King not ready to be Hatters’ number one just yet

Town keeper Craig King
Town keeper Craig King

Luton youngster Craig King is not ready to be considered as Town’s number one yet according to boss Nathan Jones.

The 19-year-old has played four times for the Hatters this term during the Checkatrade Trophy, but when Christian Walton was recalled by Brighton on deadline day, rather than promote King from the bench, Jones brought in Stuart Moore and Matt Macey from Reading and Arsenal respectively.

He’s not ready yet to be our number one, to make the step up. I don’t feel that. That’s an honest thing, I said that to him.

Nathan Jones

On why he didn’t opt for King, who came through the ranks at Kenilworth Road, Jones said: “With Craig, I spoke to Craig not long ago and he’s shot up.

“This time last year he probably wasn’t in our first team plans, but he’s had such a rise and a development that he’s pushed himself into those plans.

“Now I spoke to him the other day and he’s not ready yet to be our number one, to make the step up. I don’t feel that. That’s an honest thing, I said that to him.

“So we said, we’ll continue his development, it might need a loan just to give him more game time, but we really like him.

“He’s done very well when he’s played here, he really has. It’s just I don’t feel that he’s ready to be that number one yet.

“It’s going to be a big second half of the season, there’s some big games and I think it would be foolish of us to go into it just relying on Craig King.

“Yes, I’m very bold with my young players and I will put them in, but it’s putting them in at the right time and the goalkeeper one is a real tricky one.

“It was a gamble to bring Christian in. Christian had played in the FA Cup against Tottenham, played in the Championship for two games, played for England U21s, had two loan spells in the league and it was still a gamble.

“So for Craig it’s even more so. But Craig understands that and he knows that we rate him here, but he’s still on his pathway to development.”

Since Jones has been at the club, he has mainly brought in loan keepers since Mark Tyler left, including Jonathan Mitchell and Walton.

Both have had their stints at Town ended prematurely though, with their parent clubs taking them back ahead of schedule, and on why he didn’t bring in a keeper on a permanent basis during the window, Jones added: “We did look at a permanent one and the options for a permanent one are there, but it’s just to get someone out of their club is a difficult thing.

“So there was the urgency that was required because we didn’t think we were losing Christian.

“We had lists of emergency keepers, but then when Christian went back, it was probably at the last moment.

“As if Niki (Maenpaa) hadn’t got injured we’d have gone past the window and he couldn’t have been recalled anyway, so it was a real hard one for us to take.

“But this season we felt we were going to do down the loan route as we felt they were the best options.

“Now if one becomes available permanently then we’ll take them, but there’s some real good, good youngsters out there that are proactive, that we like, that play how we like to play.

“So it’s a minimum maintenance on them really and getting them up to speed.”