Grimsby Town's Steve Croudson: The Century Club will help others follow in my footsteps
STEVE Croudson says The Century Club will allow young goalkeepers from the area to follow in his footsteps and play for Grimsby Town's first-team.
The Mariners goalkeeping coach joined his hometown club as a 14-year-old and went on to make his mark for the senior side across two spells.
Now the 32-year-old is backing the initiative, which wants 100 companies to pledge £200 each to help sustain the club's successful Youth system.
"The Youth set-up is of massive importance to us," Croudson told the Telegraph.
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"The more funding and help we can get for that part of the club, the better, and local businesses can play a massive part.
"They can take credit and personal satisfaction for the youngsters who come through. If it wasn't for their funding through The Century Club maybe that wouldn't happen.
"It's important to get as much support as we can from the local community and give these lads the best possible chance of becoming professional footballers."
Croudson works with the Mariners' keepers of all ages as well as first-team stoppers James McKeown and Greg Fleming.
Now that Football League funding for Town's Youth department has dried up, he believes it is the ideal time for businesses to make a real difference to the club's future.
"It means a lot to me personally because I came through the Youth system, so if it wasn't for that I wouldn't be where I am now," he said.
"It was a good set-up but it has got miles better since then – there are more coaches, more coaching time and more kids benefiting from that now, and hopefully we can make it even better.
"I came into the club at Under-14 level which is where you started in those days, whereas now it begins with Under-9s.
"I'm working with goalkeepers who are only seven or eight and I'm teaching them things I got taught when I was 20.
"That helped me, but if I'd have known those things at nine or ten it would have been a massive advantage for me."
On the Mariners' current goalkeeping talent, Croudson added: "In the younger groups I'm working with some keepers who are very promising.
"Obviously a lot can happen but we've got some talented lads there and want to give them the best chance of progressing.
"I think I was last goalkeeper that came through and played in the first-team, so I'm dying to change that and bring someone else through.
"It would be great to do that with a keeper from this area because there's no better feeling than playing for your hometown team."
With more than a quarter of The Century Club spots already filled, the joint-initiative between Town and the Grimsby Telegraph has captured the business community's imagination.
"Everyone associated with this club sticks together – the supporters, staff, players – everyone has a right go to make this club successful," he said.
"That's why it's such a fantastic club and why I love it so much – everyone comes together as one and pulls in the same direction to make it better."
To become a member of The Century Club, call Grimsby Town's commercial manager Dave Smith on 01472 608007.