Fine season for young squad in Conference Youth Alliance
In only their second season of competition the Hatters’ Under-18s Shadow Squad secured runners-up spot in their regional division of the Football Conference Youth Alliance.
The Shadow Squad, who were pipped to the title by just one point, are based at Cedars Upper School in Leighton Buzzard is a combined ‘A’ Level and Football Programme that has been introduced to assist the Club in developing ‘Intelligent Young Footballers,’ who fit into the Club’s long-term holistic approach to youth development.
This season has seen the team lose just one of their 20 league games, scoring 65 and conceding a mere 16 goals in the process. It is an achievement far removed from the results encountered in the players’ first season when as a team made up of mainly under-17 lads played in an under-19 league, with the physicality of the opposition too much to handle.
Head Coach Stuart Smith told lutontown.co.uk: “As ridiculous as it may sound having finished second, I firmly believe the lads showed themselves to be the best team in their division.
“Unfortunately the weather hurt us at Christmas time. We played just one game in the eight-week period either side of Christmas and, despite having worked hard on the training field to maintain fitness levels and game intensity, on our return to league action two 0-0 draws against Hampton and Richmond and Gillingham in games we thoroughly dominated, came back to haunt us.
“The progress the players have made this season has been amazing. They are all bright lads who want to learn and have tried to embrace everything we have asked them to do. We are trying to develop them into technically excellent footballers whilst teaching them how to move from the development phase where winning is not the major objective to the stage where they need to understand how to manage and win games at the appropriate times.
“Over half of the squad are still with us next year, which will give us room for further improvement within the group.
“In my opinion this is a crucial time for these players, with the evolvement of the EPPP (Elite Player Performance Plan) chances for young players to earn professional contracts at the Club doesn't necessarily disappear the moment they don’t get a full-time scholarship. They can now move into the Club’s Baldock or Cedars Shadow Programme; continue to develop their football, whilst gaining an excellent education and still being involved within the football club.
“Hopefully as Cedars player Kyle Davison Gordon, and Baldock player Lucas Kirkpatrick, amongst others have done this season, players can go back into sessions with youth team manager Paul Driver, where he can monitor their progress and hopefully as he has done with these two use them in youth team fixtures.”
The future is looking bright for the Luton Town Cedars Programme, the excellent work Joe Deeney is doing with all of his Under 15 and 16 groups has already contributed to a potentially outstanding intake for the programme for the next two seasons and the competition for places from outside the club is now very fierce indeed.