THE new football season is back and, for five clubs in West and Central Fife, it has marked the beginning of a fresh era in the game.

After playing in the junior game throughout their respective histories, Crossgates Primrose, Hill of Beath Hawthorn, Dundonald Bluebell and Oakley United left it behind after being granted membership of the East of Scotland League.

They were not alone, as a total of 25 junior clubs moved over into the sixth tier of the Scottish senior football pyramid, while a newly formed team from Inverkeithing Hillfield Swifts also took their place in the new set-up.

That has led to a significant restructure of both the East of Scotland League and the juniors, with the former consisting of three conferences – A, B and C – with the winners of each playing in a round-robin competition to determine the league winners at the end of the season.

The champions will then feature in a play-off with the South of Scotland League winners for a place in the Lowland League, but competition will be tough, with a number of the east region’s top junior teams having moved.

Hill of Beath, a consistent performer in the juniors’ top league, will fancy their chances of challenging in Conference A, while the remaining quartet will be confidence of being competitive in their first season at this level.

They will aspire to reach the Lowland League, one division below SPFL (Scottish Professional Football League) League Two, which is where Kelty Hearts find themselves this term.

Thomas Courts’ side were ahead of the game and moved from junior football at the start of last season and, in a memorable campaign, they won the East of Scotland League and King Cup double.

A comfortable play-off win over Threave Rovers then sealed their Lowland League slot, where they’ll relish testing themselves against sides of the calibre of Spartans, East Kilbride and East Stirlingshire.

But what of the juniors?

Just three teams – Rosyth, Lochgelly Albert and Lochore Welfare – remain in the Scottish Junior Football Association structure from West and Central Fife.

It now consists of three divisions – the Super League, Premier League North and Premier League South – instead of the previous four, and the trio will go head-to-head in the latter.

Rosyth have moved out of their Recreation Park to take up residence at the Fleet Grounds, where a new grass pitch will be constructed for them, while Lochgelly Albert are under new management in the shape of Barry Cockburn and Kevin Smith.

For Welfare, the new set-up gives them the opportunity to play fixtures closer to home, having previously been in the north division, and it sets up another thrilling season ahead for our local clubs.