Hart looking to build another legacy at Kenilworth Road after agreeing to become Luton's new academy director

Ex-first team coach wants to replicate the success he had at Leeds and Nottingham Forest

By Mike Simmonds
Thursday, 28th April 2022, 3:04 pm
Hatters new academy director Paul Hart chats with midfielder Glen Rea
Hatters new academy director Paul Hart chats with midfielder Glen Rea

Former Town first team coach Paul Hart is hoping to build another legacy at Kenilworth Road after agreeing to become the club’s new academy director recently.

The 69-year-old was appointed shortly after Andy Awford decided to leave his role at the club at the start of the month, with Hart reverting to the job he had done with unbelievable success at Leeds United, Nottingham Forest and Charlton.

While at Elland Road, Hart produced future Premier League and international stars such as Harry Kewell, Jonathan Woodgate, Ian Harte, Alan Smith, Gary Kelly and Paul Robinson, also leading the Whites to FA Youth Cup glory twice.

Hart also had success at Nottingham Forest too, the likes of David Prutton, Jermaine Jenas, Andy Reid and Michael Dawson all coming through the ranks, while it was with Charlton, where he brought in Jones as U21 professional development coach.

Although Sam Beckwith made his debut for the Hatters in the Carabao Cup this term, the last academy graduate to play for Town for any period of time was James Justin, ahead of his club record move to Leicester City in June 2019 where he has flourished, touted for an call-up to the England side before suffering cruciate ligament damage that he has now thankfully returned from.

Hart is well aware there is plenty needed to get Town’s academy operating in the manner he is accustomed too, as writing in the Luton match-day programme recently, he said: “There is a lot of work that goes into taking care of the kids and the staff, and changing things to the way I work at youth development level.

“Nathan felt that having signed his new contract at the end of last year, and clearly being here for the long term future, he wanted to create a youth development programme that would then run alongside the first team work.

“Over the last five or six years we have been here, it’s not been easy to manage the senior side and do what they’ve done, while also spending time dealing with the academy.

“It was a big decision, and we had many conversations.

"I felt it was right because we need to put a structure in place that will see us through the next five to 10 years.

“I want to have coaches that believe in the same things that I believe in, pass that on and hopefully create things that will last for many years.

“Ultimately, I believe in teaching and creating continuity throughout every age group, down to vocabulary, discipline, shape, formations and principles of play.

“I believe in involvement with the kids and creating an environment of trust and excellence in which everyone can always learn.

“I can still learn, even at my age, I try to keep an open mind on everything.”

Having moved to Luton to join Jones’ coaching staff initially in 2016, Hart then went to Notts County as technical director in September 2018, before heading to Stoke City to link up with Jones once more.

The former Leeds and Blackpool defender made his return to Kenilworth Road in June 2020 when Jones was reappointed as manager once more, as still being based in Nottingham meant he had to give taking up the new role some real thought.

He added: “I still live there, which is why it took a little while for Nathan to persuade me to take on this new role as academy director.

“It was a big decision because if I was going to do the job, I’d need to do it properly as I have done at other clubs and that would mean living down south for the bulk of the time.

“I’m 69 in May and I had to talk to my family to make sure that was the right thing for them too because I would have to ensure I could do it to that same level that has brought me success in the past.”

» The Hatters youth team will take on Preston North End in the EFL Youth Alliance Cup Final at Kenilworth Road on Tuesday, May 3, with a 7pm kick-off.

Tickets cost £3 for adults and £1 for U16s must be purchased in advance and are available here until 4.30pm on the day of the game.