As previously promised, here is my take on those players who turned out for us in the 2009/10 campaign.
An excellent signing in the Summer – I don’t think MT let us down all year. Apart from his occasional kicking errors, which diminished as the season went on I think I witnessed only two clangers all year. However he made countless saves that kept us in games including some memorable full stretch tips over the bar. Well liked by the Kenny End he has rapidly become a fans favourite and is our best keeper for years.
Attainment: 9 Effort: Outstanding.
Ed continued his progress in the team this year, when injuries allowed and it was important to get some decent first team experience in non-league before stepping up to the league, which I suspect is where he will play the majority of his career. Though Ed is an excellent centre-half, it seems that RM has him nailed down in his original position at right back. On the downside Ed is occasionally dragged out of position, and also can be beaten for pace and made to look a bit silly at times. On the plus side, he continued to get forward once he and the team gained in confidence and showed that he is an adept crosser of the ball. He’s no Kevin Foley, but then again he has no Steve Howard to aim at either. Now Dan Gleeson has been signed he has genuine competition for his place.
Attainment: 7 Effort: Satisfactory
I’ve been accused of being too anti-Kev on here in the past. I don’t think I can add anything to those comments which always do the rounds on the message boards and also on here.
Kevin Nicholls loves this club, and demonstrated this by returning to us in our hour of need, but also demonstrates it by his passion and committment on the field. However, his spirit is willing but his flesh is weak. Successive injuries down the years have clearly taken their toll on him and he has lost the pace he had. Too many times last year non-league teams passed the ball around him and took the piss. Too many times he looked like my Grandad trying to keep up with my kids. It must be so frustrating for him. Sometimes that frustration boiled over into terrible panicky decisions towards the end of the game where Nico would time and time again press the self-destruct button and lunge in or play a mind-bogglingly daft back pass or hospital balls.
He has a choice ahead of him. I know he has a year left on his contract. RM has indicated that he is unlikely to play before Christmas as he is currently recouperating from another operation. Our rise up the table last year coincided with his absence. RM wants shot of him or at least wants shot of the player he had last year. KN has to show, once he is fit again that he has regained his former fitness and speed. If he can’t then we can’t afford to keep him. Rumours abound that we can’t afford to keep him anyway. He is truly at the crossroads. I genuinely hope that he manages to get back to his former self and his former fitness. No one can doubt his committment to the cause. Anyway, scores on the doors:
Attainment: 4 Effort: Outstanding
Poor old Rio – when I started to draft this he was still on the books, but now he’s been given his cards. Crowded out I think is the phrase. Too many strikers at the club for poor Rio to thrive. He had a partial run in the side earlier in the season and as you know I think he played well. I also think he has a good eye for goal – the most natural scorer we’ve got – or at least had. I genuinely wish him well in the future, and I will be watching his career closely.
Attainment: 5 Effort: Satisfactory
Another player who has since left. He has been signed by Oxford, presumably not to give the midfield any bite. Asa is an attacking midfielder who is good going forward, has a cracking shot on him and is a surprisingly good header of the ball. He had a good scoring rate for us, but this season didn’t quite live up to the expectations bred by last season’s good return and encouraging efforts. Dropping down a division doesn’t mean dropping down a gear, but somehow Asa seemed to a little. It didn’t help that tackling back and marking and playing at a high tempo is the opposite to Asa’s game, but that is precisely the midfielder Richard Money was looking for, and once Asa stopped starting for us the results picked up. Remember: Asa was the player dropped for Simon Heslop, and you know the instant success Heslop was – a breath of fresh air. Disappointing I guess that we had to let him go – but I guess in a hard-working midfield there is no room for luxury players. That said – he is still very young and learning his game. I hope I’ve not been too harsh.
Attainment: 6 Effort: Satisfactory
I felt sorry for Basham, 1 start: 2 goals. Didn’t he play well against Rochdale? But that was it and then he was gone. I thought he was the striker we’d been looking for all season but it wasn’t to be. I still think that Burgess’ through ball for his first goal was the best pass I saw all season (other than Keane’s goal against Oxford!). At least he leaves with being part of that memory. I bet he gets another hatful for Hayes next year. Probably against us…
Attainment: what can I say? Effort: hard to tell
The roaring lion. The Kenny End can breath easy again as its tormentor has not been signed. Plagued by injury for much of the year he didn’t play until mid September and was booked twice and sent off in his first three games. I’ll remember him best for the winner in the one nil at Barrow. He didn’t quite pull it off. He was certainly a handful and made all the difference when he came on against the hoofers from Hertfordshire. He has some big shoes to fill at this club, which is used to very good ‘big men’ up front. Perhaps because of his fitness he didn’t quite click. Again, I wish him well.
Attainment: 5 Effort: Satisfactory
What can I say about our Claude Le Crosse? He had a season of two halves – seemingly rejuvinated by his old ma’s soup. I’ll pay for her to live here if it’ll make a difference to Claude again next year. He is our flair player: our joker in the pack. You never know quite what you get. However this sporadic brilliance was transformed into a consistent and ever-present threat and danger from the second half of the Hayes game onwards. He, more than most, was the figurehead, the standard-bearer for our improvement. He was the barometer, the bellweather of how we were playing. If Claude was on song then the Hatters were on fire. If Claude was dreaming of the Dordognes then the rest of the team were playing as if they were on their hols. Once Claude was injured, towards the end, the wind went out of our sails and our confidence and form started to slip. As I’ve said before, once he was out of the team we remembered we were mortal again instead of having the supreme confidence of world-beaters. Bring on some more of that soup in August sil vous plait Mme Gnakpa.
Attainment: 8.5 Effort: seems to vary somewhere between outstanding and substandard. But mainly pretty damn good.
Rossi was another one who didn’t quite fit into any plans. Who was the real Rossi Jarvis? Right winger? Central midfielder? Holding midfielder? Poor lad doesn’t quite fit into any of them. Not fast enough to be a winger, not creative enough for the middle, and not good enough at tackling to hold. Saying that, he did show glimpses of brilliance at times and score some cracking goals. But in Richard Money’s brave new world he was an unaffordable luxury. I thought his best game for us was the Wembley final where he was the right hand player in a front three. His long ball which set up Luton’s first goal was sublime. All the best to you Rossi.
Attainment: 6 Effort: satisfactory
24 goals in the season was a fine return. A fine return for any striker. But it could have been so many more – remember earlier in the season when Tommy went months without scoring, when his confidence was rock bottom? I remember writing that when he found his shooting boots he’d be banging them in more often than a squaddy back from a tour of duty. One prediction I managed to get right!
But what would it have meant for the his goal tally if he had banged a few in during the dark months? What about netting a handful of the dozens of half chances he had? Would it have been 35? 40? Would it be unrealistic to think that if, if we stormed to success next season he got a hatful such as that? It would be a double-edged sword if he did as I am sure he would be nabbed from us by a league team. In any case, he has stiff competition next year now in the form of Danny Crow.
Craddock’s efforts to win the ball back and to work hard have been a noticable change to his game under Richard Money. Whilst always having an eye for goal in the slightly selfish way a striker always should he has nonetheless been hugely successful at setting up passes and opportunities for his team mates.
Attainment: 9.5 Effort: outstanding
We signed Ben from Peterborough (who else?) for a month on loan. He got a good goal on his first full start against Tamworth.
Attainment: 5.5 Effort: satisfactory
Callum was signed from Portsmouth at the start of the season on a long loan. He made a few appearances, looked quite good going forwards, but was not able to overlap, and lacked the confidence to cross. He got injured then and presumably went back to Portsmouth never to be seen again.
Attainment: 3 Effort: substandard
Janos signed as long ago as January can you believe? I was initially concerned as I was told that he was trouble – why else would Lincoln let him go when he had been player of the season? – but nothing seems to have transpired in the dressing room since then so perhaps the rumours were wrong.
Defensively he is pretty sound, and mostly ideal at this level. But, there’s always a ‘but’ and you know what I’m going to say don’t you? Great in the air, capable of excellent vision and passing, but turns slower than a tortoise on sedatives.
Lost his place towards the end of the year to a fit again Blackett, but certainly reliable when picked.
Attainment: 7 Effort: satisfactory
Speak of the devil – it’s Shane’s turn. Sent off in the first game of the season – alarm bells were ringing. Played at centre half and then reappeared as a piss-poor left back. Then, under Money transformed into a tidy centre half. It was Blackett who didn’t give Tubbs or Obubade a sniff in those key games. It was his ability which got him the nod over Kovacs – Blackett’s average performance is marginally better than Kovacs, however, unlike Kovacs whose errors are more common but smaller, Blackett does have a down-side: periodically he makes big game-losing clangers.
After the Cambridge game he was dropped, seemingly never to reappear. But reappear he did and partnered Pilks in a successful defence, whilst always being the junior partner.
Attainment: 7 Effort: satisfactory
Made one start (and two sub appearances) stubbed his toe and has been swinging the lead ever since.
I seem to recall he has spent quite a lot of his time at the club “off sick”. It is hardly any wonder that we are looking to recruit an additional left back as cover for Murray, because Porno is never there when you need him. Last chance saloon for Mr Emmanuel. His decline as a player has mirrored our tumble down the leagues. To think, when Newell signed him we were a Championship side. If he was Championship material when we signed him, how come he doesn’t stand out when he plays? The truth is of course he was signed from a club that had been relegated and wasn’t good enough to play at Championship level. He did have a very good game in the Wembley final but that was soooo long ago. Get well soon Porno.
What can I say? How can I rate him? I can’t of course.
Adam Newton plays-for-Luton
What can be said about AN that hasn’t been said on these pages already? He promised so much at the start of the season, giving us some much needed width and a glimpse of the skill which graced the Premiership (I kid you not). His freak winner against Barrow meant that he was warmed to by the crowd, but by the time we played Southampton in the cup his confidence was at as low an ebb as any player I can think of, and the unbelievable miss pushed it to new depths. For a while perhaps he became the player we loved to hate, especially when in one game in particular he singularly failed to close down his man who proceeded to create chance after chance against us, having been given a free run. At this point I thought the writing was on the wall. But Money started to play him regularly at right back now that Keane was picked in the holding role. Apparently right back is his no1 position, despite big Mick signing him as a winger. He functioned okay at right back, before Ed came back to claim his place. He certainly seemed a bit more confident there anyway.
I suspect his days are numbered, having signed Gleeson as another right back. Perhaps Adam is going to warm the bench as potential cover for Claude or for Gleeson/Ed. Who’s to say? Must be difficult for him and I feel for him a little as he comes across as a nice lad. There must be much more to come from him and I hope he does well next year, if he gets a chance.
Attainment: 5.5 Effort: mmmm…at times lacklustre other times much better…borderline satisfactory.
Shown the door,
Played three games and not one more.
Poor Shane – eminently likeable, always did his bit, played well in his three games without setting the world on fire. He was on a temporary contract until January and then signed until the end of the season. As I said in my note when he left, if he had been a genuine contender for Tyler’s place, RM wouldn’t have signed Kevin Pilks when MT got injured. Another player who I wish all the best to for the future, though I suspect he will end up at the likes of Chesham United or back at East Thurrock.
Attainment: 6.5 Effort: outstanding
M B-H made his debut in December, carrying a big reputation with him after success at Kidderminster. No one was quite sure what sort of player he was. Is he big? Can he hold the ball up? Is he quick? “Well – not really” would have been the answer to all of these. However he does have a canny eye for goal as he showed with the winner against Stevenage. For much of the first half of his time with us he was labouring whilst his step-father was dying, and this seemed to affect his game. He certainly had a new lease of life and a fresh chance when he returned shortly afterwards and his mediocre performances to date were put behind him. I’m still not sure if he is the right player for us – the jury’s still out. He certainly does well as a fresh set of legs to come on and terrorise the opposition near the end of the game. Next season will demonstrate if he has what it takes to score goals for us. I want him to do well.
Attainment: 6 Effort: satisfactory
I think I saw the total extent of Taylor’s involvement this season when he came on as sub against Grays in the cup. In the short time he was on, he looked lively and sharp and even crossed for a goal. Shame really that he is not fast tracked into the first team squad. I am sure in most other clubs in this division he would be playing week in week out. I’d hate to see him let go at the end of next year without being given much of a chance to prove himself at this level, and signing Nelthorpe on loan was a bit of a kick in the teeth. Jakey Howells has the left wing spot for the moment, I’d love for TN to start to challenge him for the position.
We are the club who enabled KG to achieve his first first-class hat trick – we must now have a special place in his heart, and I am delighted that he is no longer on the transfer list and has done enough to earn another season’s contract. His record for us is excellent – overall his goal tally is one goal every three games, whilst his record last season was nearer one goal in two. These bare statistics alone don’t illustrate the totality of what he brings to the team. His vision, touch and ability to bring others into play was a key factor to us finishing 2nd overall.
How many times last year was he able to lay the ball off or do that unique turn that he has and set shots up for the rest of the team? Time and time again his experience allows him to play exactly the right ball at the right time. However, he seemed to have a season of two halves. Whilst his touch and ability was still there at the start of the season, he didn’t really seem to come into his own until plopped on the transfer list by Money in January. I don’t know if it was a lucky coincidence or a classical piece of man-management, but what I do know is that he scored 9 goals in 8 games in March and April.
Attainment: 8 Effort: first half of the season satisfactory, second half of the season outstanding.
On Facebook I asked for some ‘H’s to describe Jake – Andrew Archer duly obliged with Honest, home-grown, hopeful, headstrong, hard-working Hatter which sums him up pretty well! He is another player who had an outstanding season and who benefited from having his role clarified and then exploited by the manager.
There we were wondering if Jake was in fact a good left back or a handy left midfielder, when all along he was in fact an excellent winger. My God, at times last year he played brilliantly well. Brilliantly well. Some of the football linking with Craddock and the gang was truly sublime. Reminiscent of times gone by and a certain Mr Moss (though Jake can head the ball). If he continues to improve and grow (physically as well) then we have on our hands a very real prospect.
So many goals and great passes to comment on – I’ve already done 3,000 words so I don’t have time or space. But I was mightily impressed with Jake’s season.
Attainment: 9 Effort: outstanding
“Who is this player?” we chorused against Mansfield, suddenly we had a left back who was competent defensively and who linked up with Burgess down the left like they’d been playing together for years: it was reminiscent of Sol and Unders. Unfortunately, like so often, Big Mick wasn’t watching the same game, and fate and poor management conspired to ensure that this dream ticket was never to be repeated and fluttered away on the winds of time.
Freddie Murray didn’t flutter away however and was pretty much ever-present at left back (other than a few dalliances with Blackett and Howells) for the rest of the year. What can we say about Freddie? He can’t take throw ins – but when he does and one manages to stay on the pitch we often score shortly afterwards. Is he quick? No – and regularly gets outpaced on the left. But he does what he does in a tidy and competent way – not for him the huge clangers that Blackett brings. His mistakes tend to be more frequent but much less fatal!
Matt Taylor he isn’t, but he managed to do a sound and unsung job for the majority of the time.
Attainment: 6.5/7 Effort: satisfactory
Mark has lightning in his boots, or so I’m told. We saw so little of him, other than an occasional substitute appearance that it is in fact hard to believe he was on the pitch for long enough to score us a goal. But score he did against Rotherham at the end of November to give us a glimpse of what might have been. If he had been fully fit, I suspect his pace would have been lethal. As it happens Money’s patience ran out and off he toddled back to Dagenham and Redbridge without making much of an impact (other than on the subs bench). To be fair to him he was still playing at Staines Town 18 months before he signed for us so to think of him as a league player (yes, Dagenham and Redbridge are actually a league club!) might be a bit keen.
I wish him well – I’m sure he will get someone a bucketload of goals, if they know how best to play him.
Attainment: 5 Effort: satisfactory
Not many non-league teams can ever have had a goalkeeping pairing as strong as Tyler and Pilkington. What an able deputy he was in MT’s absence. He’s joined us for next season and I’m sure he didn’t come to the club to warm the subs bench all year.
Attainment: 6 Effort: satisfactory
The big man came back and joined us for 16 games reminding us of what we have been missing all these years before buggering off back to the North East only to be relegated to non-league. Alan White stands there and nods long balls away all day, that’s what he does, and he does that well enough. He also reminded me that he is in fact a ticking human bomb waiting to go off. How many times did we see those mad-stary eyes storm off at half time, seemingly at war with the rest of the world?
Attainment: 5 Effort: satisfactory
One for the future, our Adam is well thought of and is likely to benefit from the tutelage of Alan Nielsen next year. As for this year he came on against Southampton for 10 minutes or so, did quite well – though not as well as Taylor Nathaniel did and I am sure we will see more of him in the future.
Eight appearances and eight brief flashes of left-wing brilliance. Always seemed to look lively when brought on. And very impressive in the warm ups.
Remember him? Sorry – I can’t! Four sub appearances on his loan spell from Plymouth and he went onto get four goals for Stockport in the league.
So down to the last three – and what a last three. I’ve left my three favourite players for the end because of the impact they had on the season – I know one of them will definitely be back next year, I suspect our success will be down to whether or not the other two are also returning.
In April I bumped into a Barnsley fan who works in the same organisation as me. “You’ve got our Heslop” he said, “Is he any good?” Lost for superlatives temporarily I simply said this: “He has single-handedly transformed our team”. Which I think is fair enough. Now, I’ve watched quite a few Luton games down the years – I estimate around 500 to 600 and I can think of only a handful of players who have made such a difference to our team in such a short space of time. Two others who leap to mind are Rory Allen (you knew I was going to say that) and Tony Godden. I’m more than happy for people to let me know of others with a similar impact (in fact I’ll start a separate thread in a few days).
Heslop’s impact was immediate. We were like a new team when he started. I pinched myself. Suddenly we had a midfield with two players who could press, harry and tackle. What a delight for Keane not to have either a pensioner or a passenger alongside him. I recall doubting the benefit of having two ‘defensive’ midfielders in the middle of the park. How wrong I was.
Heslop finally allowed Money to deploy what I presume is his favourite game plan – to close teams down from the front and to play high tempo passing football. A must of course for Hatters fans – and Heslop was a sight for sore eyes and manna from heaven. His harassment of the opposition was second to none but also his touch and passing were the catalyst for our conversion from also-rans to contenders. He was looking knackered at the end and no bloody wonder.
Can’t shoot for toffee though….
Attainment 9 Effort: outstanding
Captain reliable and first name on the teamsheet. All you ever need from a centre half: dependable, good positioning, a cool head and an ability to read the game. In his 49 appearances this year you could count his cock ups on the fingers of one hand and I am delighted that he has signed for another two years. On top of his defending he also managed to come up with six goals, five of which were Tuesday nights under the lights at home until he blotted his copybook by scoring away to Tamworth. Who can forget his equaliser against Oxford?
And he became a Dad this year – fortunately he has had good practise at tears and tantrums having Alan White in the changing room this season; and being the captain of our club will already have prepared him and conditioned him for the sleepless nights.
Outstanding George – all of those awards were well-deserved, thanks for sticking with us.
Attainment: 9 Effort: Outstanding
My player of the year. At times he single handedly bossed the team and the midfield without little help, but Keano did it without making a fuss and just by working hard in his unsung way on the field.
To think that I saw him as the weakest link when he was Foley’s deputy when we were in the Championship. I did at least until that cracking goal against West Brom on the telly when I had to start eating my words. Perhaps at Championship standard he wasn’t quite up to it when he was a younger man, but he has gone from being a very young pup under Newell to a veteran of nearly 200 games since then. He is the player who has been on our books for the longest unbroken time and a senior member of the team, despite still only being 23 years old. Perhaps if a pass goes astray occasionally or if he breaks a bit of the stand with his free kicks we should forgive him a little bit more: he is still learning his trade. And think of the turmoil and chaos he has been learning his trade in.
At last he is now being played in his best and preferred position of central midfielder. The management team have appeared to have finally settled on this and it is no coincidence that his return to the centre of the park (and his partnership with Heslop) rather than being played at right back or centre half coincided with our fabulous run. It is to Keano’s eternal credit that he is equally adept at right back (if a little slow) whilst being able to out-jump most strikers when playing at centre half.
It was Keith Keane who kept Ryan Babel in his pocket in the 1-1 draw against Liverpool (remember that when watching Holland in the World cup) and it was Keane who played the through ball for Gnakpa for the winner at Wembley last year.
He also added a ‘Brko’ moment to the history of Kenilworth Road by scoring directly from the corner with the last kick of the game against Oxford. No one there will forget that moment, nor will those listening on the radio who heard Simon Pitt’s fantastic commentary on the goal.
So I could continue to wax lyrical about Keano but I won’t as I have typed about 4,500 words and my fingers hurt. Suffice to say that I think his determination and drive and energy are exactly what this club always needs, and he never, ever lets us down.
Attainment: 9.5 Effort: Outstanding.
So I think that is the entire playing force for last season, I hope my comments have been fair – I’ve gone on what I’ve witnessed myself and the impressions the players made. It is a credit to Richard Money that so few of the players get a ‘substandard’ effort rating. Whilst in the past I got a distinct impression from some of the players that they really couldn’t be bothered ( for example I would love to have scored Goodall, Jackson, Pescisolido et al) that is not the case now. However we perform under Richard Money it isn’t for want of trying.
I’m off to bed now. Bon Anniversaire to Claude for today.