After three years of uninterrupted success, Queen’s Park have finally hit a bump in the road. The past few seasons have been characterised by a remarkable upward trajectory as the Spiders have climbed all the way from Scottish football’s fourth tier to being just 90 minutes away from the top flight, as they were going into the last-day-of-the-season title decider against Dundee a fortnight ago.

Things haven’t gone quite as well since, though. Owen Coyle’s side lost 5-3 in that bonkers match at Ochilview as they squandered the chance of automatic promotion, and then they slipped to an 8-3 aggregate loss to Glasgow rivals Partick Thistle in the Premiership play-off quarter-finals. That appeared to be the straw that broke the camel’s back for Coyle, who resigned from his duties at the start of this week.

This blip was going to happen sooner or later – although it should be said that the Spiders have definitely overachieved on the whole, and they are probably a year or two further ahead in their journey to the top than they expected to be. There was always going to be adversity to confront and hurdles to overcome, and it will be fascinating to see how they react to these recent setbacks.

That isn’t the only reason Queen’s Park have been hitting the headlines recently, though. On Monday, Aberdeen announced the club’s opposition to the proposed Conference League – a newly-created division that would be comprised of a mixture of colts sides and Highland and Lowland teams, sandwiched between the current fourth and fifth tiers of the pyramid – and the Spiders expressed their interest in taking the Dons’ place.

The responses to the Glasgow club’s statement online ranged from disdain to outright ridicule. Fan after fan pointed out that Queen’s Park were guilty of running before they could jump, given they aren’t even in the top flight and have been playing at Ochilview while Lesser Hampden’s seemingly never-ending refurb rumbles on in the background.

READ MORE: Owen Coyle quits as Queen's Park boss days after promotion failure

The fact that a B team could cost around £400,000 a year is a significant factor too, given the Spiders’ stated aim is to become financially self-sustaining within the next decade, despite their small fanbase and relatively low revenue streams. And that’s before we even get into the whole debate about the very existence of colts teams, which many lower league fans vehemently oppose. Even Queen’s Park’s own supporters’ association said they didn’t back their team’s proposal to be included in the Conference League, should it be voted through at next month’s Scottish FA AGM.

These are fair points to make but ambition is one commodity that is not in short supply in Glasgow’s south side. The appointments of Leeann Dempster as chief executive and Marijn Beuker as director of football spoke to a club on the rise with a clear idea of how they want to go about it. There has been much discussion around the Spiders’ youth development and recruitment programmes – much of it praiseworthy – but it must be pointed out that the reality is in stark contrast to the marketing material thus far.

For all the grandiose talk about nurturing young talent and challenging the orthodox approach to developing their own academy graduates, Queen’s Park’s rapid ascent up the pyramid looks remarkably similar to others. The ‘innovative’ approach appears to be little more than chucking wads of cash at players who should really be playing at a higher level (Simon Murray joining the Spiders in League Two is the most egregious example) and unflattering comparisons with Gretna have been made.

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Naturally, Queen’s Park rail against those supposed similarities, insisting that the team’s long-term strategy has a heavy emphasis on becoming self-sufficient and not falling into the same traps as Gretna. Overhauling the academy and eventually challenging the Old Firm’s youth set-ups is the ultimate goal, and the club clearly believe that the implementation of a colts side will help them get there.

B teams have their critics, and the question of whether or not they should even exist or be a part of the SPFL pyramid is a matter for another day. But from a Queen’s Park perspective, it’s easy to see why they are so keen to have one.

It’s well known that Beuker previously worked at AZ in his homeland, spending 15 years overseeing the Eredivisie outfit’s youth development programme and putting the building blocks in place for long-term prosperity. And it’s impossible to deny that this was anything other than a resounding success.This week, the Dutch side are preparing for the second leg of their Europa Conference League semi-final against West Ham United, one of the richest clubs on the continent – and yet little old AZ have an excellent chance of advancing to the final, having been narrowly defeated 2-1 at the London Stadium last week. That alone is impressive, given they entered the competition in the second round of qualifying – one earlier than Dundee United, for instance, who they knocked out when the two sides met in round three.

A look at AZ’s squad is required, though, to truly understand the scale of their achievement. An incredible 57 per cent of first-team players come from the club’s academy – a gargantuan figure when compared to other top-flight European sides – and Beuker’s fingerprints are all over that particular feat. But the Dutch team’s success doesn’t stop there.

READ MORE: Are Queen's Park falling into the same traps as Gretna? Yes and no

Earlier this year, AZ won the UEFA Youth League in emphatic fashion. They scored 19 goals in the knockout rounds and conceded just twice on their way to winning Europe’s top club competition for up-and-coming players, and Beuker’s part in the achievement cannot be overlooked. The current crop at AZ’s Under-19s completed his programme from start to finish and have been rewarded with continental silverware.

Youth development is never a case of overnight success. The plans and structures put in place take years to come to fruition – decades, even – and a long-term approach has to be considered. AZ are reaping the rewards of Beuker’s policies at the moment and Queen’s Park will be hoping they can follow suit.

The success of the entire project will hinge on Beuker’s ideas and their implementation. The club’s small fanbase and the lack of revenue streams available to Scottish football teams mean that without an academy churning out prospects ready for the first team – and with those same players then earning the Spiders valuable income in the transfer market – it is hard to see how Queen’s Park will ever become self-sustaining.

AZ have offered a glimpse into what the future could hold for Queen’s Park, but it still remains some way off in the distance. So far, their rise up the leagues has been aided by outspending their opponents but it’s the academy that will be crucial if they are to realise their long-term ambition of being self-sustaining, and Beuker’s track record would suggest he is capable of doing precisely that.

It will take years before the Spiders see the benefit and finally live up to their own hype. The club’s vision and its practices when it comes to recruitment could hardly be more stark, but it might not be this way forever. The success of AZ’s youth programme demonstrates that Beuker’s strategy can work, that this isn’t simply a case of pie-in-the-sky hopes and wishful thinking – but it will require a dramatic change from the transfer policy that has got them this far.