Sweet: Bakinson exit doesn't mean Hatters are a feeder club
Chief executive Gary Sweet has refuted claims that the Hatters have become a feeder club after Tyreeq Bakinson became the latest player to leave for a higher division.
The teenage midfielder was sold to Championship outfit Bristol City on deadline day, following in the footsteps of Isaac Vassell (Birmingham), Jack Marriott (Peterborough) and Cameron McGeehan (Barnsley), who all departed during the summer.
However, writing in his programme notes ahead of the Swindon match on Saturday, on that issue, Sweet said: “Absolutely not. The summer window is always busy for most clubs, every year, including us.
“In general, we’ve not released any more players than we have in previous summers, it’s just that we’ve managed to attract good fees for more of them, which is a testimony to our long-term progress.
“If people deem us to be a selling club then everyone else is, at every level.
“For example, most top Premier League clubs have sold more players for fees than we have, often to clubs higher up and as we climb the leagues, this will inevitably continue.”
Bakinson’s departure saw another of Town’s promising crop of youngsters snapped up, as he joins former team-mate Freddie Hinds in the U23 side at Ashton Gate, while Cameron McJannet moved to Stoke City in August 2016.
Although understanding it is far from ideal, Sweet explained how those funds would directly benefit the club’s clear commitment to their youth policy.
He added: “It isn’t a primary strategy to sell our young prospects.
“Of course, everybody’s dream scenario would be to recruit a young boy at seven, debut him at 17 and retire him at 37 by turning him into a successful academy coach.
“In the real world however, this simply isn’t going to happen so we must ask ourselves what the objective of an academy is, and whilst it remains that its aim is to deliver players into our first team, we must face a number of stark reality checks.
“Firstly, our academy is in transition on a journey from a well-established EPPP3 academy with the short-mid-term aim of elevating to Category 2.
“This means we currently do not have a full development squad so the opportunity to join a regular games programme is limited, which suits some lads but not others.
“Secondly, we’re the victims of our own success. Our league and cup adventures of the 2015/16 season were because we had an overabundance of rich talent at that particular age group.
“Despite this success it simply isn’t feasible to expect more players to be introduced to the first team when our expectations to gain promotion are greater than ever.
“Additionally, winning the U18s double also brings an over-expectation amongst that age group whereby, for them, such success generates more desire to take the next step up without necessarily having to graft as hard as they would need to without the success. This is a challenge every young player needs to face and every coach needs to manage.
“Thirdly, in order to further develop our academy status, we need to generate income to fund it. For example, the income which will be received from Tyreeq’s transfer fee and potential future values will go some way to help build a 3G dome – a prerequisite for EPPP2 status!
“So, whilst this isolated case may seem like a backwards step, it is a giant leap forward for the academy as a whole providing a more stable long-term platform for the club. Part of the 2020 mission statement was that LTFC’s first team should include, on average, at least three players developed from its own youth academy and three more from its development squad.”