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  • Writer's pictureAlex Oakhill

James Shea reveals funny Luton Town penalty shootout preparation story before Wembley triumph

James Shea celebrates after Play-Off final victory | Photo by Gareth Owen

As the sun set on a packed-out Wembley Stadium, Luton fans could barely look, hands over eyes as the dreaded penalties decided whether their Premier League dream would become reality.

The six Luton players who expertly dispatched their spot kicks looked as cool as you like, devoid of any pressure and seemingly shutting out the magnitude of the situation.

However, maybe there was more doubt creeping into the players’ minds than first seemed, with James Shea recently revealing on the Yours Mine Away podcast that the Hatters had been struggling to convert their penalties whilst practicing in training.

"Standard wasn’t great" during Luton’s penalty practice

When asked about the play off final at Wembley, Shea admitted that the Town didn’t have the greatest preparation for the shootout. “We’d been awful (in training). We’d been practicing for a week and a half, two weeks and the standard wasn’t great if I’m honest.”

Luckily for Town fans, the struggles in training didn’t translate onto the pitch as all six Luton penalties were converted in the shootout, before Fankaty Dabo skied his spot kick, sparking delirious scenes amongst the thousands of Hatters fans.

Shea, who has been at Luton for six years now, also joked that he was able to read one unnamed player better than the rest. “We (the keepers) were getting in some of the boys’ heads, and I’m not going to namedrop anyone but there was one person in particular, I had him in my pocket! I knew where he was going every single time but thankfully when it mattered the boys produced.”

Carlton Morris converted the Hatters' first spot kick in the shootout, before youngster Joe Taylor showed great resilience to put the Town 2-1 up, minutes after having his winner disallowed late in extra time. Loan hero Marvellous Nakamba confidently slotted home the third before Clark and Berry both dispatched quality penalties into the top left corner. At 5-5, the pressure was on Dan Potts, but the long-serving defender held his nerve and rolled the ball home.

Speaking about his emotions after the shootout win, Shea said “I had a beeline for Ethan (Horvarth), I ran straight to him and I’ve never run so fast in my life. I had to do a little jink round Luke Berry and then just jumped on Ethan, screaming and shouting”. The 32-year-old also confessed he nearly cried four times during the celebrations, something which a lot of Town fans can relate to on what was an emotional day for the club.

Luton bench celebrate after penalty shootout win | Photo by Gareth Owen

Shea has now won three promotions during his time at Kenilworth Road, claiming the Golden Glove award during the League One title-winning season as well. He is clearly a brilliant character to have in the squad and around the goalkeepers, as just days after he suffered a major knee injury towards the end of last year, he was given a new long-term contract. It’s loyalty like this from the board and owners which helps contribute to the positive atmosphere which radiates out of Kenilworth Road, and ultimately has helped the club to the Premier League.

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