Under-16s update with Joe Deeney
It continues to be a real privilege to work for Luton Town as the Under-16 Academy Manager again this season and as every season begins there are new challenges ahead of myself, the staff and players.
There have been several positives I have taken from the Under-16 start so far this season. I am a firm believer in keeping players tested in all areas of their development. We have had some pleasing results to date, both individually and collectively. At Under-16 level it is my responsibility to ensure our next batch of Under-16s are ready for the demands next season when they go into the building full-time as scholars.
We have seen a progression in the team in terms of fitness and performances in the last three months. It is imperative that the players with the help of myself, Lee Cowley and Wayne Turner push on and win a scholarship which is the next stage of their development to being a professional footballer.
It is a very difficult time in the players’ lives at this stage with the pressures and demands of football, coupled with school exams and other outside influences. It will be a tough and testing time over the next six months for the players and myself, and hopefully, the players will continue to relish and embrace the challenge the same way I do.
At Under-16 level they are still at the point in their careers where they are judged on potential. In nine months’ time if they become scholars they have to go from potential to reality in a very short space of time and realise the expectations are different. Within six to 18 months they need to be doing well enough to be considered at first team level, like Zane Banton has shown this season to date.
The levels of opposition we play against varies from week to week, varying from the Saturday morning games programme against other academies to the Midweek Under-18 league we have the Under-16s play in. The Under-18 Southern Counties League I found last year to give the players the nearest possible experience to what they will hopefully encounter over the next few years in their careers.
The pressure of points, stadiums and playing against other sides that see Luton Town as very much a cup final I believe is not far different from what our first team experience on a game by game basis. The players have found themselves stretched physically in these games and it has been an enjoyable experience to date and one in which I continue to learn about players abilities to perform under pressure and their ability to cope physically at Under-18s football next season.
After an excellent start from the Under-18s this season and with the quality of the squad, the Under-16 players are really going to have to step up and deliver consistently excellent performances to get their opportunity to win a place in Paul Driver’s team. Midfielder Sam Alderson has already made his debut for the youth team, and hopefully that will be the boost the rest of the group need in order to be the next batch of talented young players at the club.
Our next Southern Counties League home game is on Wednesday 30th October at Top Field, Hitchin Town, kick-off 7.30pm. Support would be great and hopefully for fans and followers of our youth teams could come and see our next batch of Under-16 players coming through.