11 Free Agent Options Luton Town could still bring to Kenilworth Road
So, once again we leave the transfer window with a spare space in the squad as we have registered 24 out of the 25-man squad. As you can see below:
Rob Edwards has said he is happy with his options, especially at the back, when questioned by the press after the Stoke City game. However, the Grimsby debacle since may well have adjusted his thinking. Last year, that spare space allowed us to bring in Robert Snodgrass, whose quality in his cameos were probably worth at least the difference between being inside or outside the play-offs come the final day.
So, if Edwards was to utilise that final squad place, which options are available to potentially plug that extra spark or steel that might make the same difference that Snodders did last term.
Whilst Dan Potts and Amari’i Bell have done a great job of filling in at left-sided centre-half, question marks are still raised over the position. Bell particularly had grown in recent games, but some fan comments suggested he was bullied physically and aerially against Grimsby. Not to mention the issues of playing natural full-backs in the back three, as highlighted by Andy Burgess on our ‘Put it in the Mixer’ podcast.
Tyler Blackett was immediately a name that came to mind in that regard. The former Manchester United youngster is left-footed and whilst he has played at left-back, he is much more of a centre-half who CAN play full-back, as opposed to the other way around. At 6ft 2, only Reece Burke and Sonny Bradley are taller than the 28-year-old, former England u-21 international.
Blackett would also bring extensive Championship experience with 124 games for Reading and Nottingham Forest and has only been out of contract since the start of the year, after the end of his contract in the MLS with FC Cincinnati. He also has play-off experience with Reading, starting all three games in their Championship play-off campaign under Jaap Stam.
Plus, were Blackett to join the club, he may have Amari’i trying to recruit him to join the Jamaican National Team in their quest for a place at the 2026 North American held World Cup (Would could be a plus or a minus)!
The deadline day pursuit of Steve Cook suggested that being left-footed is not a necessity to being added to the ranks and therefore, Timm Klose may well be another option. Bristol City have released the Swiss international in January, despite him having been in and out the side, so he should be close to match fit.
Despite the natural weakness of being a 34-year-old with a lack of pace, he brings not only international experience but promotion experience, having been a regular in the Norwich title winning side of 2018-19. Plus, at 6ft 4, he brings a dimension of aerial threat in both boxes, way above what we currently have.
Håvard Nordtveit is a third option that would be slightly more left field. A 52-cap Norwegian international was released by Hoffenheim back in the summer but has extensive knowledge of English football having been bought by Arsenal as a 17-year-old and done a gamut of London clubs, having played for West Ham United and had a loan spell at Fulham, but he has had his best form in the Bundesliga, being a regular in both Borussia Monchengladbach and Hoffenheim squads who have qualified for the Champions League.
Nordtveit has a couple of advantages in that he can also fill in both his ability on the ball and the fact he can fill in naturally as a defensive midfielder too, meaning Edwards can concentrate on using the likes of Jordan Clark and Pelly Ruddock further forward, even if injuries left us without Nakamba and Watson. Whilst a full season of Nordtveit would probably be outside of our budget, a short-term deal, especially given he has been without a club since the summer, may well be manageable.
Early signs appear to show that Cody Drameh, albeit only on loan, is an excellent replacement for James Bree (except in set-piece terms). However, Elliot Thorpe’s performance at Grimsby may well have put any ideas on him being a prospective understudy to Drameh to bed (both in Rob Edwards mind and certainly in Luke Ashmead’s who eviscerated his performance on 3CR).
As a result, we are only one injury to him or to Alfie Doughty away from having to play Fred Onyedinma every game, which Fulham away showed is a major danger to his hamstrings or moving Amari’i Bell back out to wing-back with all the knock-on effects this may cause to the back three. Beyond that, we would probably be looking at either Burke or Jordan Clark doing a turn there. As a result, it may be an option we look at.
Given however, that without an injury were would not be offering starter money, our options are limited. Andre Wisdom with his bunch of loan spells from Liverpool and almost century of Championship games for Derby afterwards is probably the most obvious option. Despite not having a club after leaving Derby in the summer, his key benefits would be that experience and his ability to cover a wide centre-back role in the back three, probably much more comfortably that James Bree could.
Amari’i could go around trying to recruit him for Jamaica too, especially as (unlike Blackett) they won’t be competing for the same spot!
However, 10 goal involvements in nigh-on 200 senior league games across Premier League, Championship and Bundesliga show that as a wing-back, his attacking output is frankly negligible in comparison to the likes of Bree, Drameh and Doughty, something that certainly would play against him in Rob Edwards’ book.
Beyond that, the right-wing back options are extremely limited, so it might be better to utilise the fact that Doughty has looked comfortable on the right and bring a left wing back in, even if it was Drameh that got injured.
Gaëtan Bong is the most likely name of that bunch, albeit one who, like Wisdom, might not be the best going forward. At 34, he would obviously be a short-term option, but he was a play-off winner with Nottingham Forest last year. However, by the time of the play-off final, Steve Cooper wasn’t even putting Bong on the bench and he hasn’t been a regular for anyone since before the pandemic for Brighton.
Jordan Lukaku would be another possibility and one that would at least be a more attack minded wing-back than the other two on this list. The former Belgian international would very much be a reclamation project, as the 28-year-old brother Romelu has had a vastly injury hit half-decade or so since signing for Lazio in 2018.
Lukaku was released back in the summer after a host of loan spells and immediately found a home in the Spanish second tier with Ponferradina. It has not been a happy home as after working his way very quickly into the starting eleven, he was back out of it after just four starts and hasn’t played a minute since mid-November, hence his release.
However, a fit and firing Lukaku has the pace and attacking mentality that Rob Edwards prefers out of the wing-back positions.
Given that we looked to have addressed that area with the signing of Marvelous Nakamba, this looks like the most stacked area of our squad and one that we probably are not looking at. However, there are a couple of ways we could see the need arise. All it would take would be an unexpected delay in the return dates of Henri Lansbury and Luke Freeman and things might not look as well stacked in Rob Edwards mind.
The other possibility would be if, in order to solve any possible issues at left centre-half that have been highlighted above, Edwards decided to use the left-footed Nakamba there. That certainly would not be an option this writer would agree with, but is it really any crazier than when we initially threw Kal Naismith in there?
You would think that a 33-year-old, defensive midfielder with over 100 Premier League games would not have found himself out of contract since the summer, but that is the situation that Dale Stephens finds himself in.
Since his release by Burnley in the summer, the former Brighton man says he has ‘turned four or five contracts down’ as they ‘just didn’t feel they were right for me or my family’.
Therefore, a full-time move back down south may well not be in his best interests. However, having now spent most of the season out of work, the circumstances are very similar to Snodgrass’ went he joined us last term.
Tom Carroll would be a more creative option and would at least give a left-footed version of Louie Watson, with vastly more experience. Back in the summer, Luke Freeman was evidently brought in to replace what Robert Snodgrass gave us and if Freeman does struggle to get back fit, Carroll could be the man to give us that playmaking left footer than we may be lacking.
Was born in Watford mind, but given the former Spurs youngster has never played for them, I think we’d be able to forgive him that one!
Out of all the options on this list, Connor Wickham would be the only one you could consider to be ‘in-form’.
Signing a short-term contract with Rob Edwards’ former club Forest Green Rovers in the summer, the target-man managed to score nine in 20 before decided to leave with his contract up in January. This was a stunning return give FGR look to be one of the worst sides in League One and are staring down the barrel of a quick-fire return to League Two.
It is very easy to see him fitting straight into the role vacated by Cameron Jerome. However, Wickham is currently training with Cardiff City and given that even the most hardened of bluebirds would say that they are frankly anemic in front of goal, it is safe to say that the Welsh side could probably offer more football than we could.
Lewis Grabban is another name that could fit perfectly into the shoes of Jerome. Grabban was Nottingham Forest captain in most matches until an injury hit last couple of months of the season. Despite that, he still averaged a goal every 171 minutes last season and was still considered such a big part of the squad that not only did he lift the play-off trophy, but it was also his decision to turn down a new deal.
That was because he was given what was presumably a very lucrative contract in Saudi Arabia. Now released, it evidently hasn’t worked out on the field, but I can’t imagine that anyone would consider swapping Jerome for Grabban as anything but an upgrade.
Finally, and this might be a flight of fancy on my Welsh part, but Hal Robson-Kanu has never actually retired and is only 33. Someone that will be much more likely to run the channels and be a rangier replacement for Harry Cornick. He also has links with the Hatters through his turmeric shot company, which has been in partnership with the club for two years now…
…OK, maybe I'm getting carried away there!!