The office door knocks again and Owen Coyle promises he won’t be long, his presence forever required somewhere else.

He will be, though – he just loves talking football: “Ian McCall once pulled me aside and said: ‘Listen, Coyley, you need to understand something - not everybody’s as enthusiastic about football as you are.’

“But I couldn’t understand, how could you not be enthusiastic about it? If I hadn’t made it professional, I’d still be paying a fiver to go and play fives because I love the game.”

He loves the game so much it’s taken him from the Gorbals to Goa, via the Premier League. Now 56 and a granddad, Glasgow is home once more, as is Queen’s Park, where something special may just be brewing.

With Coyle at the helm, Scotland’s oldest club are six games away from a return to the top-flight, from where they have been absent since 1958. It is all starting to feel a bit real.

The Herald: Coyle has led Queen's Park to the top of the ChampionshipCoyle has led Queen's Park to the top of the Championship (Image: Colin Mearns)

“Are we ahead of schedule? Absolutely,” Coyle says. “Truth be told, we probably shouldn’t even be in the Championship with where we finished last year: 27 points behind Cove, 21 behind Airdrie.

“But we did it, and did it on merit. This year, we were everybody’s favourites for relegation, but I knew with what we were doing and how we were going about it, that we were going to be competitive.

“I can’t honestly say I thought we’d be up fighting to win the league. We’re up against Dundee, Partick Thistle, Inverness, teams who performed admirably last year.

“Whether you’re playing catch-up, or are the team to be shot at, there always comes a point where you start to run out of games. We’re a young team and a lot of them haven’t been in this position before, so this is the bit where we need to keep them calm, keep them steady.

“What we’ve found is, with what we’re trying to put in place, if we perform well, we often win our games.”

Everybody and anybody has an opinion on exactly what it is they are trying to put in place. After 152 years as amateurs, Queen’s turned professional in 2019 and have not looked back, swiftly ascending the divisions at a pace too rapid for the redevelopment of Lesser Hampden to keep up.

They have not played a ‘home’ fixture since 2021, leading a nomadic existence in ground sharing with Falkirk and Stenhousemuir. The club expect to play at Lesser before season’s end, but its eventual 1,700 capacity means, should they get promoted once more, they will have to move again to meet the Premiership’s 6000 minimum requirement.

On the outside, substantial financial backing from Lord Willie Haughey has bred some resentment where there otherwise would be a fairytale narrative. They have been branded by some, perhaps in an attempt to manifest a similar fate, as ‘the new Gretna’. The parallels are there: previously unambitious amateurs scorching their way through the pyramid, without a suitable stadium and with a very modest fanbase.

But Coyle's repeated references to youth development are not substance-free soundbites. Earlier this year, the club were awarded 'Elite' academy status by the Scottish FA, and luring director of football Marijn Beuker from AZ Alkmaar to oversee it all says an awful lot about how serious they are.

Coyle freely admits the club have spent a few quid, but allows himself a chuckle at the comparison with Scottish football’s answer to Icarus.

“I don’t do social media,” he shrugs. “I think you’d need to be crazy to be a manager and be on there. I know some people do it, each to their own.

“Of course, I hear bits and pieces. All I can say is, what we’re trying to do is very balanced, in terms of the first team.

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“That’s the myth about Queen’s Park at the moment: there is huge investment, but so much of it is on the academy and facilities.

“The budget is the same as last year, and in January, we actually lost four players. Squad-wise, people might look and say they’re a bit weaker than before January – we don’t believe we are.

“It’s a generic statement, it’s easy to throw out there without any proper research. We’ve not gone to big Premiership teams and taken their players to try and come through the leagues.

“We have a young team. Jack Thomson came through at Rangers and has had to take a step back to take two forward. Grant Savoury has been at Celtic, went to Peterhead and then to us.

“Dom Thomas has been in the Premiership then dropped down to Dunfermline. You can say to players: ‘Take a step back and give yourself a new lease of life.'

“For somebody to say that [Gretna]… it’s a lazy, lazy, throwaway comment. There are far bigger budgets in the Championship than Queen’s Park. We should be nowhere near Dundee, Partick Thistle, Inverness.

“I don’t want to get caught up in the tittle tattle of it. The bottom line is that’s not how we’ve done this. The investment we are making is huge, but it’s going to the training ground, the academy for these young players to come through.

“That won’t happen today or tomorrow, but that’s the plan.”

The Herald: 'Are we ahead of schedule? Absolutely.''Are we ahead of schedule? Absolutely.' (Image: Colin Mearns)

Coyle noticeably buzzes around the Lochinch training facility in Pollok Park, where the club recently secured a long-term lease. It is certainly an impressive location, if a little exposed to the elements, and Queen’s are beginning to put their own stamp on it.

Growing a club organically in Glasgow faces two rather large obstacles, though, with the inescapable, domineering presence of Celtic and Rangers affecting everything from attracting fans to competing for those young players Coyle is so determined to bring through. On both fronts, though, his glass is half full.

“We don’t have the biggest fanbase in the world,” he says. “But, my God, they’re loyal, they’re colourful, they’re vocal. We’d love to add to it.

“I can’t say we’ll be taking fans away from Celtic and Rangers, but we’d love to be everybody’s second favourite team. We also hope to keep adding to what we’re doing in the community, to be seen out and about and be known as a good club progressing in the right way.

“But the big thing is nurturing these young players, and being in the catchment area of Celtic and Rangers is another challenge. When I was at Burnley and Bolton, the scouts would talk about how we’re up against Manchester United and Liverpool.

“I said: ‘I know, but it should be easier to come to us because we’re showing these young players that, if they’re good enough, they’ll get a chance.’

“It’s becoming harder for young players to break in at big clubs, because it’s easy to go get a ready-made player. My point with Queen’s Park is, now that we’re in the same catchment area as Celtic and Rangers: ‘Come to us, you will get a chance’.

“If you’re good enough, you’re going to go to Celtic and Rangers, anyway. If you’re not, you can still have a really good career, whereas, if you are rejected at 16, you might never come back from it.”

The Spiders’ recruitment has been intriguing. Coyle’s squad is an eclectic mix, from players who have been on this journey since League Two and a Premier League loanee in Crystal Palace’s Malachi Boateng, to 19-year-old Aaron Healy plucked from West of Scotland League side Arthurlie - "I watched him for 10 minutes and knew we had to sign him."

Losing prolific striker Simon Murray, held up by cynics as proof Queen’s are spending their way to the top, to Ross County in January could have been a fatal blow to their title hopes, but Coyle moved quickly to take out-of-favour Connor Shields on-loan from Motherwell.

“Putting a team together is like a jigsaw,” he says. “You need the right pieces to fit into what you want to do, and how you want to play. That’s a big aspect of the big plan, as well; anyone who comes to watch us will tell you we’re pleasing on the eye, we pass and move the ball.

“There’s lots of different ways to win football matches, but this is the identity we want to have and create. We know the players that will fit into that.

“There’s some fantastic players in this league playing for other teams, players with lots of qualities. But they’re different qualities from what we need, that’s the nature of the league - it’s so competitive with so many good teams.”

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The challenge now is for Queen’s Park to hold their nerve. Coyle knows there will likely come a point in the not-too-distant future when his young squad inevitably look down and realise how high they have climbed. It would be a quite stunning achievement, and yet likely more achievable if they do not think about it too much.

“I know this from being a player,” Coyle says. “When you’re on a good run of form, you think it will go on forever – it doesn’t. It can change in the blink of an eye, that’s football.

“As good as the feelings football gives you can be, it also gives you that punch in the teeth that we’ve all had. You’ve got to remain balanced, humble and focused on what you’re doing.

“We’ve had injury and illness in the camp the past few games. I said to the players, it’s not individuals who win titles, it’s squads.’ I can’t reiterate that enough.

“The guy who plays two games for me is as important as the guy who plays 36. They all have their part to play, and they know how valued they are.”

Should they go all the way, Coyle and his players will be off to another as-yet unknown location to play their football next season. It is not ideal, of course, and he understands questions will be asked, but is largely content to leave the process in the hands of chief-executive Leeann Dempster.

He does, after all, have a title to win, and his team are not exactly struggling without a permanent home. If there is one group Coyle wants to see rewarded for their patience, however, it is the supporters.

“With that, I’ve purposely made sure we’ve kept the players focused on the football,” he said. “We all know our lanes, and Leeann will get on with the Lesser Hampden project and everything that comes with that.

“And when we’re ready to play there? Great, let us know. But I don’t need to get myself caught up in it.

“I must say, I loved the two games we had at Hampden. Lesser is going to be beautiful; the pitch and the stand, and there’s an opportunity to add capacity.

“All I can do is focus on the football, and I know the powers-that-be will look after it. When it needs to be sorted, I’m certain they will do that – they are clever, clever people.

“It’s been a challenge for the fans, and I know this from my own experience. I left Airdrie before Broomfield was closed down, but [assistant] Sandy [Stewart] was still there when they moved to Broadwood.

“Listen, we’re all creatures of habit; coming out your front door in Airdrie and heading into Broomfield, right in the town centre with 3000 other people. Then, suddenly, it’s 10-15 miles over to Cumbernauld and people start to think ‘you know what? I think I’ll leave it today’.

“That 3000 dwindles to 1500, then 1200… I don’t know what Airdrie’s average support is these days, but it won’t be much more than 1000. This was a club that used to have 2000 regularly.

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“Our fans have stuck with us, and that’s credit to them. After games, I always try to mention the fans, because even when it’s not an away game, it’s not a home game either!

“When the likes of Thistle, Morton and Dundee come up, they take the whole section behind the goal and come with far bigger numbers than us. It feels like an away game again.

“But we’ve dealt with these challenges and will continue to do that. Primarily, we’re focused on bringing the football up.”

There comes another knock at the door.

“And after all that,” Coyle laughs. “There’ll be a manager’s office where nobody can come in!”