Turner wants Town's teens to be 'knocking on the door' of the Hatters first team after making Kenilworth Road return
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Luton’s new head of academy development Wayne Turner wants to see some of Town's talented youngsters knocking on the door of the first team by the end of the club’s maiden season in the Premier League this term.
The 62-year-old returned to Kenilworth Road in May for another stint with the Hatters, having made over 100 appearances for Luton during his playing days, while also being assistant manager, reserve team boss and head of the academy himself, after hanging his boots up at the age of 29.
Turner will work alongside another ex-Luton player in Paul Benson, who has assumed the role of academy manager, as with head of coaching & player development Adrian Forbes, they will look to keep the conveyor belt of talent moving throughout the club.
Although those in the youth set-up face a massive task on their hands to get near the first team with Luton preparing to come up against the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool this campaign, that still remains the target for an ambitious Turner.
He said: “If you can do the odd game in the Premier League, you straight away realise the level you’re playing at.
“If one of the lads can break through and get a game or two, or a sub or two and impress, you can’t impress any higher than the Premier League.
“It’s not like they can turn round and say, 'wow, I'm not sure he can really do it,’ what are you on about?
"He’s done it in the Premier League, whereas if you do it in Div Two, Div One, and even the Championship, you can say, 'well, but is he good enough?'
“Whether you like it or not, we’ve established ourselves in the last couple of seasons as a top six Championship side.
“So when you're looking at our players, you're saying ‘can he get us out of the Championship?’ ‘Is he good enough to push, push, push to get us out?’
“Well hold on, we’re now in the Premier League, so now if he does break into the Premier League, he’s got to be good enough to keep us in it, as no mucking about, that’s our first objective, to stay in the Premier League.
“If we got one or two players who can help achieve that, they are Premier League players who have helped stay in the Premier League, like we did 40 years ago, when we stayed up at Man City, that’s your target.
“So yes, it’s tougher, but what a prize, what an absolute prize to play in the Premier League, it must send goosebumps down their spine.
“If it's not and they don't believe it, then we’ll have to see what happens, as I want the ones who believe they can strive and be the best they can be.
“That’s what I’m looking for, me and Paul Benson are looking for.
“I think we can get some of those players through to be knocking on the door by the end of the season, as I really feel that me, Benno and the staff can push those players.”
With a background in academy football, working for Wolves at U18s and U23s level, before heading to England where he was in charge of the U16s, Luton boss Rob Edwards has already proved that he is more than willing to give academy players a chance.
He handed teenager defender Joe Johnson his first team debut against Middlesbrough last term, also using the 17-year-old in the goalless draw with Hull City as well, while youngster Axel Piesold was on the bench for the FA Cup trip to Grimsby as well.
It meant there were further positive signs for Turner regarding the pathway available, as he continued: “Rob was part of Benno’s recruitment as well, he had a big say in it, alongside Gary (Sweet, CEO) and the board, so that shows you that he wanted Benno there.
“He trusts Benno, he embraces Benno, so that's what we need.
“We need that connection with the first team manager.
"I know it was all rosy, I know it was all perfect when Rob’s come in, we’ve had no real test yet, but Rob is such a level-headed guy.
"I think whatever happens, he’s going to be calm and collected, along with his staff, his staff are brilliant as well.
“They're good guys, and he’s embraced Benno, so I think that helps.”
A change in venue for the Hatters’ young guns will also be a boost too, as they are moving to the same vicinity as the senior side for the upcoming campaign.
Turner added: “The fact we're going to be on the same grass soon, we’ve got a grass pitch promised to us which is only going to be a stone's throw from looking at the first team every day, so the 21s are going to be able to physically see the first team training every day.
“They're going to be sniffing them, going to be smelling them, going to be seeing them, going to be hearing them, so that for us is a godsend and that’s going to let them know how close they are to it.
“If anybody’s needed, Rob will give us a shout, they'll join in and it’s up to him to show what he can do.”