Berry always believed he could break back in at Luton
Hatters midfielder Luke Berry had always remained confident he could break back into the reckoning at Kenilworth Road after making his first Championship start of the season on Saturday.
The 27-year-old hadn’t featured in the league since late September, playing a total of just 13 minutes in the second tier of English football this term and not included in the recent match-day squads either.
However, with Izzy Brown out for 10 weeks after suffering a hamstring injury in last week’s 7-0 thrashing at Brentford, Berry was brought into the side for the match with Wigan on Saturday, Luton running out 2-1 winners, retaining his place for Tuesday night's 3-0 defeat at Stoke City too, although was substituted at half time.
The former Cambridge had thought there might have been a chance after Town’s hefty defeat at Griffin Park last week, saying: “You always think there could be changes, but it doesn’t really enter your head.
“All you think about is the next training session to try and impress, try and keep fit, keep working hard .
“If it comes in his (manager Graeme Jones) mind that ‘Berry’s ready, lets put him in,’ then you’re ready.
“That’s what you’ve got to do, keep being ready when possible.
“I always prepare, even the last few months, I’ve been preparing like I’ve been playing, so the same sort of thing.
“I always feel I’m capable of playing in the team, that’s never been in doubt.
“It’s just making sure I keep my fitness levels and everything up to scratch, that’s the key.”
“I can’t step off the gas now, I need to keep working, try and put a regular place into the team, that’s the aim.”
After recovering fully from his sickening injury suffered against Colchester in the 2017-18 campaign and going on to play 21 times as Town won the League One title last term, Berry admitted it had been difficult being on the periphery this term.
He continued: “It is tough, but you need to just keep working.
“The manager makes his team and makes his decisions.
“You’ve just got to respect that and not get too down about it, keep working hard and finally it’s paid off.”
Berry admitted that he was always kept involved by Jones, who he had sought out to discover what was needed to improve, giving him the best chance of breaking back into his first team thoughts.
He said: “He told me what I needed to do and needed to work on.
“I asked him, ‘what can I do to get into the team?’ And he was honest.
“So I’ve had to go out on the training field and do whatever I can to try and get into the team and it’s paid off.
“I just need to keep working on things, that’s the main thing.
“As a player you want to know, that’s the key, you want to know what you need to do to get into the team and that’s the best thing.”
On what the aspects were that Jones felt could be improved, Berry said: “Just physically, get stronger, make sure I’m ready for this league, and just understand my role in the team.”
Berry was used at the tip of the diamond last weekend, a position he is more than accustomed to, as he said: “Any position in the midfield, I’m comfortable with, but I like to get forward and get goals, and try and get assists.
“I feel free there that I can do that kind of thing.
“I was delighted to get out on the grass again, it’s been a while since I started a proper competitive game.
“Leicester was the last one, but league games, I haven’t started this season.
“It was really good to get out there, I was really enjoying it, just running about and having a good go.
“I had a little inkling, but the gaffer doesn’t say the team until a couple of hours before the game, so I didn’t really know officially.
“I like the intensity of playing, that’s the best thing, I was pleased with how sharp everything was.
“It was really good, just a real learning curve to keep pushing forward.”
Boss Jones had also been impressed with how the midfielder got on during his first start at this level.
He said: “I really enjoyed Luke Berry’s performance because if you play Luke at the tip of the diamond or the bottom of the diamond, he’s still got that spatial awareness.
“He’s an intelligent footballer, plays on the half turn, finds space, but more than anything during that period he’s been an outstanding professional.
“So when his chance came through injury to Izzy, he was ready to take it and that’s such an important quality at any football club that you’ve got those type of boys that can come in and perform.”
Berry’s showing also caught the eye of team-mate George Moncur, even though the two are in direct competition for the number 10 role.
He said: “I thought he was quality to be fair.
“They play my position, but if you’re a good player, fair play to you, I’ll take my hat off to you as you deserve to play and he showed it, I thought he was quality."
The display came as no surprise to attacker Callum McManaman either, as he added: "I said a few weeks ago, the lads who haven’t been in the squad are good players, it’s a good squad.
"The lads who haven’t been getting in the 18 proved that, Luke started, George has come on and got the winner, so we can’t ask much more than that."