Young Queen's Park trio make rare jump to SPL from Third Division

Andrew Robertson, Lawrence Shankland and Aidan Connelly

There will be more exciting Dundee United tweets than the one they unleashed on 1 July.

"New signing Andrew Robertson will wear the number 26 next season," it read.

But the very fact those words have been typed by that club underlines the jump the 19-year-old full-back has made.

This time last year Robertson should have been unassumingly preparing for a second year as part of Third Division side Queen's Park's under-19 team.

However, a slightly higher calling with the first-team was on the cards.

The former pupil of East Renfrewshire's St Ninian's High School was one of a clutch of youngsters called to do pre-season with the Spiders' first-team and he went on to make an impressive debut in an August League Cup victory over Airdrie.

"From then Andy remained virtually an ever-present in the team," explained Queen's Park manager Gardner Speirs.

"Throughout the season there was continual improvement with him. He was always decent on the ball, always looking to go forward and take part in the attacks. But his defending improved considerably towards the end of the season.

"For him to come in, while still able to play at under 19, and to play a whole season in the first team was excellent."

And Robertson wasn't the only one catching the eye.

His three-tier leap up from Third Division to Scottish Premier League was matched by two other even younger Queen's Park comrades.

Forward Aidan Connolly, son of former Dundee Utd player Paddy Connolly, will also do his thing at Tannadice in the 2013-14 campaign, while 14-goal striker Lawrence Shankland has gone further up the A90 to Aberdeen.

Those two will still be 17 years-old when the new league season begins on 3 August.

"Lawrence came on in that game against Airdrie and scored a cracking equaliser," recalled Speirs.

"Then against Partick Thistle at Hampden he scored another cracker. He scored a number of goals for us, particularly early on in the season.

"He finished top goalscorer which was excellent for a lad we'd taken straight from the under-17s - he hadn't gone to the under 19s - we took him straight into the senior squad.

"He's got great ability, good confidence and temperament.

"Aidan came in slightly later and initially made an impact coming on from the bench until eventually he earned starting places.

"Again, to begin with [he] was magnificent, scored a number of goals - one or two important goals for us.

"All three of them are going into something completely new in terms of the physical and mental demands it'll make on them.

"They're also going to be in competition with good players, top players for this country, and they need to convince their manager that they're worthy of a start in the team or a place in the squad even.

"I think all three of them have the ability, certainly the talent, to play at a higher level."

For Shankland and Connolly that is most likely to be with their respective clubs' under-20 teams initially.

But if the latter did break into the Dundee United first-team quicker than expected, the Tangerines could be lining up with a starting XI featuring Connolly, Robertson and new number six Paul Paton - himself an alumni of the Queen's Park youth set-up, arriving at Tannadice via Partick Thistle.

"Aye that would something," smiled Speirs.

"It would be nice to draw them in the cup!"

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