Hereford United will be at the forefront of a new initiative for under 19 footballers next season.

United are among the foun-der members of the new Conference Under 19 league next season.

The plan is for non-league clubs to establish links with one or more colleges to provide coaching, and unearth players who might be able to make the step up to a higher level.

The league has been divided into three regional divisions, and United have been placed in the Northern division alongside clubs such as Telford United, Hednesford Town, Northwich Victoria and Conference newcomers Leigh RMI.

The competition has also been thrown open to clubs outside the Conference, such as Ilkeston Town and Loughborough University, whose record of sporting excellence down the years will probably make them favourites for the title.

Hereford's Director of Football Graham Turner said: "It is basically giving clubs a decent standard of football at this level.

"It will give the boys opportunities to be coached but at the same time continue with a significant part of their education."

Hereford have had to go outside the area -- to North Birmingham College -- for their link-up, which was set up last year.

Consequently United's home matches in the new league will be played in the Birmingham area rather than at Edgar Street.

But Turner said this could be addressed in the future, adding: "Hopefully given time, it will be expanded to involve colleges in Herefordshire."

Turner is hopeful that players will progress from the league to challenge for first-team spots. He said: "It does take a lot of time to get it under way but it will be a pleasant if some of them come through."

Turner is currently talking with several players who have been released by Football League clubs.