Dean Brill: Winning the JPT with hometown club Luton was the pinnacle

Dean Brill celebrates Luton's Johnstone's Paint Trophy victory back in 2009Dean Brill celebrates Luton's Johnstone's Paint Trophy victory back in 2009
Dean Brill celebrates Luton's Johnstone's Paint Trophy victory back in 2009 | Getty
Former keeper discusses that magical day at Wembley

Winning the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at Wembley with his boyhood club was easily the highlight of former Town goalkeeper Dean Brill’s playing career.

The stopper was part of the side who saw off Scunthorpe United 3-2, 11 years ago last Saturday, to give their loyal supporters a glimmer of light in what had been a dark season, relegated out of the Football League after being deducted 30 points.

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Speaking exclusively to the Luton News about the occasion, Brill said: “To win, and the circumstances with it being my home club and the first real thing I’d won in my career, was really special.

“I was still only a young boy, 22, 23, so with what had happened and the history, what had gone before, knowing that it would be one of my last games for Luton, it was a special moment.

“I live in Toddington now, so I’m a Luton boy and all my friends were there that day.

“Even people I’ve met in later life are like, 'oh yeah, I was at the game.'

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"Funnily enough, my next door neighbour said 'I remember coming to that game,' so it was great from a personal point of view to have that and always have that now.

"That’s what those sort of occasions are.

"When you’re younger, you don’t really think like that, but as you get older, you think once you’ve done it, that’s it, no-one can take that away from you.

“I was lucky enough to play for my home town which not everybody gets to do, the way scouting is now, it was different when I was younger.

"It was really special, as you grow older you realise how special it actually was to be a part of and when it pops up on social media, it does make you think,' I was part of that.'

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Brill was actually playing his first game in the competition, having seen Conrad Logan and Lewis Price between the posts during the rounds.

Despite Price starring in the area final against Brighton, saving two penalties in the shoot-out, his loan from Derby wasn’t extended and it was Brill who took the gloves at Wembley.

He continued: “When people say about Johnstone’s Paint, I say, ‘I bet you don’t know I didn’t play in any of the games.’

“I started some games at the start of the season and then we had various different options for goalkeeper, in which was a bit of a crazy season full stop.

“I just don’t think it (Price’s loan) got extended.

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“We got to that point of the season where the points became too much to overturn, so I think the club were preparing for life at the next level and luckily enough I had the chance to play.”

The Hatters had been underdogs on the day, up against a United side, then in League One, who were to win promotion to the Championship through the play-offs that term.

With Town already on their way out of the Football League, unable to fight back from their hefty points deduction, the Trophy run had given some purpose to the campaign as Brill continued: “The circumstances of the season, the minus 30, it was hard to turn around for anybody.

"It was really thrown together the squad, it was a young team, and it was a shame, but the energy we created, it was always a together club, but the adversity tends to create a real togetherness.

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"I suppose if you put it with what’s happening in the country at the moment, everyone’s mucking together and hopefully it will bring everyone together.

"I remember the two centre forwards, (Paul) Hayes and (Gary) Hooper, were a really fancied partnership at the time, as Hooper went on to have a great career at a higher level.

"I’m sure if you look at their team there were players who had and did go on to have great careers, but I think if you look at the team we had, we had a few who went on too, as Chrissy Martin, has had a fantastic career."

A marvellously topsy-turvy game saw the Iron lead 1-0 through Gary Hooper, before Chris Martin levelled for Town, Tom Craddock then putting the Hatters in front with 20 left.

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Grant McCann made it 2-2 in the 88th minute, as Brill said: “All the goals were good finishes, Chrissy Martin was a really well-worked goal, then Tommy’s finish, a little half volley from the edge of the box, some great finishes to grace Wembley.

“I remember McCann getting it on his left foot and whacking it and as a goalie you just dive and I think you know sometimes ‘that’s beyond my reach, I’m just going to dive and see what happens.’

“It was a fantastic finish, but it does knock you a little bit.

"We had to defend quite readily in extra time, but I do remember just before their second, we were clinging on then as well, which you expect.”

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However, Luton fought off the disappointment immediately as five minutes into extra time, Claude Gnakpa raced through to beat Iron keeper Joe Murphy to the ball and loft home the winner.

As it dropped in, Brill started to believe it would be Town’s day, saying: “When that happens, I think you know.

“You come from behind to go in front, then you get pegged back and then the goal came out nowhere.

“It was just a hopeful ball forward and Claude being Claude chased it down, there was a little bit of a mix up and we benefited.

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“It took forever to drop into the goal. At the time you’re thinking, ‘that’s not going fast enough, someone is going to get back,’ but once that goes in, you kind of know.

“It’s a common one, it’s that ball in behind, tired legs and tired minds at that stage of the game.

"Luckily enough we benefited from it, I think Claude had only just come on, so maybe if that was Tom, Tom would have given up on it and said, 'you know what, we’re defending here,' but Claude’s fresh legs, it gave us that boost to see the game out.

“They (the fans) were behind me, when that went in, there was a big roar.

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"You get that feeling of ‘right,’ it probably gives you that extra boost you need to go on and see the game out.”

Once the final whistle went, it led to some wonderful scenes of celebration both on the pitch and the stands.

Brill added: “I think I jumped on Keano’s (Keith Keane) back and you don’t really know what to do, where to go, or how to act, especially being my first time really experiencing something as euphoric as that.

“I remember the second half, we were facing our fans, defending away from them and then Nico (Kevin Nicholls) legs it off to the fans.

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“There’s a great picture of me jumping on Keano’s back who I was good friends with, still am to this day, so it was a crazy moment.

“Then afterwards, it was just a sea of people, you know all your friends and family are there, but to pick them out in a sea of 45,000 people, it’s just a blur.

“You’re trying to celebrate with your friends on the pitch you want to be a part of it and then it was brilliant, it really was brilliant, a special day.”