GLOUCESTERSHIRE players will help support the next generation of county cricketers following the launch of a new mentoring programme.

Two ‘Age Group Ambassadors’ have been allocated to each county junior squad to offer encouragement and advice during the 2014 season.

In total, 20 players are taking part, including former New Zealand international Hamish Marshall, who will work with the under-11 boys, and ex-captain Alex Gidman, who has been assigned to the girls under-13 team.

Over the course of the season the players will send regular email and video messages to their squads.

They will also attend matches when their own fixtures allow.

Gloucestershire Cricket Board head of performance Tim Hancock said: “This will give the players in our county age groups a real boost. As aspiring cricketers it will be great for them to have someone to look up to who has made it to the top of the game.

“To receive a message from one of the pros congratulating them on their performance will hopefully act as a reward for their hard work and provide an extra source of motivation.”

Junior county players will also be able to watch their ambassadors in action as they have all been given free membership to Gloucestershire for 2014.

The Gloucestershire Cricket Board runs 12 county squads including boys’ teams at every age group from under-10 to under-17.

There are also girls under-13, 15, 17 teams and a senior women’s squad.

Junior players from 38 Gloucestershire affiliated clubs have been selected for this year’s summer boys’ county age groups.

Thornbury (nine) supplied more players than any other to this year’s county programme.

Cheltenham and Cotswolds clubs were responsible for 40 players, Stroud and South Gloucestershire produced 34, Bristol 24 and Gloucester and the Forest of Dean seven.

Hancock said: “It is great to see that clubs from right across the county and from all levels of the pyramid are producing good young players. This can only strengthen the pool of talent we have to pick from going forward.”

Last year Gloucestershire’s under-17 boys won their ECB one-day competition and the senior women were promoted from their T20 division.

The under-17 girls finished top of their county championship and three other age groups were runners-up in their respective competitions.

Hancock added: “The reports from our county coaches are that our youngsters have worked really well during the winter and we hope to build on the success we had last season.”

GCB Age Group Ambassadors 2014 – Boys: Under-10 – Hamish Marshall & Chris Dent.

Under-11 – Dan Housego & Matt Taylor.

Under-12 – Cameron Herring & Graeme McCarter.

Under-13 – Liam Norwell & Gareth Roderick.

Under-14 – Benny Howell & Tom Smith.

Under-15 – Ian Cockbain & Craig Miles.

Under-16 – Ian Saxelby.

Under-17 – Will Gidman.

Girls: Under-13 – Alex Gidman & Tom Shrewsbury.

Under-15 – Jack Taylor & Will Tavaré.

Under-17 – David Payne.

Senior Women – James Fuller.