A party of youth players and coaches from Queen's Park is preparing for a special football experience. The group is poised to head off for a two-week training camp under the auspices of the Da Vinci Initiative.
It's become a vital element in our youth development programme, as can be seen from just a few of the names from previous trips.
Among those who have graduated from the camp to the First XI are Lee Davison, Blair Spittal, Paul Gallacher, Blair Lochhead, Conor McVey and Scott Gibson. It's also worth remembering that Scotland Under-21 International Andy Robertson took part in a Da Vinci camp at Turkey with Queen's before leaving in the summer. Lawrence Shankland and Aidan Connolly have also felt the benefit of participating in the Da Vinci Initiative with the Spiders.
Head Coach Gardner Speirs is only too aware of the impact the programme can have. He said: "It's amazing to think that just a couple of years ago, Lawrence, Andy, Blair Lochhead and Aidan Connolly were young boys looking forward to a Da Vinci trip to Turkey. A few months later, Andy, Lawrence and Aidan all played at Hampden in front of a 30,000 crowd and a television audience of millions for our first home game against Rangers', while Blair was an unused sub.
"That's a tremendous return - and demonstrates the value of the Da Vinci Initiative to a club like Queen's Park. It's also testament to the superb youth set-up we have here at Hampden - and that will only get better when our new training and office headquarters is fully operational after the Commonwealth Games."
Full details and reports from this year's Spanish camp in January will appear on this site.
To read what the Da Vinci trip meant to Aidan Connolly - and how it helped him make the step to first team football,
What is the Da Vinci Initiative?
Funded by the European Community, and administered in Scotland by the SFA, the Initiative aims to offer young footballers a gateway to a career in the game.
It also aims to broaden their education by allowing them to sample other countries’ cultures at first hand.
Our involvement this year will see the Queen's Park youngsters, along with members of the youth coaching team and other backroom staff, taking part in a two-week training camp at the Oliva Nova complex (pictured left). While in the Valencia region they also undertook some cultural visits - making good use of the Spanish lessons they were given in preparation for the trip.
It's the fifth year running that the club has been successful in its application for a place on the highly sought-after scheme - a remarkable achievement as the project is usually restricted to full-time professional clubs.