Success for Under-14s in Italy
On Monday 27th May, Luton Town’s Academy set off to conquer Italy in the second and final tour of their season.
Their base, a sports complex in the mountains near Santa Sofia, previously used by the Italian Football Federation, called Sportilia.
“We tour at least twice a season with each age group up to Under-14s,” explained Matt Stannard, the Hatters’ Head of Youth Operations. “As part of each players’ individual development, it’s great to take them away from their parents and out of their comfort zone. What we learn about the players in this short trip away, could take us months at home.”
Games against Cesena and Bologna were arranged for the first two days whilst a Cup game against Forli on the Thursday were sure to keep the boys and staff busy.
“It was an intense week!” continues Stannard. “We were high up the mountain at Sportilia so the air was thin and it took the lads a while to adapt to it. The three games in three days took it out of them along with the travelling. I was really pleased and proud of the way they handled it though.”
Cesena on Tuesday 28th proved to be the toughest of the three games for most age groups. The Hatters struggled to cope with the physical and technical ability of the Italians. “In Italy, the age bands are slightly different,” says Stannard. “They go from January to January as opposed to our September to September. As a result we were playing against boys potentially 18 months older than some of our lads.
“As a club this season, we have played some big teams such as Fulham, Southampton, Liverpool, Manchester United, Norwich and Crystal Palace. Although we are not technically as good as them, we are physically better so can bully teams and get results. In Italy, with the age banding as it was, all of a sudden we couldn’t do that. We had to try and match them technically and tactically. This was a great learning curve for not only the players, but the coaches as well.”
The Bologna games on Wednesday 29th were easier for the Town Academy as they adapted to the different challenges they faced and by the final day against Forli, they were flying! “The games against Bologna and Cesena were ‘friendly’ games’,” Stannard explains. “Results didn’t matter, we were interested in the way the boys handled different scenario’s and styles of football. It was purely development. On the last day at Forli, we were playing for silverware. All of a sudden, results mattered and this brings out different learning objectives for our players.”
Overall, the Hatters walked away with three pieces of silverware, which could have been four admits Stannard. “The Under-12s managed to maintain the English reputation by losing on penalties, having dominated the game. It was a great performance from the lads though and they were devastated. We didn’t score one penalty though so we let ourselves down a bit with that.”
The Town’s academy staff are busy preparing for next season now with the boys due back to training on 1st July in preparation for next season. Here’s to another successful one for the future stars of Luton Town.