Jones believes Justin could be a Premier League player

Hatters boss Nathan Jones believes young defender James Justin has the ability to play in the Premier League during his career.

Friday, 21st December 2018, 9:16 am
Updated Thursday, 10th January 2019, 10:32 am
Town defender James Justin with his EFL Young Player of the Month award

The 20-year-old who came through the ranks at Kenilworth Road, was named EFL Young Player of the Month yesterday, an award which covers all 72 clubs from the Championship to League Two.

Justin, who has been with the Hatters since 2005, winning the Aarau Masters as an U11, beating Bayern Munich in the final, has since gone on to make 88 first team appearances for the Hatters, scoring six goals in that time.

He has earned England U19 and U20 call-ups during his 13 years with the club, and when asked how good he could be, Jones, who was also a full back himself, said: “He’s better than me, I’ll tell you that!

“But he can do whatever he wants to as athletically, he can handle the top level, the Premier League, then it’s about his learning curve then.

“It’s about how he handles defensively positioning, one v ones, all the things, but he has the tools to play at the very highest levels.

“It’s early in his career and there’s no point just getting there, when you get there, you want to be able to impact and continue your career, and that’s why believe in the process here.

“He’s part of that process, he believes in it, so do the people look after him, his family and so on, and we’re very, very, very pleased to have him.

“He’s homegrown which adds a little cherry on top of it as well, so we’re very, very delighted with him."

Although Jones clearly has high hopes for his young defender, he knows full well there is plenty of work to getting the opportunity to play alongside the elite players in the top flight.

He continued: “He’s nowhere near the finished article yet.

“He has attributes which mean he can play at a very high level, but he’s still learning his trade and makes the odd error now and again, or things that we see that he can improve on and that’s a constant process with him, with all of our players really.

“There’s no-one in our side, even the likes of (Alan) Sheehan and (Alan) McCormack who are still learning and getting better and adding consistency over a big period of time.

“We want to develop everyone, but he has to learn his trade now and he’s shown that he has tools, shown that he has real potential, so now it’s about fulfilling that.”

Justin hasn’t had it all his own way though, as after breaking into the first team during the 2016-17 season, he was then restricted to just 17 league appearances last campaign, 10 of them starts, with the emergence of Jack Stacey at right back.

Even this term, Justin started on the bench to begin with until Dan Potts went down injured against Walsall in October.

Since then, he has taken his chance superbly on the left hand side, playing 10 league and FA Cup games in a row, scoring twice, with Town keeping six clean sheets as well, keeping the fit-again Potts, who was in the League Two Team of the Year, out of the side.

On biding his time to earn his place back, Jones said: “He’s such a humble kid, he comes from a great grounding with the family.

"His father’s a big Luton fan and a very humble guy, driven guy, but a humble guy and that transcends all the way to James and his character, he’s been exemplary.

"There are good people looking after him as well in terms of the representatives, they understand what we’re doing here and that’s a big, big thing, but James has been exemplary too.

"His attitude in terms of his application, he’s never, every gone backwards and that’s the biggest thing.

"As long as not one point is he going backwards or standing still even, then that’s when they stop trusting the process, but he hasn’t stopped trusting it and he’s at a very, very good level.

“I don’t think he can be in any more spotlight in terms of the age, playing regularly and the level he’s at now.

"We’re very proud of him for that and he’s had to show a lot of maturity in his fledgling career because he’s been very harshly at times not in the team, but that’s the level of the squad we’ve got and he’s got on with it.

"He’s trained well, he’s got his opportunity and he’s taken it, he comes with a big reputation for a young boy."

Since his rise from youth team to first team, Justin has had plenty of interest from clubs higher up the leagues trying to acquire his services, with barely a transfer window going without the full back being linked to teams from the Championship and Premier League.

However, when asked how much he would be worth to the club, Jones said: “There’s no value on him.

"It’s not just about James Justin, they’re all at a good level at the minute and anyone that covets anyone, then we’re a strong club and we believe in the processes, where we’re going, where we want to be and to do that you’ve got to keep your best players.

“So that’s not a decision, or a value for me to put on him, but we’re not looking to put a price on anyone, we just want to add value.

With the window opening shortly, there is bound to be more interest in Justin and Town’s others stars who have led the Hatters to second in League One.

On whether Justin would be toughest to keep hold of next month, Jones added: “No, not necessarily, the hardest one could end up being a young lad who doesn’t want to be here.

"But if someone wants to be here, if the people looking after him and his family want to be here, and we want him here, it takes something silly or unbelievable to get him.

"So they’re all in a good place at the minute, they all believe in what we do.

"That’s the best thing for a manager, that’s why I love being here, because I’ve got a group of players that love and believe in what we do, and that’s all we can do.

"So I don’t envisage it being difficult to keep hold of them because I believe they want to be here.”