Jones keeping tight-lipped over who will go in goal for Luton against Robins

Luton boss Graeme Jones will leave goalkeepers Simon Sluga and James Shea waiting until the last moment before finding out who will play against Bristol City tomorrow.

Monday, 21st October 2019, 4:26 pm
Simon Sluga in action for the Hatters this season

Summer signing Sluga has started every Championship game so far, but was badly at fault for both goals in the 2-0 defeat against Derby County last time out.

With Shea on the bench having signed a new long-term contract recently, plus impressing in all three of his Carabao Cup appearances this term, then it could be that Jones decides to change things for the first time in the league this campaign.

Although the manager himself already knows who will get the nod, he won’t be revealing that until just before kick-off, saying: “I’ve got 25 and a half hours to make a decision, so that’s what I’m going to do.

Town keeper James Shea

“I know, but I haven’t told the players the team yet, so with the greatest respect, I’m not going to tell anyone else.

“I treat everybody the same. If you double up in every position, everyone knows their role, there’s no such thing as an 11 and the rest, everybody gets treated the same

“I name the team at 1.30 and that will be no different tomorrow.

“I think the hard thing is to leave it late, the easiest thing is to get it off your chest, name the team and deal with it.

“But I think you give the opposition an advantage if it gets out.

“They’ve got agents and friends at other clubs, you tell one person, it always get leaked.

“I’d rather have any advantage kept in house at Luton Town, so that’s the only reason.

“Over the years, we and now me, have always worked that way, we treat everybody the same.

“You don’t know overnight if there’s going to be an illness or an injury.

“I’ve been involved as a player at clubs where ‘you 10 work on shape and set-pieces and you 14 are running and having a small-sided game,’ I don’t work like that so, that’s the reason.”

Although Town shelled out a club record fee of £1.3m for Sluga during the summer, that won’t cloud Jones’ judgement if he decides to drop the 26-year-old.

He continued: “I treat everybody the same. I try to be fair, I assess all the information and that’s what I’ll do in this situation.

“I’m only interested in performances, that’s the business I’m in, performances and results.

“I’ve got to make decisions for the best interests of this football club, that’s what I was appointed to do and I’ve done that so far.

“My conscience is absolutely clear on that and I’ll do the same tomorrow.”

On just how Sluga has been with the club after joining from Croatian side HNK Rijeka in the summer, his first venture into English football, Jones said: “He is an incredibly focussed professional, tunnel vision, totally committed to life as a football, life as a goalkeeper.

“To some extent you can care too much at times, but he’s obsessed with the game, with his role, with improvement, with perfection and I’ve got no complaints whatsoever about Simon Sluga professionally since he came to this country.

“He’s obviously been in an adapting phase that he’s gone through though and he’ll still be in that for a while as it just doesn’t come overnight.

“Very, very few come to this country and hit the ground running and I was reading today that the Championship was the most competitive league in the world.

“There’s four points separate the top 10, eight points separate the top two in the Premier League, six points in the Bundesliga, so it can catch anybody out, whether you’re English or Croatian, or wherever you’re from, there’s an adaptation period.

“I remember myself playing against a John Beck team or a Neil Warnock team, it was very different.

“Simon’s had that, his second league game here against Cardiff, so it was all new and it’s all about adapting, in the most competitive league in world football.

“That’s where we are, I think everyone needs to understand that.”

Since the County game, Sluga has been away with the Croatian squad, as he was an unused substitute for his country’s 3-0 win against Hungary in Split and then headed to Wales for a 1-1 draw.

Jones admitted he has looked fresh after his return, saying: “He came back to us on Tuesday and trained really, really well, trained really hard.

“Sometimes it’s the best way to get any frustrations, any mistakes out of your system.

“I’ve been delighted with how he’s applied himself, but he’s done that from the minute he came through the door.

“He’s a good professional, so I’m pleased with his reaction.

“We all make mistakes, every single player I’ve got down there, we’ve all made mistakes, it’s how you react to them.

“There’s no margin for error either. James Collins has been outstanding this season, scored five goals, misses a chance (against Derby), but there’s margin for error with James.

“I was a centre forward, I was the same, you missed that and you put one over the top, or you let one go under your foot, there’s no margin for error as a goalkeeper.

“That’s something that the responsibility that comes with that position, so I’m constantly assessing like I am in every position and that’s no different, so I’ll make the right decision.”

Meanwhile, on just how James Shea has handled losing his first time spot from last season, Jones reiterated: “He’s been perfect, very rarely have I seen that in the game, very rarely have I seen a character like him.

“The same, playing, winning promotion, not playing, the same character.

“So we’re lucky to have somebody like him at the football club and I really, really mean that.

“As well as being a really good goalkeeper he’s been a pleasure.”