THIS is a proud time for the Town Patrons Association.

Not only are they preparing to celebrate their 20th anniversary with a star-studded dinner dance at the Galpharm on Saturday, April 9.

But the Association's contribution to the club is there for all to see on the pitch - with manager Peter Jackson selecting as many as eight Academy products in his senior side.

Since a re-launch a couple of years ago, all money raised by the Patrons has gone directly to helping the Academy prosper through the Development Association.

It is clearly paying off and officials hope that more Town fans will join the Association's 500-strong membership to boost support as they enter a third decade of valuable backing.

Chairman Trevor Wainwright said:

"People might ask what have we achieved? What are we doing now and are there plans for the future?

"Well, the answers are `lots', `plenty' and `watch this space!'

"The Patrons were the brainchild in 1985 of club favourite Steve Kindon whose idea was to raise funds to support Town.

"It is still a club organisation run for the club by volunteers.

"Over the last 20 years the contributions from our members have raised over £400,000 and this year alone we are aiming for at least £27,000 - with every penny going to the Academy to nurture more young lads coming through like we've had in the past, such as Andy Booth, Jon Stead and now Tom Clarke."

Times are changing and the Patrons Association aims to move with them.

Some new big names have been added to the list of vice-presidents while members are to be asked for their ideas on a possible revamp of the monthly meetings, starting next season.

"It has been my privilege since August to be the chairman of the Patrons and together with a very dedicated committee and the contributions of members, we try and raise as much money for the brilliant Academy as we can," added Mr Wainwright.

"We are very honoured to have some famous vice-presidents such as Reece Dinsdale, Denis Law, Keith Hanvey, Frank Worthington and, of course, the founder, Steve Kindon.

"Sadly we have recently lost vice- presidents Vic Metcalfe, Don McEvoy and Jimmy Glazzard after many years of their support.

"So we have recently invited Andy Booth, Gerry Murphy, Patrick Stewart, and Alan Sykes to fill these gaps and were delighted when they all accepted.

"They will also all be attending our anniversary party at the Galpharm, except Patrick who is busy in the West End in London!"

Manager Peter Jackson, chief executive Andrew Watson and members of the first-team squad have committed to attending the anniversary event.

It marks the start of a new era for the Patrons - who have made awards to the club's most promising young players for a number of years - and Mr Wainwright explained:

"Next season we will be asking our members for new ideas for the monthly meetings.

"Maybe after 20 years it's time for a new format or how about a change of name?

"Does Patrons Association sound too formal? We want to appeal to the younger fans, so we will be asking them for their input too.

"We do feel we have to move with the times and get on with the next 20 years of supporting the Academy.

"With that in mind, we welcome anyone to attend on April 9 (tickets are £16 including an excellent menu) and also anyone who wants to become a member and help support the club still further."

Launched on a miserable April afternoon at an equally miserable goalless draw between Town and Grimsby, the Patrons quickly lifted spirits by drawing a worldwide membership and providing invaluable support for the club. Originally, funds were directed towards strengthening the team, with Kindon, Town secretary George Binns and Patrons secretary Bill Boothroyd to the forefront of operations. Maurice Crowther was next in line as secretary.

Members had direct contact with the club through monthly meetings - supporter representation on the board was a big talking point at one time - and around 500 later became shareholders. Regular big-prize draws were a feature.

Launched at a time when adult admission to Leeds Road was just £2.20 on the terrace, a match programme cost 45p and the football columns of the Examiner were filled by Paul Clark, Town desperately needed cash and the initial membership was a minimum of £16 a year.

It doesn't sound much, but within 10 days the Association had 1,000 members and, just three months after inception, the Patrons had given Town £20,000.

Later that year, it was confirmed Town would not have been able to buy Joey Jones without this support, although the hope of raising £500,000 in three years from a 10,000 membership never really took shape, despite the Association's success. Then, as now, fans can contribute as much as they like and they've always been kept informed through the Patrons Insight and Terrier magazines.

Many members have been with the Association since Day One, such as committee member and former chairman Darren Herbert and Graham Hudson, who has also served loyally on the committee for 20 years, 10 of those as chairman.

Another is Robert Pepper, who initially spearheaded the Southern Area Patrons, and lifelong fan Marcus Garside.