O’Donnell doesn’t want Hatters youngsters to be given a chance at his expense

Hatters full back Stephen O'Donnell
Hatters full back Stephen O'Donnell

Although the influx of young players at Kenilworth Road has drawn glowing praise from all quarters, there is one player who hopes it doesn’t happen at the expense of his own place his side.

Full back Stephen O’Donnell has found himself on the substitutes bench in recent weeks after losing his spot to teenager James Justin, one of a number who have come through the club’s academy.

I don’t want to give these young players a chance as when I played in the West Brom game, there’s plenty of players in those positions chomping at the bit to get the chance.

Stephen O’Donnell

However, when the youngster pulled up with a calf problem before kick-off at Leyton Orient on Saturday, O’Donnell was thrust into the fray at short notice.

On seeing Justin given his chance ahead of him recently, O’Donnell said: “It does affect you, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t, as you want to play every game. I don’t want to give these young players a chance as when I played in the West Brom game (in the EFL Trophy), there’s plenty of players in those positions chomping at the bit to get the chance.

“He’s (Justin) come in and done well, he’s looked not out of place but I knew that would be the case.”

O’Donnell was dropped from the side after the 2-0 Crawley Town defeat and he admitted he did speak to boss Nathan Jones about just why the decision was made.

He continued: “Yes definitely, that’s part and parcel of it. Maybe some players will hide, I want to know why I’m not playing and what I need to do to get in the team, what I did to get out of the team.

“Sadly part of that was some slack passes and I played one today. I didn’t feel it was as slack as it looked, but I need to make sure I cut that out.

“Two defeats put the team under pressure, he (Jones) needs to change something, it wasn’t good enough, and I was the one who came out.

“I’ve just got make sure the team’s winning and I’m in it, or I’m playing really well and it makes it difficult for him to change it.”

Despite only having a short time to prepare for the game, O’Donnell was ready to go, as he said: “I had about 20 minutes, so it was a good job I hadn’t tossed off the warm up!

“JJ pulled up in the possession, I think it’s his calf so that’s a bit worrying for him personally, but I got the call and had to be ready.

“Funnily enough the gaffer had done set-pieces with the full squad yesterday, so there wasn’t too many things that I didn’t know.

“It’s difficult (beforehand) as you’re trying to get the balance, you’re naturally a bit more relaxed as you’re not starting, you’ve not got the pressure of trying to get Luton back into League One.

“But I warm up quite well I’d like to think, I’m a pretty professional player, I got the call, I was fine.”

O’Donnell didn’t think there was any more pressure on him for the game despite knowing that he has been second choice recently.

He continued: “I was feeling a bit more relaxed, that’s football, I got dropped, that’s what happens, you work hard and that’s how it goes.

“I feel I was just waiting for an opportunity, I was working hard, no-one can say I had lost my enthusiasm to play and play for this club.

“So I was waiting for my chance which I knew would come as someone’s going to get injured or suspended or something.

“Whether that was in a couple of weeks, closer to January, that would have been a different thing, but it came soon enough and it was nice to be part of a win which was a first win in four games, so that was good and that’s us now six unbeaten as a club.”

The Scottish full back was critical of his own performance during the victory though, conceding he should have done more going forward.

He added: “I was a bit disappointed because we weren’t as free-flowing, I wasn’t getting forward, creating chances.

“The West Brom game I could have got two or three assists, I could have scored two goals and that’s how I want to play, that’s how I’ve played all my career.

“I just want to get back to that, but we need to as a team get back to that and hopefully that will happen.

“I think Jack (Marriott) and Hylts (Danny Hylton) did well upfront and we did well in behind that, but I felt the quality just wasn’t quite good enough, not where we want to be.

“We set goals at the start of the season and promotion is right at the top of that, but we wanted to get promoted in a fashion and a style, and that’s maybe not happened.

“We won nonetheless, a great result, it’s a tough place to come, new manager, they’d be up for it, we knew that.

“We managed to get the three points which is the most important thing, but I think I speak for the full squad when I say it would have been nice to win with a bit more pleasure, a bit more fluency.”

Meanwhile, O’Donnell is hoping he’s done enough to stay in the side for this weekend’s home game with Mansfield, adding: “The way the gaffer came in and set out his goals and this year we had to buy into it or we wouldn’t be here.

“We just need to get back to that but I’m sure we’ll be working hard Monday to get back to that.

“I hope I have done enough, but obviously I’m not the one to ask that, you can ask the gaffer and let me know if he says I’m playing!”