Awford urges Luton youngsters to follow Justin’s lead

Andy Awford - pic: Ashley Zee
Andy Awford - pic: Ashley Zee

Hatters academy and development manager Andy Awford has urged the club’s youngsters to try and emulate full back James Justin’s achievements this season.

The 19-year-old burst into the team against Aston Villa back in August and after a superb full debut, went on to play 39 times for the club in total.

Hopefully a couple of the others can also make some sort of breakthrough and start to put a bit of pressure on the seniors which is healthy competition.

Andy Awford

It was enough to earn him a call-up to the England U19 squad for a training camp this week too as Awford said: “We think we’ve got a real good crop of homegrown youngsters in the club and hopefully they can blossom.

“James has made that breakthrough and we’re looking for him to do that and more next season while hopefully a couple of the others can also make some sort of breakthrough and start to put a bit of pressure on the seniors which is healthy competition.

“I personally think we’ve got good lads right the way through the academy and there’s always one or two who put their head above the parapet. You think ‘this one could come through,’ but we’re quite pleased that we’ve got good groups right the way through.

“We’ve got a new intake of apprentices and we’re thinking there are some lads who can push on. But we’re delighted with the recruitment and the lads who are in the academy so we’ve got to keep pushing that on.”

Awford is well aware he and the other academy coaches need to keep bringing players through to the highest standard possible, although warned them that just because boss Nathan Jones has handed 11 debuts to academy players, it doesn’t mean making the grade at Luton is an easy ride.

He said: “We must strive to get better and better all the time and keep giving the manager more players, that’s the aim. There’s no god given right just because we’ve got a manager who’s prepared to give them a go though, they’ve got to be good enough, I must stress that.

“Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you’re going to get an opportunity at Luton.

“The first thing is you’ve got to be good enough and if you’re not good enough and that’s the most important criteria, if you’re not good enough, it won’t happen.

“We believe we’ve got some real good young prospects.

“Whether they’re good enough we’ll wait and see and hopefully we can push a few more towards the manager.”