Former Grimsby Town Youth-team stars hope investors will help support system
"GRIMSBY Town relies on younger players coming through – if more investors support the system, that can only benefit the whole club."
That's the message from the Mariners' former Youth-team stars who have progressed through the set-up to become full-time professionals.
Bradley Wood, Andi Thanoj and Dayle Southwell are proof that the club continues to produce exciting, young talent ready to forge a career in football.
All three came through the Youth system at Blundell Park and now regularly turn out for Rob Scott and Paul Hurst's first-team.
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Having seen the Town Youth set-up at firsthand, the trio fully appreciate the good work that goes on with the younger age-groups.
Full-back Wood, now 21, has racked up more than a century of first-team games since graduating from the Youth side.
The Leicester-born youngster has great memories of his time in the Youth team – scoring Town's winner in the 2010 Midland Floodlit Youth Cup final, and being named the supporters' Young Player of the Year in 2011
He said: "The Youth team coach at the time, Neil Woods, brought me to the club, and I came through the Under-16s and then the Youth team.
"I came here from Leicester to enjoy playing football again, and the quality of coaching in the Youth team was great.
"Woodsy brought some good players into the club and helped develop them. A great example is Ryan Bennett, who has moved up into the Premier League now.
"The club made a lot of money from the sale of Ryan and are still benefiting.
"If they can keep producing young players like that then obviously the system can pay for itself over and over.
"I've played more than 100 games, Andi's played 40 or 50, and Dayle's featuring regularly now in his first year, so the Youth team is a big part of this club and will continue to be."
Thanoj is pushing experienced pros Craig Disley and Derek Niven for a spot in the centre of Town's midfield and received his maiden call-up to the Albanian Under-21 team this season.
"I came into the Town Youth set-up three or four years ago now – I'd just joined the Under-16s," said the 19-year-old.
"It made a big difference for me. Neil Woods signed me up and was a really good coach for me – I learnt a lot and still remember most of what I was taught.
"The Youth system is very important at any club, but especially here, being a Conference club at the moment.
"We rely a lot on younger players coming through, and if more investors support the system, that can only benefit the whole club."
The youngest of the trio, Southwell has been with Town since he was only ten.
"It's been a fantastic time for me," the 19-year-old former Louth schoolboy said.
"Since I was really young I was training with the year below myself for about four or five years and that really helped me push on at an early age.
"The Youth department is a massive thing for our club and will continue to ensure a lot good players come through."