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Knight Coaching Appointment/Woods New Role
By: Rob Sedgwick
IAN KNIGHT is expected to take up his new role as the director of youth coaching at Blundell Park on Friday, handing over his former responsibility of youth team coach to ex-Mariner Neil Woods. Knight's new job will be to oversea the whole youth operation, which now employs 50 people worldwide.
The Mariners have scouting networks in Dublin and Northern Ireland, in addition to formal links with two clubs in Canada: the Abbotsford Mariners near Vancouver and the London Soccer Academy near Toronto.
Ian Knight explained the appointment to the Evening Telegraph: "My time has been stretched between overseeing the system as a whole, and day-to-day coaching duties. It has become too much for one person to run. Lennie Lawrence and I have agreed to leave the day-to-day coaching to someone else, and have me take charge of the system as a whole."
Neil Woods meanwhile is relishing the prospect of working on a day-to-day basis with the club's unpolished diamonds of the future. The 35-year-old York-born striker who enjoyed seven years at Blundell Park from 1990, before finishing his playing career two years ago with non-league Southport, revealed:
"I have always wanted to work with the youth team, and work with the same squad of boys day after day. Normally with my coaching I have had the boys on one or two occasions a week; now I'll have them for six or seven days. They are a very promising set of boys and I am looking forward to it.
"I am comfortable with the place and surroundings, and I've got good friends here and around Grimsby which will help. You grow an affection for a club after a while. I am very settled here and I am looking forward to what I regard as a super job."
Knight and Woods will work closely together, with the former Grimsby and Sheffield Wednesday defender still attending all youth team matches, and taking part in some training sessions.
Town have, of necessity, stepped up their efforts in recent years to recruit youngsters at as early an age as possible, with the increasing decline of the transfer system in domestic and European football resulting in the need to produce local-grown players even more so than in the past.
The number of locally-born players in the team is a far cry from what it was just twenty years ago, when the Moore brothers, Tony Ford, Kevin Drinkell, Paul Wilkinson, Nigel Batch and others all came through the ranks and eventually had long and successful careers which all began in the black and white stripes of Grimsby Town.
Although the game has changed enormously in the last two decades, making having as many local players ever participating simultaneously in a Town team unlikely again, the talent in and around the Grimsby area is an obvious pool of raw ability which the Mariners need to tap into and nurture at an early age if they are to maintain their current status over the next few years.
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