Head of Youth Wayne Turner pens his final programme notes
Hatters Head of Youth Wayne Turner pens his final programme notes in Talk of the Town as he departs Kenilworth Road.
Signed as a 14-year-old schoolboy by David Pleat, scored 'that goal' at 24 and now leaving the club for the last time at 54!
In all that time I’ve had some unbelievable moments and memories that will keep me warm in my football retirement.
At the end of May I will be leaving my role of Academy Manager feeling very proud of what the staff and I have achieved in the last three years.
In that time, one of the biggest accolades that we can bestow on ourselves is that no player walked out of the club on a free! While we weren't a Football League club and without their protection that could have happened. We fought every corner and if a player left he went on our terms and with our blessing – and for the right valuation!
Of course we don't look to sell our best players, we want them to come all the way through to the first team. However, sometimes they outgrow the club, third parties and others get involved and they move on. With the first team now back as an established Football League team and building for next year that gap will close and the manager will still have the best players to choose from.
Having said that, I am very excited with the three lads who have just signed professional, and our under-17s, under-16s and under-15s groups have some real quality and potential. So not long now to see how they do!
Alongside that we have successfully gained our EPPP 3 status within the Premier League youth programme. Other clubs had 18 months to complete the process…we had five! Our license will last for three years and hopefully with the club’s ambitions to grow at training ground and stadium status level, we can become a catergory 2 from 3 in the near future. (We have the players, we have the staff to compete at cat 2!) Those five months were very intense and that made me realise, that I would not be able to commit 24/7 going forward into next season.
The outstanding staff I will leave behind will cope fine, they are bright, well balanced and all have a great work ethic! None more so that than Joe Deeney who is our under-16s and lead phase coach.
Four weeks ago Joe came into the office feeling under the weather. He didn't want to go out training, so I knew there was something seriously wrong. He had several checks leading to him being hospitalised and two weeks ago he was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer, and he is currently undertaking treatment in Milton Keynes. I'm sure you will join the club and me in wishing Joe a full and speedy recovery so that he can get back to what he does best. Coaching, teaching and guiding our young players through, he is excellent at it, we miss him and we need him back! Doesn't that put everything in to perspective? Enjoy the game today and reflect on what a good season it has been. If someone would have said to me two years ago this week, we would be where we are today with one game to go, I would have bitten their hand off!
A word on our visitors. Ironically they were the last team I managed, leaving them over 13 years ago. How well they have done since then! An established League club themselves with a real chance in the coming Play-Offs. Well done to Phil Wallace and all his staff, there is some real nice people over there and along with the crowd they were always really good to me. Good luck to you all.
Back to us, where my loyalties truly lie. Now that I am leaving I can become a fan again, watching the first team down through the levels to the under-8s and enjoy it at leisure not as a necessity. It will be nice to pick up the monthly planner, choose a game that takes my fancy and pop along to add my support if needed.
Lastly talking of support there are three sets of people I must really thank before I go. Firstly Gary Sweet, the board and the Luton Town staff for their continued back up and commitment over the past three years.
Secondly, all the parents of the boys (all 104 of them!) who continually taxi the lads three to four times a week, to for fill their commitments to us, and maintain an excellent on-going communication with the academy staff. Without you there would be no youth set-up.
And lastly to all my staff, part-time and full who have been unbelievable in their dedication and desire to deliver the best for this Club. They have succeeded – well done gang!
May you all enjoy your summer break, and I hope to see all you fellow supporters next season.
These notes appeared in our final programme of the season Talk of the Town, which can still be purchase in our club shops, or here online.