RHU and Helensburgh’s amateur football teams met for the very first time last weekend – and Rhu’s manager is hoping the game will help kick off a bright new future for the village club.

Rhu’s history is one of the longest in the Scottish amateur game, going back to 1896, though Helensburgh FC were only formed 10 years ago.

But since the formation of the Helensburgh club, the two teams had never met until Saturday, when they locked horns in a pre-season friendly – with a trophy up for grabs for the winners.

The two sides competed in a pre-season friendly at Ardenconnel Park for the Joshua John William Black Trophy, presented in celebration of the recent birth of a young son to Rhu legend and former Helensburgh captain Dougie Black and his wife Rachael.

And after the match ended in a 1-1 draw, in front of a big crowd, Rhu won a penalty shoot-out 6-5 to secure the silverware.

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But Rhu manager Stewart Maule says that it’s not just on the pitch where good things are happening for the club – a point which was demonstrated by the big crowd who turned up in filthy weather to watch a pre-season warm-up.

Maule took the reins at Rhu 12 months ago after previous boss Maurice George stepped up to the junior ranks to become manager of Yoker Athletic.

But after a season restricting himself only to matters on the park, Maule is now taking a more hands-on role in a bid to give the club’s profile a boost in the community.

“The first time I played for Rhu I was about 16,” he said, “and since then I’ve been a player, a committee member and even president at one point.

“There were rumours a year or so ago that they were struggling a wee bit, and I said I’d come along and help, but I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for last season, so I decided to concentrate on the football and let the committee do their thing.

“But Rhu is more than just a team. We’re the only football club for quite a distance with its own clubhouse, for example.

“And the club has a long and proud history. Apart from Queen’s Park, there can’t be many amateur clubs in Scotland that have been going for as long as Rhu – I think we played our first match against a Garelochhead team on January 1, 1896.

“I wanted to reconnect with the guys I grew up with, playing and watching the team, and the generation that came after that.

“As much as it was important to get the team going, it was almost a ‘field of dreams’ thing – sort of ‘build it, and they will come’.

“And if supporters, and particularly potential sponsors, see that you’re doing things for yourself, they’re much more likely to say ‘this is something I can support’.”

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And that support has come from many quarters. A series of old team pictures posted on the club’s Facebook page sparked plenty of memories from former players, and the reintroduction of a ‘social’ non-playing membership has sparked donations in the form of membership fees from as far afield as New Zealand.

And that clubhouse has been single-handedly redecorated thanks to the hard work over the last few weeks of Christine Griffin, whose efforts were much appreciated by all those who visited before and after Saturday’s match.

“I really just wanted to re-engage and re-energise people,” Maule continued, “and remind them what the club stood for and stands for.”

On the pitch it’s an almost completely new team that will take to the field when Rhu’s Caledonian League sectional cup campaign begins on August 10 – but Maule says he won’t be concerned if it takes them time to gel.

“Our League Cup campaign might well turn out to be our pre-season,” he added. “The guys need time to get used to each other and get their fitness levels up.

“But I can’t remember a squad in the town as good as the one we have now. The potential is frightening.”