THE boss of Largs Thistle Amateurs says he isn't focussing too much on the prospect of what many would see as an unlikely promotion.

But Chris Monk says he's pleased at the way his squad has progressed in what's only his second full year at the helm.

Monk's team have games in hand on all bar one of the teams above them in division one of the Ayrshire Amateur FA. 

And with two of the Premier League's clubs having folded earlier this season, it's thought that as many as four clubs from the second tier could make the step up to the top flight in 2024-25.


The top two places, and at present the only confirmed promotion slots, are filled by Knockentiber and Crosshouse Waverley.

But if league bosses confirm that more Division One teams will make the step up to keep the top flight at the same size as it was at the start of this season, Largs are very much in with a shout.

Only seven points separate third to ninth place in the 12-team league, and having a chance of promotion at this stage represents significant progress for a Largs side who still have fresh memories of pulling off a 'great escape' to avoid relegation to the third tier just a few seasons ago.

Largs and Millport Weekly News: The current Division One standings.The current Division One standings. (Image: Ayrshire AFA)

Last season was one of consolidation under the stewardship of a new management team, comprising Monk, Stephen Huthwaite and Glenn Stewart in their first full season.

The squad features a number of talented young local players as well as more experienced heads, with an age range from 20 to early 30s.

Reflecting on their season so far, Monk said: “I think it’s gone well. This is only my second full year in charge and we were just looking for improvement.

“We’ve already improved on last year’s points total, we equalled our Scottish Cup run, and we’re in a semi-final again.

“In terms of the league, we still have five games left, I’m hoping and expecting to get over 30 points.”

And with promotion to the top flight being, at the moment, still only a theoretical possibility, Monk says he isn't putting too much focus on that.

“I think we need to be smart about it," he said. "The group I’ve got is really young - mixed with some experienced bodies.

“I think we just have to be careful in terms of killing our process. 

"I don't want to sound stereotypical but our group has only been together for two years. Promotion is in the plans, but just now? We'll see. Maybe a wee bit more time is needed.

"The ambition is there, but I like to do it properly by winning a league, rather than limping into fourth and going up because there’s not enough teams in the Prem.”

Monk also says steady foundations have been key to the club's turnaround in fortunes in recent seasons.

"We just needed a bit of stability," he said, "and that’s there now. All I’m looking for with Stevie and Glen is just to build on it.

“We’re too inconsistent to be talking about the top two places just now, but we are more than good enough to win it eventually.

“We just need to keep this group together, because it’s brilliant. It’s all about timing it well.

“We’ve only scored four or five goals less than the league leaders, but we've conceded about 20 more.

"That shows the difference. It’s wee things we need to fix, and for me that just takes time.”

It's an ethos Monk has taken forward from his time coaching Largs Thistle's under-21 team, which has produced half a dozen players for his current amateur squad as well as twin brothers George and Will Sewell, both regulars in the club's senior side before George's move to Cumnock in January 2023.

Chris said: “My 21s group did well because everyone got on with each other. They knew each other; there were no cliques, and I think that helps any football team if there’s a good environment and atmosphere.

“It’s a young group we've got here just now, but it’s a hungry, ambitious group.

“If there’s one or two that will add to the group, gel with them and fit in, then ideal - but I’ve got 24 signed bodies and ideally I’m not looking to add too much.

“I’m not going out looking for players. Unless you’re at training with me or speak to me I’m not bothered.”

The boss also hopes that the amateurs can also provide another option for people of the town to get behind.

While the standard of football may not be professional, entertainment is a near guarantee at the club's matches.

To take just one example, Thistle were knocked out of the Scottish Amateur Cup by Beith Amateurs earlier this season on penalties; the tie finished 2-2 in regular time, with the shoot-out going Beith's way by 19-18.

Chris commented: “It’s good [for supporters] to have an option. We are free to watch and some of the games we’ve had we’ve been scoring goals, getting late winners or equalisers - and even some penalty shootouts.

“I’d like to think from what we’ve built in the last two years - which is no time at all - we can keep progressing and always be an option for people to come and see if they want to see something a wee bit different.

“It’s something a wee bit fresh and it's just classic amateur football."