Notes from the programme against Accrington
This piece was written by Kevin Thoburn, Head of the Hatters Community Trust, for last Saturday's programme against Accrington Stanley.
Luton Town in the community
October half-term week turned out again to be the Trust’s busiest week of the year with lots of player visits on our soccer camps and over 40 development fixtures for our young recruited development players, as well as our very first organised fixtures for our new girls player development centre and the visit of QPR to launch our PL Kicks programme.
Soccer Camp Player Visits
Every season the Community Trust receives central funding from both the EFL and PFA as part of their commitment to see Community Player Engagement at the heart of all professional clubs’ social responsibilities work.
Last season our player visits over the whole club totalled over 400, with more than 150 of them on specific Community Trust projects and events – and last week the first team were out in force at our soccer camps, handing out medals and coaching tips to over 300 soccer crazy youngsters all over Luton and Bedfordshire.
The visits make such a difference to all our young fans and even though lots turn up predictably in Premier League club outfits, it’s only through this ‘real’ contact with the club that we can show the next generation of football fans that we are their local club and worth supporting.
The club give us a great ticket deal as part of the soccer camps and we hope this encourages lots of youngsters down to the Kenny to see that football doesn’t just exist on Sky TV.
Thanks to Christian Walton and Glen Rea, who visited Creasey Park, and Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu and Jack Senior, who visited Barnfield College, and the rest of the first team for their time.
PL KICKS Programme Kicks off with QPR FC
Recently, we mentioned the Trust had received some valuable funding from the Premier League Charitable Fund to help us with our PL’s KICKS scheme, which seeks to engage young people from areas of high need in football, sport and personal development.
The Kicks projects aims to use football as a hook to engage and target young people and attempt to divert them away from crime and anti-social behaviour by providing training and employment and volunteering opportunities.
In the longer term it all leads to improved health and self-esteem, where boys can feel safer through improving cohesion by bringing different communities together. Last week we played our first KICKS fixture with QPR visiting Lea Manor in Marsh Farm to play the Hatters, with teams made up from boys from both Lewsey Farm and Marsh Farm.
Hatters Trust Community Operations Officer Daniel Douglas commented: “Kicks is a fantastic project that encourages young people of all ages and abilities to come together and enjoy football. We are using the games as rewards for the boys who attend and behave. We have games coming up against Charlton and Arsenal, and they are proving a good incentive for boys to get involved.”
The game ended up a closely fought 2-2 draw, with the Hatters boys coming back from 2-0 down. It was great to have the support of young first teamer and local boy Tyreeq Bakinson to make the MOTM presentation along with support from Supt Sharn Basra of Beds Police, who said: “I was honoured, alongside rising star and role model Tyreeq Bakinson, to select the MOTM in what was not just a great advert for the work of the Trust, but a really entertaining game of football.”
Football Youth Development Programme
Like many other EFL Clubs, our fully integrated youth player development structure at the Club is run by the Community Trust. It starts with players as young as four-years-old who simply ‘pay and play’ each week, through to our Skills Performance Centres Talent Identification Coaching Programme for boys up to the age of 16, who train on our ten-week coaching programme. In total, over 20 of these centres run all year round through our development programme.
All of the boys, together with recruited boys, continue their journey for an academy place at our Centre of Excellence Centres in Luton, Dunstable, Kempston and Arlesey, which have over 300 boys who we see long-term development potential with a further 140 boys signed at our Luton Pre-Academy level for boys with shorter term potential.
An important part of the process is the games programme, and during October half-term week we played as far afield as Cardiff City and West Bromwich Albion, as well as nearer home with fixtures against Oxford United and MK Dons.
It is fair to say we are competitive at all age groups and levels, and particularly with our pre-academy squads who provide attractive opposition for some pretty big clubs these days. Our U13, U14 and U15 made the journey to Wales to play Cardiff City.
Girls Player Development Centre Fixtures v the POSH and Swansea
Probably the highlight of the October half-term week was the very first Hatters Girls PDC fixtures against Peterborough United and Swansea City, who all made the journey to Creasey Park.
With four combined age groups from U8/9 to u15/16, it was a real festival of football and a mark of how far our girls football project has come.
When we sat down with Luton Town Ladies FC at the end of last season we quickly agreed what we needed was a Development Centre for all girls to initially establish training squads for U9/10, U11/12, U13/14 and U15/16 that would eventually provide elite pathways for girls aged 16+ to Luton Town Ladies first team and development squads.
We agreed our aims would be to identify and recruit talented and enthusiastic local girls, provide quality coaching in a fun and friendly atmosphere, and importantly provide playing opportunities against other professional clubs’ development centres.
Between us we agreed that most importantly, we were making the commitment to all local girls to offer the same opportunities as we do for our boys – to wear the shirt and represent their local club. The games were fantastic with Swansea setting the bench mark with their established squads who play every week, while ourselves and Peterborough fought closely contested games. A great day and a great atmosphere at the games with fantastic enthusiasm from everyone involved, and a fantastic first round of fixtures with more to come next years with Norwich City FC up next!