Ex-Hatter Pembridge hopes Luton's academy moves to Category Two status

Former Town midfielder currently working with Fulham U23s

Thursday, 1st April 2021, 12:51 pm
Mark Pembridge in his role as Fulham U23 head coach

Ex-Luton midfielder Mark Pembridge wants to see the Hatters continue their proud record of promoting from the academy when they finally make the move to Category Two status.

Town are planning to do so once they have their indoor dome built, although that has been met with resistance from Luton Borough Council in recent months.

However, Pembridge, who has worked in youth football with Fulham since his retirement in 2007, now joint head coach of the U23s, said: “It would be good for the football club to stay in the Championship and with the academy pushing forward as well.

“They’re Category Three at the moment, I know they’re trying to build their indoor place and once that’s competition, they are going Category Two which is good.

“It’s a massive catchment area around the Luton area where you can scout these boys and historically they have brought players through the academy which is really good.

“Hopefully with Luton going to Category Two, that will help them produce more and more players.

“There’s obviously different stipulations with a Category Two now, but they are putting the money back into the academy which is really good.”

Pembridge himself came through the ranks at Kenilworth Road after being spotted by the Hatters’ South Wales scout Cyril Beach and moving to England as a youngster.

He went on to play 70 times for Luton before moving to Derby County for a fee of £1.25m in 1992, as on his stint at Kenilworth Road, he said: “I really enjoyed my time with Luton as I used to come up when I was 14 onwards in the school holidays, so I used to absolutely love it.

“It was good, there was a lot of us boys at the time, a lot of us got to the first team.

“Matthew Jackson, John Hartson, Kurt Nogan, Jason Rees, Richard Harvey, Sean Farrell, all came through the youth side and played in the first team which was fantastic to see.

“At the time, you’re a young boy, that’s all you want to do is play football.

"Once you get in the first team, nothing else matters at all, you’re just playing football, there’s no other consequences with everything that’s going on around the football club.

"All you want to do is go on the pitch and play football.”

“When I was an apprentice there I used to clean Mick’s (Harford) boots and he went away to Sunderland and Derby.

"Then when he came back, we were both playing in the same team, so it was quite funny to do that.

"I spoke to Mick recently, we played the 23s in a friendly a couple of weeks back, so I saw Mick at the game.

"We played Tottenham a couple of weeks ago, David Pleat was there, so I caught up with him again, so it's nice to come across the old players."

From Derby, Pembridge went to Sheffield Wednesday, Benfica, Everton and Fulham, also winning 54 caps for Wales, as looking back at his career, he added: "Arthur (Cox) was there (at Derby), I enjoyed it, I had three years there and then David Pleat was manager of Sheffield Wednesday and he bought me from Derby.

"I enjoyed Benfica as well, it was only for a season, but a different outlook on the way and philosophy you play football, so it was good being in Portugal.

“I enjoyed my time at Everton too, I finished when I was 36, as I had four operations in two years, but I was lucky that came at the back end of my career and not the start."

Following his decision to retire, Pembridge was then appointed as a youth coach at Fulham, working with the U16s, then U18s, moving to the first team when Kit Symons was in charge.

He then linked up with the academy again, as on his decision to move into the development side of the game, he said: "I did my coaching badges the last two years when I was playing and completed them when I was going through my calf operations.

"I thought it would be the perfect time to get them done and the next thing was a full time position came up at Fulham.

"I'd played five games in two years, I was thinking I could play another year, but I was also thinking 'who's going to take me?'

"There's not often full time positions come up in a football club, so I think you know yourself when it's time to call it a day."

Since his 15 years at Craven Cottage, Pembridge has had a number of success stories, including striker Eljiah Adebayo, now plying his trade with the Hatters.

He added: "You've got the Sessegnon brothers, Ryan and Steven, we had a boy from Luton now at Barnsley, Cauley Woodrow came through with us.

"Moussa Dembele was at Celtic and playing at (Atletico) Madrid now, Patrick Roberts (Manchester City) came through with us as well, Harvey Elliot (Liverpool), there’s always players coming through.

"You watch Luca de la Torre (Heracles Almelo) play for the American national team.

"He left us at 16, so whatever you can do to help them find their way is a bonus and that's our jobs, to help them through, even if they leave our football club."