The youth team boss is departing after six years with the Town
These programme notes were written by youth team manager, Paul Driver, for last Thursday's edition of Talk Of The Town.
I was genuinely touched by the rousing reception I got at the recent Kit Sponsors’ Dinner, which was totally unexpected and, being completely unprepared for the honour, I didn’t feel I did my best in thanking those that have been so supportive to me during my time at this brilliant club, so I now have the opportunity to do this farewell column which I will start by reminiscing on some memorable times.
The obvious highlight was the FA Youth Cup run last season which, coupled with the league win, the long unbeaten run and 23 clean sheets for Liam Gooch and his defence, will do well to be beaten in the future Not only were this group of players exceptional on the pitch but, ably led by the immense Frankie Musonda, they were a coach’s dream to be involved with off the pitch and they have set a very high standard for our squads in future years.
In my mind, though, much more important than these achievements are the 39 first team appearances of James Justin this season, the full debut for Akin Famewo at Hartlepool and the performances of all the Academy graduates in the Checkatrade Trophy – especially the game at Gillingham because that is what a successful youth system is all about. Hopefully these players kick on along with Tyreeq, Zane, Kingy, Liam Gooch, Arthur Read and Kavan Cotter.
Now to the list of thank-yous and, to start with, an apology if I don’t mention you personally, but everyone I have met at LTFC have been a pleasure to know and work with.
Most importantly, my job has always been made easier by the first team coaching staff and none more so than now with Nathan, who has trusted my young players and pushed them on so much in a short space of time.
Paul Hart (who actually gave me my first youth team job at Rushden back in 2006), Mighty Mick Harford, Joaquin, Jared and Deardo are also exceptional in their knowledge and support.
I have always been allowed to organise my squads in my own way, so Wayne Turner and Andy Awford have my thanks for this and must take massive credit (along with the Academy Coaches who, we must remember, have prepared me great players to work with) for our combined successes.
As a youth system, the backing we have had from Bobbers Travel Club and (in particular) SoLYD helped us take things to a different level in our preparation in recent seasons, so thanks for that – and to those supporters who followed us on the cup run three times to Lancashire last season.
On a personal note, I’d like to thank Doug and Maddie Wright for their support at games and for my sponsorship.
And two big ones to finish with…not many youth team managers up and down the country will have the accessibility to and level of positive support from their chief executive as I have had from Gary Sweet, and I would like to thank him for that.
Last, but not least, a heartfelt appreciation to my best mate and travel partner, Simon Parsell, who I have worked with (and been the butt of jokes of) for over ten years. He has always been there to advise me when I needed help, to calm me down when I get overheated, and to make me smile when I was down. Cheers mate!
Hopefully I’ll see you all at Wembley – COYH!
Chief executive Gary Sweet wrote this about Paul in his 'From The Boardroom' programme notes:
I’m sure everyone will join me in wishing youth team manager Paul Driver all the best as he heads north with his family to start a new life in semi-retirement.
Paul came to us when Rushden & Diamonds went into liquidation six years ago and his enthusiasm, commitment and coaching ability has epitomised the strength of the academy I talked about earlier.
Seeing James Justin perform so well over almost 40 appearances this season is testament to Paul’s impact on our youth system, as is the presence of lads like Zane Banton, Craig King, Frankie Musonda, Tyreeq Bakinson and Akin Famewo around the senior squad on a regular basis.
We will never forget the highs of the run to the FA Youth Cup quarterfinal last year and the Youth Alliance league and cup double.
Thank you Drives and good luck!
Academy & Development manager Andy Awford added in his column:
I would like to wish our Under-18s coach Paul Driver the very best of luck as he departs after six wonderful years of service to the club.
Since becoming Academy Manager two years ago, Paul has been nothing short of fantastic for me.
His passion, dedication and commitment to the job has been remarkable at times and I thank him from the bottom of my heart for everything he has done and achieved for the club.
Good luck Drives, enjoy those new golf clubs!