THE football ‘pathway’ for young players in the Helensburgh area has received another boost.

An agreement has been reached between Rhu Amateurs and the youth clubs at Helensburgh FC and Ardencaple BC that will see a single under-19 squad compete as Rhu Amateurs in the Scottish Premier Amateur FA.

The squad will take part in the SPAFA'S Scottish Premier 19s Championship from the beginning of the 2024-25 season.

it’s hoped the new development will help to streamline the pathway from youth football to the adult game for players who want to compete locally at amateur level.

A Rhu spokesperson said: “The club is delighted to announce that for the 2024-25 season we will have an under-19s team competing next season in the Scottish Premier FA.

“This comes after an agreement was reached between Helensburgh FC, Ardencaple BC and Rhu AFC that from under-19s they will play under the name of Rhu Amateur Football Club.

“This is a massive step for the local community, as it ensures there is a clear pathway from kids’ football right through to the adult game for the first time in a number of years.”

The new under-19 squad will be managed by former Rhu players Ross Macdonald, Chico Livingstone and coach Alan Trail.

The under-19 team will add to the three adult sides currently fielded by Rhu AFC – a Saturday morning team in the Glasgow Colleges FA, a Saturday afternoon squad in the Caledonian League, and a ‘veterans’ squad which has just begun its second season playing in the Football Central Over-35s League on Friday nights.

It also comes just a few weeks after a merger was announced between the Helensburgh and Ardencaple clubs, both of which are focused on developing young players.

The first of the merged clubs’ combined squads, for players born in 2018, has already begun playing under the new banner of ‘Hermitage United’, although the older Helensburgh and Ardencaple squads will continue playing under their existing names.

The clubs’ younger development age groups will continue in their current form for the remaining weeks of this season, but with the opportunity to unite as ‘Hermitage United’ in 2024-25.

A ladies' squad was also recently formed under the Ardencaple banner.

Both Ardencaple and Helensburgh, formed in 1968 and 1981 respectively, have fielded adult teams in the past, but are now exclusively focussed on youth squads, while the main focus on the pitch in recent years at Rhu, who have been playing at amateur level since 1896, has been on the adult game.

The Scottish Premier AFA – itself a merger between two amateur football associations, the Scottish Amateur Football League and the Central Scottish AFL – established a dedicated under-19s competition as part of its new, united set-up at the beginning of this season.

The Scottish Premier 19s Championship already includes under-19 squads from several well-known clubs at all levels of the Scottish game, including Dumbarton, Stenhousemuir, Rutherglen Glencairn and Cumbernauld Colts.

The SPAFA's adult set-up has another local link in the form of Cardross AFC, who play in the second-tier SPAFA Championship.