Exclusive: Former Bristol Rovers academy prospect set to sign for Championship club

-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)

Former Bristol Rovers academy forward Jordan Iwhiwhu is set to sign a professional contract at Championship club Luton Town, Bristol Live understands, just a couple of months after being released by the Gas.

Iwhiwhu, alongside his younger brother Excel, joined the Rovers youth setup in March 2022 but was released by the Gas earlier this year with his brother still part of the academy. The 17-year-old, who attended Sir Thomas Rich's School in Gloucester, then studied at SGS College as part of the football programme under the watch of former Leeds United manager Dave Hockaday and also played fro Stoke Gifford United FC.

During his time at SGS, he also represented Fulham Under-18s making his debut against Norwich City in March. Iwhiwhu also scored four goals in one game against Luton, with the Hatters now poised to take the forward on a two-and-a-half year deal ahead of the Cottagers.

Luton Under-18s play in the EFL Youth Alliance and finished top of Group C with 38 points from 18 matches last season. The league acts as a second division of Under-18s football below the Professional Development League which is managed by the Premier League.

Jed Ward is the latest poster boy of the Rovers academy after the goalkeeper's breakthrough into the Gas first team last season during which he started 18 of their final 19 League One matches. The 21-year-old has also earned his first two caps for England Under-20s over the past week.

Hailing from Bradley Stoke, the academy product is expected to remain Matt Taylor's first-choice this term after signing a four-year contract in March.

Additionally, Luca Hoole made 25 appearances for the Gas last campaign, taking his senior total to 102 matches. However, it's still unclear whether or not the academy graduate will be staying at the club with no confirmation yet on whether or not he's signed the contract offered to him.

Taylor also handed a senior debut to Academy Player of the Year Kofi Shaw from the bench on the final day of last season against Wigan Athletic while the option to extend young midfielder Jerry Lawrence's contract by a year was activated. Rovers also gave a senior debut to then-15-year-old striker Ollie Dewsbury in November when the teenage striker came on off the bench in the 7-2 FA Cup victory over Whitby Town.

However, there is still no clear pathway without an under-21s side at the club with the gap between under-18s to the first-team still an extremely difficult one to bridge. The Gas hierarchy have made their intentions to invest in the academy and boosting its status from category three to category two clear, subsequently integrating an under-21s team into the youth set up at the club.

Rovers did have a development squad up until 2021 that competed in the Central League but were forced to withdraw due to financial constraints.