Clay hopes to stick in Football League third time round
Craig Clay is hoping it will be third time lucky in the Football League having won promotion with Grimsby Town.
Chesterfield’s 2009 Young Player of the Year suffered the heartache of being released by the Spireites four years later.
And a move to League Two York City didn’t work out.
But after dropping down to the Northern Premier League with part-time Worksop and taking up a ‘real job’ with his brother, Clay eventually rediscovered his love of the game.
He doesn’t look back in anger at his time with Chesterfield.
“That’s where I started, Chesterfield will always have a special place in my heart,” he said.
“I loved every minute of it.
“Coming through the youth team I then got two years, and then a third year.
“I maybe hoped I would have done a bit more there but Paul Cook didn’t really fancy me and that’s fair enough – it’s one of those things in football.
“You can’t really dwell on things like that, everything happens for a reason.”
Clay ended up at York City but half a season and 10 games later he was on the move again, parting ways with the Minstermen by mutual consent.
A short spell with Conference Premier Halifax was followed by another release and a drop to the Northern Premier League with Worksop.
Clay was at a crossroads with his career in the game.
“I left York in January and from then to May I just fell out of love with football,” he said.
“I had almost given up on it, working part-time as an electrician with my brother for a few months.
“I think I realised I couldn’t handle a proper job and I wanted to get back into football.
“But I still had confidence in my ability and without sounding big time, I know that if I work hard I will get higher up the leagues.”
Grimsby Town picked him up in July 2014 and he came agonisingly close to a return to the Football League, losing on penalties in the play-off final.
This year, however, Clay and the Mariners were not to be denied, beating Forest Green Rovers 3-1 at Wembley on 15th May.
“It’s been class,” he said of his time at Blundell Park.
“Last year was one of the best years I’ve had personally with such a great group of lads, and we’ve gone one better this year.
“We’ve had two very successful seasons.”
Clay admits he can’t wait to set foot on the pitch as a Football League player again.
“I’m massively exicted for next year, getting back to the Football League,” he said.
“Enjoying my football, playing regularly, I’m happy.
“I’ve still got a long way to go but I’ll keep working and giving 100 per cent.
“I’m only 24, I’ve got a while to get to where I want to go.”