Kevin Drinkell urges businesses to support Grimsby Town Youth initiative
KEVIN Drinkell believes The Century Club can help to produce another "golden generation" of homegrown Grimsby Town youngsters.
Having progressed through the Mariners' Youth team along with the likes of Dave and Kevin Moore, Tony Ford and Shaun Mawer, the former striker appreciates the set-up's value more than most.
Drinkell made his Town debut as a 16-year-old in 1977 and become the club's youngest-ever league goalscorer within a week.
The Grimsby-born forward went on to net approaching 100 goals for the Mariners, helping them to successive promotions.
A move to Norwich City followed, where he played top-flight football before a £600,000 transfer to Rangers.
Now an agent north of the border, the 52-year-old keeps a keen eye on his boyhood club and has been impressed by the local community's support for The Century Club.
The initiative wants 100 businesses to pledge £200 each to help sustain and grow the Town Youth set-up.
"The level of support Grimsby Town still gets is astonishing," Drinkell told the Telegraph.
"Up here in Scotland, if I mention Grimsby, people are shocked at the crowds they get at that level.
"That shows how much the people of Grimsby care about their club.
"For those supporters, The Century Club seems a great way of ensuring the club has a decent future.
"The money from the turnstiles is allocated to paying other bills, so if there is a specific fund that can only be used for the Youth set-up that's got to be good news."
The centre-forward, who picked up Young Player of the Year and Player of the Year awards during his time at Town, added: "The Grimsby Youth team was obviously important in helping me become a professional footballer.
"It was run by volunteers when I was a kid, with a couple of local people or parents putting together a club, which raised funds for the various teams.
"It was a scheme set up to allow us to book pitches, referees and play games at various places, so it was vital to our development and bringing some top players through."
Drinkell and his Youth-team pals' progression into the first team coincided with the Mariners' climb from the lower echelons of Division Four to the top half of the second tier in just four seasons.
"Those were the golden years when a generation of Town players came through and went on to play for the first team," he explained.
"We had the Moore brothers, Fordy, myself, Shawn Mawer – there must have been seven or eight of us come from the Youth set-up all the way through to the first team.
"We were playing colts football together from the age of 12 and 13, and, by the time we were 18, we were all in the first team.
"That was followed by a second generation, with Paul Wilkinson, Gary Lund and one or two others who came through.
"Pretty much all of us were from the town. The furthest away came through from somewhere down near Lincoln, so we were all local lads.
"It really was a golden generation of players from the area.
"We all served the club to some degree before Town sold quite a few of us on for decent money.
"The team is having a good spell and, hopefully, that can continue with the help of young players from the Grimsby area."
GLASGOW Rangers' proposed move into the Conference "will never happen", according to Kevin Drinkell.
Blue Square Bet Premier clubs will vote on a proposal for the Scottish giants to join them next season, at a meeting on February 11.
But Drinkell, who played for the Glasgow club under Graeme Souness, believes there are too many hurdles to overcome.
"It will never happen," he said.
"English football will never take anybody from outside again.
"I know we've got the Welsh teams, but that's historical and they've been there for 100 years.
"It would be beneficial for the Old Firm to be playing in English football, but I don't think it brings anything more to the party for the teams in England.
"The Conference would get one season reaping the benefits of big crowds from Rangers, but they would take a promotion spot and move on.
"It wouldn't be helpful to the Premier League eventually either because, quite frankly, they don't need it and have a great league already without the Scottish clubs."