A PARTNERSHIP between two West Fife football clubs that is set to begin in June has been hailed as “exciting” for both parties.

Oakley United, who play in the East of Scotland League, and Duloch Juniors, who have around 250 youngsters aged from five to 16 in their set-up, will come together to create a player pathway to senior football from next season onwards.

The agreement, which was marked with a game between two of Duloch’s 2003 teams at Oakley’s Blairwood Park on Sunday, will see Duloch Juniors teams from under-16 upwards competing under the Oakley United banner.

That will provide the opportunity for players to progress and potentially feature in Scottish football’s sixth tier, and Oakley chairman Craig Cowan said: “We’re delighted.

“For a long time we’ve not had a youth system below and, at the start of the season, we were looking at ways to start an under-20s team.

“We looked at possible youth systems that were already established and Duloch have a wide variety of teams up to amateurs.

“They were looking for a pathway and we’ve been in discussions from the start of the season.

“In the long-term, both clubs believe it will be a success and we feel this is an avenue we need to go down.

“It brings the two communities together as well and it’s exciting times ahead.”

Since forming in 2009, Duloch Juniors have grown from having a handful of kids to become one of West Fife’s biggest youth football clubs and field teams in the Fife Soccer Sevens, Fife Football Development League, the Association of Fife Youth Football Clubs, and an adult amateur side in the Fife Kingdom League

Chairman Craig Park said that the “missing piece of the jigsaw has been a player pathway to senior football”, and is equally thrilled with the agreed set-up.

“We’re probably the biggest club in Dunfermline now, per head for youth football for five- to 16-year-olds, but once they reach 16 they’ve now got a pathway to the sixth tier of Scottish football,” he commented.

“There are great integration opportunities for our players at 15 or 16 to train with men, which brings them on, and Craig was really keen to integrate it. It was evident from an early stage that a partnership between both clubs would be of mutual benefit. We’re really looking forward to it.”

For season 2020-2021, Oakley hope to have an under-20 team in place to play in the East of Scotland League, and Cowan added: “There are too many boys at 19 or 20 who are lost and have nowhere to go.

“We’re looking to give them a pathway to senior football, or into the amateurs within Duloch’s set-up. Duloch are as enthusiastic about it as we are.”