HELENSBURGH manager Sam Gemmell says he expects the 2019-20 campaign to be the “biggest challenge to date” in the 10-year history of the amateur team.

Following a 2-2 draw with Jordanhill in their final pre-season friendly, Burgh kick off their third season in the Greater Glasgow Premier AFL with a sectional League Cup tie at home to fellow Premier League side Cambria this Saturday, August 17.

And after winning promotion to the top flight following an outstanding 14-match winning run towards the end of last season, the Burgh boss looked back with pride this week at the progress made by the team in the course of the last decade – and looked forward with optimism to the new campaign.

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Gemmell told the Advertiser: “The ‘fellow Premier League’ comment has a nice ring to it for me as it shows how far we have come over the past few years.

“This season sees the Burgh team competing as an amateur outfit for the 10th consecutive season - not a lot of years compared with some other teams, but considering it’s been mainly run by one guy it’s an enormous achievement.

“In the past nine seasons the team has gone from getting beaten regularly – the first couple of seasons were a real struggle, on one occasion being beaten by 23-1 – to winning the the West of Scotland AFL Challenge Shield and being beaten finalists in the League Cup in the same season and more recently winning promotion to the GGPAFL Premier League.

“Since day one it’s been a bit of a roller coaster to be honest but the majority of times it's been really enjoyable – that 23-1 game apart.

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“The team was set up to give local lads a platform to continue playing football into adulthood and it’s been gratifying to see these same lads continuing to play today.

“Obviously it isn’t all down to me – over the years I’ve had some really good help from the likes of Willie Clark, Kris Milne, Jason Petchey and Stewart Maule and these guys have been a big part of the team continuing for as long as it has.

“For the past couple of seasons Russell Makeham and local businessman Davie Boxall have helped out which, with me working shifts, is a godsend.

“Also Davie, as manager of ‘Fusebox Electrical, has been fully supportive throughout our years as the main sponsor of our strips, which I’m extremely grateful for.”

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Helensburgh’s League Cup section also features Kilbarchan Thistle and two teams from East Kilbride – Duncanrig and EK Rolls Royce – before the Premier League fixtures begin later in the month.

And in September there are first round ties in the Scottish Amateur Cup, at home to Grangemouth's Syngenta Amateurs, and in the West of Scotland Cup, at home to Cambria's Caledonian League XI, to look forward to as well.

“This coming season is probably our biggest challenge to date,” Gemmell added.

“We will be up against some really tough outfits, but in our defence, we have played a few of the teams from the top league over the past two seasons we have been in this league, and competed against them very well.

“The majority of the playing squad are still here from last season – I think we have only lost two who have joined other clubs, and we have picked up some other players who have shown in the pre season games that they will be very good additions to the team.

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“So it’ll be interesting to see how we compare when the league games start up.

“However we are always on the lookout for players who can make a difference.”

If you’re reading this and you think that’s you, give Sam a call on 07738 953810 or check out the club’s website (helensburghafc.co.uk).

Training sessions take place each Wednesday night at Hermitage Academy.