It's Grimsby Town's year, says former Mariners striker Daryl Clare
WHEN it comes to firing clubs to promotion into the Football League, few are as experienced as former Grimsby Town striker Daryl Clare.
And the 34-year-old is backing the Mariners to strike it rich by bagging Blue Square Bet Premier title glory this year.
Clare, twice a Conference Golden Boot winner, helped two clubs net the league's automatic promotion spot after leaving Blundell Park.
The former Town Supporters' Young Player of the Year, who came through the club's Youth ranks, was part of the Alan Buckley-led side that won promotion to Division One and lifted the Auto Windscreens Shield in 1997/98.
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Town have the chance to replicate that promotion and cup-winning double this season.
Now taking his first steps on the managerial ladder with Louth Town, Clare is full of praise for the work of Town joint bosses Rob Scott and Paul Hurst.
He said: "Town have been fabulous and are doing really well this season.
"The management duo in charge have been successful wherever they've been so I'm not surprised that they are doing such a good job at Blundell Park.
"It has been sad to see the club stagnate and slip down the leagues in recent years. Grimsby is a passionate footballing town.
"It's well-publicised that the Conference is a terrible league to get out of. There's only one promotion place on offer and so many former Football League teams are down there.
"But things are looking good – I think it could be their year."
Clare, a Town Youth graduate who made 100 first-team appearances for the club, scored 24 league goals to fire Boston United to the Conference title in 2001/02.
The Jersey-born forward netted 29 goals as Chester City bagged top spot two seasons later.
And in light of Town's recent capture of strikers Ross Hannah and Richard Brodie, Clare is upbeat about the club's firepower.
He said: "Liam Hearn (who scored 27 league goals last season) is a top-quality striker and it was a massive blow to lose him to injury so early in the season. But the other strikers have stepped up to the mark and have been scoring.
"It's exciting times for a footballer to be involved in a promotion push. There's certainly goals in the team – hopefully enough to see the club promoted."
Although Clare tasted success in the play-offs with the Mariners in 1998, he experienced disappointment ten years later during his time at Burton Albion in the Conference.
He said: "The form book goes out the window in the play-offs.
"It's often down to which team turns up with the better mentality on the day. The play-offs are not the ideal route to secure promotion, but they are certainly exciting to be involved in.
"Grimsby are well-placed to avoid that drama. Let's hope they get the automatic promotion their good form deserves."