Keeping a clean sheet against boyhood team Norwich City at Carrow Road on Saturday was a dream come true for Town keeper Mark Tyler, writes Mark Wood.
The 35-year-old stopper pulled off two great saves to deny Simeon Jackson and Grant Holt on the day and was also indebted to the woodwork and Alex Lawless for denying former Hatter Leon Barnett as Tyler realised a lifelong ambition of playing at Carrow Road.
The popular Luton keeper revealed that he used to watch the Canaries from the River End with his parents as a kid, and they were in attendance as he put one over on his first club.
He said: “It was an unbelievable day. It’s where I started, this is where I wanted to be as a little boy playing football. So to come back here and play and keep a clean sheet means the absolute world to me and my family.
“I started here when I was nine. Kit Carson spotted me when I was playing for my local team East Harling Colts and I left Norwich when I was 14 to sign associate schoolboy forms at Peterborough.
“I’ve been back here for Hull City when I was sub, but to actually play here is a dream come true. It’s great for the family and and I just didn’t want to disappoint them.
“I stood on a crate because I was a titch. My mum and dad we used to come to every home game and watch Bryan Gunn, so definitely still a Norwich fan.
“My dad was in one of the boxes. I think they were just proud of me to come back here and play as it brings memories for them as well.
“I’ve played at Wembley twice but when you come back to your own club where you started. I know I was only a young lad, but this is where it all started for me, this is where I wanted to be to be a professional footballer.
“You don’t get these opportunities very often so you’ve got to grab them with both hands.”
Tyler, though, was modest as ever about his contribution on the day as Town defended superbly against their Premier League opponents.
“The boys did brilliantly in front of me, limited them to two chances,” he continued. “We had our gameplan, like we did against Wolves. They had a lot of possession around the halfway line, but we were solid, they didn’t break us down really.
“We countered the second half, the subs made the impact and it was a great finish from Rens (Scott Rendell).
“I didn’t really have much to do. That’s my job, that’s why I want to be a professional footballer to make saves, so the boys in front of me were incredible. To have a quiet day in front of goal it was good.
“I go about my business quietly, you’ve got to enjoy occasions like this and I think the hard part about was the emotional side, coming back here and playing.
“I had my dad here, my mum. I could fill that stand with the people that wanted to come. It’s a great day for the club, it’s massive for us.”
On Lawless’ goal-line clearance, he continued: “That’s what set-pieces are for. As soon as it goes over Alex’s head he’s back on the line, he’s doing his job and we go through all of that before the game. It was nice to see Alex there and kicking it off the line.”
With Norwich on a dismal run of just one win from seven games going into the match, Town’s players were always eyeing a shock.
Tyler said: “We were quietly confident. They haven’t had the best of runs the last seven games. I think we are hard to play against now. We are full of confidence, this is our fourth clean sheet in five games and we’re solid and like I said it was a great gameplan, the staff have been brilliant.
“We had two day’s training at Ipswich and we sorted everything out there.
“The supporters were magnificent, we could probably fill the stadium with our supporters, so they’re our 12th man when we come to places like this.
“It’s for them, it’s for the club, and hopefully it’ll get us back on the map but our main objective is to get promotion.”
All of Luton’s stars were exhausted after the final whistle, but celebrated wildly in the dressing room.
Tyler added. “I was sitting in the corner out of the way, mentally tired for me, not physically. We’ve got a good group of lads here at the moment and I think the gaffer’s trying to install a bit of belief and we showed it in the two games in the FA Cup so hopefully it will be a good season for us.
“You’ve got to enjoy days like this, it’s massive coming to a club like this and winning. But like I said our bread and butter is Barrow on Saturday. We are looking forward to that.
“I think a lot of the young lads will take inspiration from this and hopefully they can either play in front of crowds like this week in, week out, or hopefully get Luton Town back where they belong.”
Striker Jon Shaw was full of praise for Luton’s number one, adding: “Any Luton fan that’s watched him for the last few years will tell you he’s clearly the best keeper in our standard, if not the standard above, and we’re lucky to have him because he’s pulled saves off.
“Whether Norwich look back 20 years and say they wish they hadn’t got rid of him. The teams that have had him have had a great keeper for the last 20 years.”