Forbes: Academy upgrade will help Luton youngsters develop even quicker

Hatters head of academy coaching and professional player development Adrian Forbes
Hatters head of academy coaching and professional player development Adrian Forbes

Ex-Town forward on the club achieving Category Two status

Luton Town’s bid to upgrade their Academy status from EPPP level Three to Two will allow the next crop of Hatters youngsters to develop even quicker according to head of academy coaching and professional player development Adrian Forbes.

The club confirmed earlier this season that they had submitted their application, with the project requiring a significant increase investment in both staff and facilities, plus an expensive indoor facility to be built as well.

Should Town be granted permission, it will see them admitted to the Premier League’s U23 development games programme, something Forbes, who joined the club from Norwich City’s academy in the summer, insists is vital going forward,

He said: “You look at academy like Chelsea’s, Arsenal’s, West Ham’s, Tottenham’s, it now gives us an opportunity to potentially be a Category Two club and have those teams in our game programme on a regular basis.

“It means our players will be playing against better players, which means they’ll be challenged differently on a match day which means they’ll improve and develop even quicker.

“It challenges the coaches as well because we’ll be playing against better teams, so how do we as coaches challenge ourselves to make ourselves better so we make the players better?

“It’s where this club deserve to be in my opinion.

“We’re growing off the pitch, and with how quickly we have done from a first team point of view, now lets get the academy to grow and strengthen as well and make us, Luton Town as a football club as a whole, lets all grow together.

“For me that’s the right thing for the club to do.

“There’s lots of work to be done behind the scenes, but its something we’re all striving to achieve and fingers crossed we can achieve it.”

Luton have produced some superb players over the years, including Curtis Davies and Matthew Taylor, while more recently Jamal Lewis and Max Aarons both spent time at Luton’s academy before being snapped up by Forbes’ old club, Norwich.

Defender James Justin was the most recent main success story, heading to Premier Leicester City in the summer for a club record fee.

Forbes, who himself scored 20 goals in 79 games for Hatters as a player, is now excited to have a role in helping the talent come through himself.

He continued: “From the outside looking in, I would see these players coming through and getting into the first team, or getting moves, James Justin going to Leicester City, you say, ‘wow what are they doing to be able to produce players to play to that calibre?’

“‘What are they doing on the training ground to develop players that are either making first team appearances at Luton, or going on to make first team appearances elsewhere?

“Interestingly for me, I worked with Jamal Lweis and Max Arons at Norwich, two players who started their journey at Luton Town and I look at those and say ‘what are Luton Town doing that’s allowing them to produce regularly?’ And we’re not talking average players either.

“Max and Jamal last year in the Championship, they were the standout players within that league, so you’re saying ‘wow, these two players are amazing.’

“It’s now great to be part of the club and seeing what goes on during a day-to-day basis, on the pitch and off the pitch which is developing players and allowing them to either get into the first team here, or move on to have success elsewhere.

“Ultimately we are here to produce players to get into our first team, but we’re also here to produce good individuals.

“Players that might not make it at Luton Town, they leave this club as a genuinely good individual and that for me is key in anything that we do.”

Forbes also felt that sometimes losing one of your top youngsters to a team higher up the football echelon isn't such a bad thing for a club's academy either when it comes to attracting new talent.

He said: "People will look at that and say, you've got this player whose come through from whichever age group to now be playing in the Premier League and he had his development at Luton Town.

"From an academy point of view, we're an academy who's striving to be better, week in week out, day in day out on the training pitch.

"But if we can evidence with people like James that if you come to our academy we can develop you, we can give you those areas to improve in your game, that might hopefully, as there's never a guarantee, that might hopefully get you one day to realise that dream of playing Premier League football, or Championship football, because everyone's journey is different.

"People certainly buy into that, it puts the onus back on us as a group of staff within the academy to make sure we continue to improve ourselves develop ourselves as staff and coaches so we can make the players even better as the game changes and the game evolves."

Although the current crop of U18s were knocked out of the FA Youth Cup at the first round stage by Sheffield Wednesday in December, Forbes was mightily enthused by what he has seen in the academy since returning to Kenilworth Road.

He added: “I was fortunate enough to have seven years working at a Category One academy and the players I see here on a daily basis, certainly with the U18s and even you go down to U14s, 15s, 16 and then go into the younger age groups, there really is some talented footballers within this club.

“It’s our job to make sure that we continue with their development, we continue to give them the tools they need to realise their dreams and ultimately our job is all about the players and how we develop them.

“That’s what we’re all about and the better we can work at that, the harder we can work at that, the more chances we have of getting the players through, but there’s certainly some talent in this club, that’s for sure.”