The Return of Sheehan
This article featured in the official Luton Town matchday programme for the game against Bournemouth (15/1/22), in the 'Dylan's Diary' column.
‘Sheehan, Sheehan, Sheehan’ has been a familiar cry from the Kenilworth Road stands since the Irishman first graced its hallowed turf in January 2016. It took new Town boss Nathan Jones just 16 days to secure his first signing in the form of Bradford City’s left footed centre-half with Luton sitting in 17th place in League Two.
Fast forward six years and now those cries are directed at the dugout, where Luton’s former captain now takes his place on the bench alongside Jones. It marks a journey that had a sense of inevitability about it after four phenomenal years at the club.
It didn’t take long for Hatters fans to become well acquainted with their new man’s sweet left foot. As the Hatters trailed on a cold Tuesday evening at against Yeovil Town, it was Luton’s new signing who stepped up to sweetly volley home from an acute angle, sticking the ball into the far stanchion and earning the Hatter a late point.
Whilst that proved to be the only goal of his initial loan spell at the club, it was quickly obvious that Luton had signed a defender with distribution that was above the level, with Sheehan’s fired switches of play and dangerous set-pieces providing the foundation for Jones’ Luton revolution.
But it wasn’t Sheehan’s contributions on the pitch that created an air of inevitability surrounding a future return to Kenilworth Road – after all, an array of talent and experience has passed through this part of Bedfordshire in recent years, but the case of a possible Sheehan return felt different.
It’s easy to forget that as club captain, Sheehan only made 4 league starts in Luton’s League One title winning campaign. That statistic is even more surprising given that 3 of those 4 starts came in the opening 3 games of the season. But it was this period where Sheehan showed himself to be the type of leader and character that new manager Jones sought to build the club around in January 2016.
With the Hatters immersed in an unbeaten run that lasted from October to April, a centre-half pairing of new-signings Matty Pearson and Sonny Bradley that conceded just 37 goals in 43 games, and James Justin and Jack Stacey proving an unstoppable in the full-back positions, Luton’s skipper could very easily have asked for a January move that would’ve guaranteed him game time. But the integrity and leadership qualities that he showed to place the collective ahead of the individual was a crucial cog in the Hatters going on to win promotion to the Championship.
Nathan Jones has always spoken about the importance of signing good characters as well as good players. With it now being the third time that Jones has signed Sheehan after a loan spell, permanent move, and now as a coach, it speaks volumes about how highly regarded he is by Jones and how much he adds to the environment at Kenilworth Road.