altogether following a frustrating series of ill-fated moves. Picture: SNS

A young, hopeful player at Celtic, the midfielder failed to make the step up to the first team at Parkhead and has moved between a number of less auspicious clubs before coming to rest at Queen's Park. It is a career path which will seem familiar to many of those players who have found their way to lower league sides but the experience will still feel unique to McParland.

He had certainly felt alone on his way to the Irn-Bru third division – the pain of departing from Celtic seven years ago exacerbated by the bruises he received as he stumbled from Barnsley to Wycombe Wanderers to Livingston and then Queen of the South. A spell with junior club Arthurlie brought the final blow and McParland turned his back on football altogether. The ba' had burst and the 23-year-old was sick of trying to play on.

That he now finds himself preparing to line up against Rangers at Ibrox – and in a hooped jersey no less – suggests that his hunger for the game was not so easily staid, as well as offering a further endorsement of the Queen's Park as a rehabilitation centre for frustrated young players. McParland speaks contentedly about his new lease of life at the part-time club – signing last summer after being coaxed into taking a trial alongside former Arthurlie team-mate Michael Keenan last summer – and is settled off the pitch as he pursues a plumbing qualification.

"I needed to find myself a Plan B away from football. I had been a full-timer since I was 16 and I needed to find work elsewhere," said the midfielder. "Injuries held me back and looking back I do wish I had gone on loan to get games but I thought I would get a chance at Celtic even when I was 23. I am now doing a four-year apprenticeship in plumbing and really enjoying it as well as playing for Queen's.

"I had not played regularly for the best part of two years so it is great to be involved and it has given me a love of the game again. I had trained on my own and kept myself fit so I was ready to hit the ground running when it came to kicking a ball around again. But I needed to want to play again."

That rediscovered desire will make up for a lack of experience of playing in venues such as Ibrox, and in front of a home support still sore from a calamitous defeat by Dundee United in the William Hill Scottish Cup, too. Having been raised at Celtic, McParland is aware of what will be required of him if Queen's are to give Rangers another bloody nose but he has still only played a minute against Rangers – missing his side's earlier visit to Ibrox this season and coming on as a late substitute at Hampden.

"I have never played at Ibrox and that is something I thought I would have achieved by now," he said. "My debut there has been nearly 15 years in the making and, hopefully, I will put that right this weekend. I played at Parkhead in youth and reserve teams but it has taken me a long time to get to play at Ibrox."

His club have also been waiting a long time to make a mark at the stadium having not scored in a league match there in 55 years, with Bert Cromar's goal in a 5-1 defeat in 1958 the last on record. The task of ending that wait will likely fall to Jamie Longworth, who scored twice against Annan Athletic last weekend. "It is only Clyde and ourselves that have not scored against Rangers and, hopefully, it will only be Clyde after Saturday," said the Queen's striker.

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