Luton boss hopes new academy dome will see Hatters keep hold of future stars like Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis
Town chief hails decision made by Luton Borough Council
Hatters boss Nathan Jones believes that the decision by Luton Borough Council to approve the club's application to build a sports dome for their academy could help Town potentially keep hold of future talented youngsters like Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis.
It was back in 2009 that the duo were both in the youth ranks at Kenilworth Road, and part of a team including James Justin and Frankie Musonda, who were crowned Aarau Masters U9s champions after beating Bayern Munich in the final of the five-a-side tournament out in Switzerland.
Aarons then left Town at the age of 14, going on to join Norwich City two years later after a successful trial, and is now a regular for the Canaries, making almost 100 appearances, linked with moves to European giants Barcelona and Real Madrid during the current transfer window.
Meanwhile, Lewis, left Luton for Norwich in 2014, breaking into the first team at Carrow Road in 2017, and bagged a £15m move to join Newcastle United in the summer, while he has also been capped by Northern Ireland.
Earlier this week, the council passed Town’s application for the sports dome on a playing field off Cutenhoe Road by four votes to three which means they can look to develop their academy from Category 3 to Category 2 status, allowing them to play in the Premier League’s under 23 development games programme, hopefully as early as the start of next season.
Speaking about how crucial that is, Jones said: “What it does, is it protects us having a 23s side and by having that Cat Two, it protects, so the likes of your Jamal Lewis’s and your Max Aarons’, could maybe still be at this football club.
“Others who were at the football club and then literally decided that they were first players, before they actually were, those ones it doesn’t affect, but we would have loved to have kept Jamal Lewis and Max Aarons, so we could have developed them like a James Justin.
“We’ve gone from League Two to the Championship so we made good decisions, but it will enable us to maybe ask certain players to have a little bit more patience.
"Players that see themselves above where they are, now it may give them that patience to come and to play and to develop and them to get in Luton’s first team which is a wonderful place to be, so it does do that.”
Jones knows that it won’t make sure absolutely everyone stays put, with youngsters like Tyreeq Bakinson, Arthur Read and Freddie Hines all moving on before really bursting on to the first team scene at Town.
He continued: “In some instances, those players didn’t want to be at this football club, they wanted to go elsewhere as they saw different pathways.
“Rightly or wrongly, we made decisions for us and I don’t think we made a bad decision.
“Others can go on and do whatever, but at the time we made good decisions for our football club.
“It enables us to have a games programme and maybe a little bit longer to develop, but fundamentally, we want players here that want to play for Luton.
"So if anybody comes out and says 'he shouldn't have done this, shouldn't have done that,' yes we should have and we were 100 per cent correct in every single decision we made."
With the possibility of Luton going into the Premier League U23s programme, it would see the club going up against some of the brightest young talents in the domestic game, and give their own graduates some meaningful matches, something they lack after moving through the U18s at the moment.
Jones also felt that along with attracting youngsters to the club, it will give him that bit longer to decide whether a player will actually make it at Kenilworth Road too, saying: "It enables us to build, we can now give the odd player a year longer because he gets a games programme, we’re not now judging him and saying 'are they going to play in our first team in the next year?'
"If no, then he can go into the 23s, get a games programme and have a little bit more time.
"That’s one of the prongs too that when players are coming back from injury, we can get quality games into them and plan their rehab and not have to arrange a game for that.
"We can also attract different players, players who might not be good enough for whoever it is, Chelsea, Arsenal, whoever and now we can give them an opportunity as we might be able to recycle them, so it opens up a whole new world for us.
"It should enable us to get Category 2, which is again a knock on effect of players, of games programme, attracting players, recruitment, of absolutely everything.
"Those the powers that be, we thank them for being sensible, logical and making the right decision as there’s no down side to this."
With the club having already received planning permission for a new stadium at Power Court and mixed use scheme at Newlands Part, then both on and off the field, the club appear in for some exciting times.
Jones added: “Luton needs things like this, it needs the new stadium, it needs the Newlands Park development, it needs the dome here that can be used by not just our academy, but schools, it needs that.
"This football club is a wonderful part and parcel of the community, so the fact that it's got through is just a logical, sensible, very, very good decision.
"If all people made those decisions then I’m sure this country would be in a far better position.”