Luton Town’s U18 Shadow Squad secured second place in their Regional Division of The Football Conference Youth Alliance, finishing just one point behind the eventual winners, in only their second year in existence.
The squad, based at Cedars Upper School in Leighton Buzzard, is a combined A-level and football programme that has been introduced to assist the club in developing ‘intelligent young footballers,’ who fit into the club’s long-term approach to youth development.
Town lost just one of their 20 league games, scoring 65 and conceding a mere 16 goals in the process. It was a big improvement on the first year when, as a team made up of mainly U17 players, they struggled with the physicality of the U19 league.
Head coach Stuart Smith said: “As ridiculous as it may sound having finished second, I firmly believe the lads showed themselves to be the best team in their division.
“The progress the lads have made this season has been amazing. They are bright lads who want to learn and have tried to embrace everything we have asked them to do.”
“We are trying to develop them into technically excellent footballers whilst teaching them how to move from the development phase where winning is not the major objective to the stage where they need to understand how to manage and win games at the appropriate times.
“Over half the squad are still with us next year, giving us room for still more improvement within the group.
“In my opinion this is a crucial time for the lads, with the evolvement of the EPPP chances for young players to earn professional contracts at the club doesn’t necessarily disappear the moment they don’t get a full-time scholarship.
“They can now move into the club’s Baldock or Cedars Shadow Programme, continue to develop their football, whilst gaining an excellent education and still be involved within the football club.
“Hopefully as Cedars player Kyle Davison Gordon and Baldock player Lucas Kirkpatrick, amongst others have done this season, then go back into sessions with Paul Driver where he can monitor their progress and hopefully, as he has done with these two, use them in youth team fixtures.
“The future is looking bright for the Luton Town’s Cedars Programme, the excellent work Joe Deeney is doing with all of his U15/16 groups has already contributed to a potentially outstanding intake for the programme for the next two seasons and the competition for places from outside the club is now very fierce indeed.”
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