Train operator Thameslink and Luton Town's Academy have announced their partnership support for Academy players will continue for a 14th season.
Thameslink has given over 20 of the Hatters’ current 16- to 18-year-old apprentices a year’s free travel to their places of study and training. Some could not afford to attend otherwise.
Dale Brunton, the LTFC Academy’s Head of Education and Welfare, said: “Thameslink have been an excellent partner for Luton Town Football Club, especially for the young men within our Academy, allowing them to develop both on and off the field.
“We have young men from a wide range of backgrounds and some wouldn’t be able to attend training and games if it wasn’t for Thameslink’s generosity. The partnership also allows our apprentices to give back to the local community via social action days.”
Tom Moran, Managing Director for Thameslink and Great Northern, said: “We work a lot with young people, to provide confidence building and upskilling opportunities that make a difference to their lives.
“This partnership with the Hatters allows young sportsmen to take up opportunities they would otherwise not be able to enjoy. It’s one of the ways we can make a tangible difference for the lives of individual people in the communities we serve.”
Midfielders Archie Heron and Millar Matthews-Lewis were among the dozen 16-year-olds who started their two-year apprenticeship this summer.
Archie said: “My travel pass allows me to travel from London to Luton almost every day for training, matches and my education programme. It benefits me socially as I travel with friends, making closer relationships with my team mates. Without the travel pass, getting to and from training would be very difficult.”
Millar praised the scheme, saying: “The Thameslink partnership has been very beneficial for me because it helps me commute to and from training without any costs.”
As well as training full-time and playing for the Under-18s in the EFL Youth Alliance South-East Division and FA Youth Cup, the Academy players continue in further education via a BTEC Level 3 Nationals in Sporting Excellence and Performance, as well as gaining a recognised FA coaching badge and taking part in the Academy's informal Life Skills programme.
Academy graduates who have benefited from GTR’s travel support in recent years include Sam Beckwith, Corey Panter and Josh Neufville, all now full-time professionals in Luton’s first-team squad. They’ve been joined this year by 17-year-old second-year apprentice Ed McJannet, who made his first-team debut in a pre-season friendly this summer and has recently captained Irelands U18s squad.
Midfielder Ed said: “The train pass from Thameslink is amazing and extremely useful, it helps me travel to and from Luton for training and games every day! It is essential for my travel and helps me very much.”
Luton Town’s Academy is a proud part of the club’s rich history. It offers a programme from Under-9s to Under-21s with players beginning their journey with the Town as early as 6 years old.
GTR sponsors those in their “Professional Development Phase”, the club’s full-time apprentices. They study on a BTEC Sports Science programme and train alongside the first team at The Brache, Luton’s training ground. The Brache is just south of the town centre, near Luton Airport Parkway station, which many of the youngsters use to travel to and from training.