Last updated : 22 February 2002 By Jonathan Hall (EXCLUSIVE)

Grantham will set up a football academy as part of the deal and will have the chance of signing Football League players on loan.


The Imps sealed a similar deal with Everton last month, and yesterday they finalised the link with Grantham, having discussed the details at Town's game against Stamford on Tuesday night.


The link will come into effect next season when Grantham expand on their youth system from under 12 to under 17 level, to bridge the gap to the under 18 team, reserves and first team.


Imps' Chairman, Rob Bradley said, “This is an opportunity to build a working relationship to the benefit of all parties. It is the same agreement we have with Everton and it is what they want too.”


“The emphasis is on youth but it does go right through the whole playing structure, including on-loan players. But that will be down to the respective managers, because the players have to be the right ones, not just any on offer.”


Town Chairman, Barry Palmer said, “This can only be good for Grantham Town FC and is a great opportunity. We shall be expanding the youth policy already in place to form the link and that will be in place for next season.”


Gingerbreads' Manager, John Wilkinson (formerly of Lincoln United), said, “It gives both Lincoln City and Everton the opportunity of keeping an eye on young players they would otherwise not be able to sign.”


“The club's schoolboy catchment area is within one and a quarter hour's travel of the respective grounds. For Grantham, that means nearly as far as London, which neither Lincoln nor Everton could rope in.”


For us, it means free on-loan player possibilities from Lincoln, and the possibility of any senior professional coming to the end of his Football League career at Sincil Bank being given a season with us, with coaching opportunities to further his career.


“It also means youth players released by Lincoln could come into the Grantham system for another chance rather than drift away.”


A similar deal with Lincoln United looks a possibility for the near future, as Bradley takes steps to ensure stability within the club, and to lay the foundations for a successful youth development network. Lincoln United's ground could be used as a suitable training facility.

There has been some speculation that current Acting Chairman of Lincoln United, Willy White, may drift onto the board of directors at Sincil Bank, if a connection comes to fruition.

Another mission accomplished for Bradley and his board.