Queen’s Park striker, Jamie Longworth, who combines his playing career with being a PE Teacher, knows how to get his pupils attention and the 24-year-old is getting used to being asked to talk about his exploits when he goes back to work on a Monday.
Longworth has grabbed 18 goals for the Spiders since joining them last summer and he has a growing army of young fans as he said: “I work at a High School in Strathaven on a Monday morning and there a couple of Queen’s Park youth players there and some supporters of the club as well.
"What has happened in a game on the Saturday is a great ice breaker with them and they have been asking me about my goals recently against Montrose, Huntly and Stranraer which is great.”
The great dilemma of course, is what the pupils who watch the striker play call him during the game and Longworth joked: “I am fairly sure it is not Mr Longworth but as long as that is what it is come a Monday morning that’s fine by me.”
Longworth’s career in education has to work alongside his footballing career and after turning down the chance to become full-time at Queen of the South as he was close to qualifying nearly three years ago, the striker is still doing a balancing act as he explained: “I am not permanently employed yet as a teacher but I am in the lucky position of having five days work across two schools. It is not ideal but I have that and the schools are both quite close to Hampden so I can get to training and games without too much trouble so things are all good.”
The foundation for his football career began in East Kilbride where Longworth escaped senior clubs' attention despite knocking in goals for Calderwood Blue Star. The lack of attention was of no concern to Longworth who said: “I enjoyed it at Calderwood and was playing with my friends and was in no hurry to go anywhere. I spent 10 years there and only left when I became 18. I suppose you could say I slipped under the radar but I was quite happy with that.”
Longworth’s drive to become a teacher saw him move to Edinburgh University and he also moved in footballing terms as he was picked up by Ayrshire Junior side Kilbirnie Ladeside.
“I was there for five seasons and apart from a few games when they tried me out at right back, I have always been a striker,” said Longworth.
The highlight of his time with the Blasties was the 2008 West of Scotland Final when he scored a hat-trick as Kilbirnie beat a heavily touted Pollok side 5-1, with Partick Thistle’s Chris Erskine also scoring for the victors.
Longworth said: “That was a great day for a number of reasons as not only did I score three times, Kilbirnie won the West of Scotland Cup for the first time.”
The striker's form saw his name discussed in senior circles and former Partick Thistle Manager and frequent goalscorer at a host of SFL clubs in the 80s and 90s, Tommy Bryce, pushed his case with Queen of the South.
“They had a look at me over the Christmas holidays that year and I played a couple of games and things were going very well. They probably went too well as they wanted me to go full-time then but I was three and a half years into my four year teaching course and I couldn’t do it. They wanted me to come back in the summer of 2009 but it never happened and I went back to Kilbirnie for another year.”
That season brought more goals and more attention however, Queen’s Park were reluctant to bring him on board as they were already bringing in midfielder David Anderson from Kilbirnie.
Longworth explained: “I will give Queen’s their due as they behaved with a great deal of dignity towards Kilbirnie as they said they would not sign me as they were signing David. They did not want to be responsible for taking two players from the one club.
“As it transpired, Ayr United came in for me and Tommy then said the choice was mine. Ayr wanted me for pre-season training and a trial whereas Gardner Speirs said that if I was available, they would take me immediately that swung it.
"Queen’s Park are close to home and as I had just ended my probationary year as a teacher, I thought it would be better to have a settled base to look for work.”
Longworth’s initial impact at the National Stadium was muted as a groin injury picked up in his Junior days hampered his progress and his drive to get fitter to meet the demands of the Third Division.
“I was in and out of the team up until Christmas but I did score my first goal in my first start in a 2-0 win at Hampden over East Stirlingshire. I was thrilled to score my first senior goal at our home ground and I thought I could go on and start a run but my groin kept on causing me pain.”
Longworth played right up until December before it was agreed that complete rest from football was required and after getting back fit, he had to wait his chance to get back in the team.
“I was making a few substitute appearances but still not scoring however, against Annan in a midweek game, big Mick Daly was injured in the first half and I got on and scored,” said Longworth.
By that stage of the season, Queen’s had brought in veteran defender Andy Millen to help out their youngsters and it was an inspired move according to Longworth who said: “Andy was phenomenal for us and he helped us all a lot. It was not just me or the defenders he played with during games, he was continually giving out advice on the park. You took advice, things happened and confidence grew.
“Gardner is like that off the park but having someone on the park alongside you doing it helped us all out.”
Longworth started rattling in goals as the Hampden side climbed the table into a Play-Off spot with the season ending in a bittersweet fashion and he said: “I scored 11 over the last few games but it was still a disappointing ending in the Play-Offs against Albion Rovers. They were a very good side who gave us tough games all season but we did not do ourselves justice in either leg of the Semi-Final.”
The striker is now well ahead of last season’s goal return by this stage with four in his last three games including a double against Montrose which secured a 3-1 League win and then his opener calming nerves in the 3-0 cup success over Huntly before scoring the first goal in his side's 3-2 success at Stranraer to take him up to six for the season.
The Huntly goal broke Longworth’s Scottish Cup duck as he said: “I missed out in the senior Scottish Cup last season when I was injured so it was good to play at Huntly. Their park never suited us as it was very heavy but we did more than enough to get through.
“It was a kind of a surreal game for me with their black and gold stripes and our black and white jerseys and it had shades of a Kilbirnie and Beith cup-tie.”
Longworth’s goal edged him ahead of strike partner Daly and he knows that he will need to keep on his toes to keep his distance as he explained: “I am on one more than Mick and it would be good to pip him by the end of the season. The two of us are good pals and room together when we get overnight stays and he will be going all out to get ahead of me again.”
The Spiders travelled to Stranraer last weekend in the only Third Division game that was on because of Scottish Cup replays and they earned a fine win with Longworth saying: "Stranraer had been flying and had not been beaten since we played them at our place when Mick and I scored in a 2-0 win.
"They had won 9-0 the weekend before as well so they had plenty of confidence for that one so it was great to see them off.”
There are unlikely to have been too many pupils that made the trip to watch 'Mr Longworth' in action at Stranraer last Saturday however, there will always be a queue of them wanting to discuss a Queen’s Park win and a goal from their PE teacher and it is unlikely that 'Mr Longworth' will be disappointed.