No need Dubai a replacement for Henri Lansbury in January.
The players have just returned from a warm weather training week in Dubai. Fortunately it was geographically convenient for Ethan Horvath and Tom Lockyer to join up with the rest of the squad after their World Cup exits with the USA and Wales.
Upon returning from Dubai, Jordan Clark has had an interview with Mike Simmonds from Luton Today, giving some insight into how the intensive week of training was with Rob Edwards, Richie Kyle and Paul Trollope. Clark commented that “training has been really lively, really good” but “it’s up to the manager who he picks for the games coming forward”. Clark also remarked that “it’s a clean slate” and that it’s not as if he’s got favourites, he’s going to pick whoever he thinks is the best player for that position”. These comments are quite eye opening considering, throughout his time at Kenilworth Road, fans often pointed at Nathan Jones claiming that he had favourites, who would be played ahead of others. With Clarks’ comments together with Richie Kyle’s pedigree of working within youth systems, we might start to see the development squads being blooded into the first team slightly more, as Kyle said in an interview with Luton Today “there’s a good link with the academy” and that “we give players opportunities to go and perform, and if you’re good enough you’ll get that opportunity”.
It was no secret that Nathan Jones preferred to buy youth prospects for the first team rather than taking a risk on our own youngsters. We have seen throughout this and last season, development players Aiden Francis-Clark (18), Zack Nelson (19) and Casey Pettit (20) being selected in match day squads as well as Josh Williams (23) getting a few minutes in that poor Carabao Cup game against Newport County. From all these youth players I believe Casey Pettit is the prime candidate to make the step up and play first team football for the second half of the season, inc. Casey currently captains the development team, and has captained the U-18s and U-21s, showing his competence and leadership abilities. Away from football he already runs his own coaching company, as of 2021 was studying for his UEFA B coaching qualification, which demonstrates his tactical awareness, love of the game and pursuit for more knowledge. The new management team have been running the rule on Casey, as he was in Dubai with the first team during the warm weather camp, and played in the behind closed doors 1-1 draw with Reading. Although there isn't much data to analyse how Casey plays, you can qualitatively assess from bits and pieces scraped from social media. If you cast your mind to our penultimate pre season friendly against Peterborough, Pettit calmly intercepts a dangerous pass and showed his range of passing to send Cornick on his way to score a goal. He was also featured in the Luton Town training session videos dazzling the open training attendants with his flair.
This leads us to how the Hatters may set up under Rob Edwards, which will most likely be a 3-4-1-2, with two creative midfielders and a ‘10’ in front of them. This means you need two midfielders (a ‘6’ and an ‘8’ who have the energy to go box to box, with the technical ability to retain possession, carve out smart passes, press and tackle. Currently in the 6 and 8 roles, we have Lansbury, Pelly, Campbell, Clark, Freeman, Berry, Pettit, Nelson and Watson, of these 8, to avoid the ‘square pegs in round holes’ often seen during the Jones era, it would optimal for Clark, Freeman and Berry to be in contention for the ‘10’ role, with Campbell being able to play as a ‘6’ an ‘8’ or a ‘10’. This leaves us with Lansbury, Pelly, Pettit, Nelson and Watson competing for the ‘6’ and ‘8’ positions. As good as Henri has been for us, we cannot bank on him to remain fit throughout the second half of the season. This leaves us with one of our ‘10’ candidates to be shoehorned in, which is fine for Jordan Clark as he reads the game well and is energetic, but not great for Freeman, who is a great footballer, but you want him affecting the game nearer to the oppositions goal. Alternatively, with games coming thick and fast and injuries surely piling up as the season goes on, it provides a great opportunity to see what our highly regarded youth players can do.
Having Richie Kyle’s comments rattling around my head, it makes me feel that this is an exciting time to be a Luton fan. We will be able to get back to the days where there was a clear pathway from the youth teams to first team. Let’s get back to the days of Matt Taylor, Gary Doherty, Kelvin Davis, Curtis Davies, Paul Telfer, John Hartson, Emmerson Boyce and Matthew Spring, because once again there is gold in the academy - in particular our u18s who have scored 56 goals in 14 games having lost 1* - but sometimes all you need is someone like Richie Kyle who says ‘if you’re good enough, you’ll get that opportunity” and actually means it. *I would show the stats for Development squad too, but unfortunately they are not on the Luton Town website.