BEHIND the turmoil of the civil war that has gripped the 42 member clubs of the SPFL, big changes are taking place lower down the SPFL pyramid. League reconstruction for next season may have fallen through for the four professional leagues but further down the standings, a significant shake-up of football’s structure has given Clydebank the opportunity to rise again.

The creation of a new West of Scotland League, the sixth tier in Scottish football, brings with it the chance for the Bankies to regain their place in the professional pyramid. As of next season, they will be leaving the Juniors – alongside the entirety of the west region – to compete in the new division and begin looking upwards. It has been a long and arduous journey at times, but chairman Grace McGibbon is convinced that the club is now entering an exciting new chapter of its history.

“Since we returned to football in the Juniors 17 years ago, the plan has always been to go back to senior football in whatever guise that may have been,” she said. “Clydebank, as a club and a town, have an identity with football.

“There has been a Clydebank football team in the town for over a hundred years. It is something that’s important to the heritage of the town and its history. As much as we’ve enjoyed our time in Junior football, the fans always felt that senior football was where we deserved to be and we ought to be, so as a committee it was our task to get us back to there in whatever guise that may have been.

“It’s not an easy route but there is a distinct path that you can take. That’s the beauty of the pyramid system. You win this league, you win a play-off, you go into that one – you can work your way up.

“We set out 17 years ago with a task – and that task at times seemed like it could never ever be achieved. There have been times where we thought we were going to join some form of pyramid only for things to change or for goalposts to move, so to finally be at a place where we can start a season back in a professional capacity is phenomenal.

“It’s phenomenal for the club, it’s phenomenal for the fans because we’re a fan-owned club: they’re the ones who have driven this. We’re very proud to be part of it.”

Clydebank supporters know a thing or two about heartbreak, having watched their club slide into financial oblivion at the turn of the century before ultimately reforming in the Juniors. There is, McGibbon stresses, vast emotional value attached to returning to the professional pyramid. But practically, too, there are immediate benefits that accompany the change in status.

“What we’re hoping is that the excitement of it brings more fans back along,” she added. “That fans now see us as not just a Junior club, not just the Clydebank of old who joined the Juniors. We’re back in the pyramid and in effect it’s going back to senior football. Maybe that brings back some of the guys that we haven’t seen for a while.”

It is a sentiment shared by manager Gordon Moffat. He hopes the switch will see more fans turn up to games, but also expects a sense of professionalism to seep into Clydebank as the club’s infrastructure improves from their new surroundings.

“It does change your mindset from a team point of view and a club point of view. We have now got a bit of focus and there is something to aspire to,” he said. “In terms of where we’re at and the fact that we’re fan-owned, we maybe don’t have the budget that some of the top teams do and that can be a struggle at times.

“But when I go back to when I played for the club, we had a smaller budget compared to the top teams but were a top team at that time. It can be done and that’s what I’ve been saying to the club.

“It’s important that we don’t hide behind the fact that we don’t have one of the bigger budgets because we can still build a strong team and a strong unit to go and compete. The aim is to get that promotion in the next few years and we’ve hopefully taken some strides towards doing that with the changes made to the squad during the close season.

“By switching over to being a senior-run league, there are things that are different. The set-up of the Under-20s is a big thing for us. The 20s will play on a Friday night and we will play on a Saturday, that’s going to be a huge thing in terms of the infrastructure of the club and how we bring young guys through.

“But also, if we have a player coming back from injury we can now play him in the development team. That’s a huge thing in terms of the professionalism of the club.

“I can’t emphasise enough how important the change in league is. Having played for the club a few years back, I understood the connection between the players and the support, but also the relationship between the support and the club’s senior roots and how important that is to them. You quickly get a sense of that whenever you come to the club and I’ve said to the guys that are joining us this summer that this is going to be one of the biggest seasons in the club’s history because it’s their first season back as a senior football team.

“It’s a massive, massive deal. It’s maybe hard to appreciate for some other clubs but we are a bit unique at our level because of our history. We’re hopeful that that might bring some guys back to the terraces.”

As for the long-term aspirations of the club, McGibbon says that they are really quite simple.

“I want to be back in the SPFL at some level,” she said. “In 20 years’ time, ideally we’re back and the stadium is licensed so you can start hosting big teams with big crowds and you’re playing at the highest level that you can. I think that’s realistic.

“I’d love to say that in 20 years’ time we’re playing Celtic and Rangers but if we’re holding our own, still a fan-owned club and doing the very best we can at whatever level that is in senior football, then that’s good enough for us because that’s what we set out to do.”

McGibbon added: “The club runs on a very tight budget. We are a fan-owned club so everything that we do is determined by what the fans want, what they can afford and where funding comes from. Initially, nothing will change.

“We will continue to strive to achieve the very best that we can at the level we’re at, and hope that that level increases. That might not happen from year to year but certainly over the next few years and as you progress, your revenue increases and you can spend more on players and maybe get a bit more success.”