Harford spotted Adebayo at Fulham U23s although admits signing was a joint decision

Town number two on recruitment of Walsall striker on deadline day

Friday, 19th March 2021, 10:59 am
Updated Friday, 19th March 2021, 11:00 am
Elijah Adebayo in action for Luton against Coventry

Luton assistant manager Mick Harford revealed that new signing Elijah Adebayo first caught his eye when playing for Fulham U23s earlier in his career, but didn’t want to take all the credit for his recent addition to the Hatters ranks.

The 23-year-old started out at Craven Cottage, scoring 13 goals in 37 games with nine assists for the U23s, but didn’t ever get his first team shot with the Cottagers.

He had loan spells at Swindon Town and Stevenage, then joining Walsall on a permanent basis in June 2019, netting 18 in 65 for the Saddlers, before a switch to Kenilworth Road for an undisclosed fee on transfer deadline day last month.

When asked how the signing came about, Harford, who had been the club's head of recruitment until Nathan Jones' return as manager saw him named number two, said: “I saw him a few years ago playing for Fulham U23s and he went off to Swindon.

“I wouldn’t say I’d earmarked him down, he was a young kid then and was 18, 19 years old, so fair play to him, he went to Walsall and did fantastically well there.

“He was just flagged up and we all made an agreement to sign him.

“I wouldn’t say it was anyone specifically who said ‘we’ve got to sign him, we’ve got to go and get him’.

“He was just flagged up and we all agreed it would be a good asset for the football club.

“In terms of him being on the pitch, he’s very effective at what he does and he’s doing well for us at the moment and long may it continue.”

Adebayo has certainly proved another feather in the cap for Town’s recruitment policy, with three goals in his opening eight appearances after displacing top scorer James Collins in the side.

The attacker mentioned Harford when signing and how he wanted to work with the Luton legend, who notched 92 times in 217 matches himself for the Hatters, winning two England caps as well in his time at Kenilworth Road, about becoming more of an aerial threat in the opposition penalty area.

On the help he has given Luton's new-boy, the 62-year-old continued: "We speak, it’s hard for me to get on to the training ground and clip balls for him, but I’ll get the other players to do bits and pieces.

“As a group we’ve all tried to help him, myself, Paul (Hart), Chris (Cohen) and Nathan, we’ve all tried to help the boy, tried to give him advice.

“He’s come in, done fantastic, he’s a big threat, he’s been a big presence for us over the games he’s played and we're absolutely thrilled with him.

“Have I had a big influence on him? I try to speak with him on a daily basis and just basically gave him tips, as all of the coaching staff do, so everyone’s making contributions and just hoping he continues to improve.

“One thing is he’s got the right attitude, wants to learn, is a real good kid, very diligent and he wants to get better, so that’s a massive bonus for us."

When asked for specifics that Adebyao could add to make his game even better, Harford said: “In any walk of life you can always keep improving on a daily basis, he wants to get better, he wants to learn to get himself in good positions.

"This morning (Thursday) he wanted to do a little bit of work in terms of attacking play and we did it with a couple of midfield players helping him out, so he’ll keep improving.

"The biggest thing is he wants to improve, so he’s got a chance.

“His technique is very, very good, touch is good, he holds the ball up well, links play up well, he’s come in and he’s been a breath of fresh air.

"It’s not just all about being technically good, it’s about being in the right position, occupying back fours, pulling in between centre halves and full backs, so two players have got to mark you or keep an eye on you.

"It opens things up for other players, like the goal at Nottingham Forest, that Tunni’s (Ryan Tunnicliffe) got, he’s pulled away at the back post, he’s made a run in the middle and scored the goal, so it’s just basic little things like that which you learn from experience."

With Harford's latest role at the club, Town bolstered their recruitment department last month, announcing former Stoke City and Norwich City head of first-team recruitment Phil Chapple had joined as head of scouting operations, with Jay Socik becoming head of recruitment analysis.

The Hatters legend was just happy to do his bit wherever asked by the club, adding: "I'll still have my foot in the recruitment camp, which I want to, that’s what I was brought into the football club to do when I came back with Nathan all those years ago.

"That’s the bread and butter, but what Nathan asks me to do I’ll do and I’ll try to help everyone as much as I can.

"We brought Chappy and Jay in, Jay as data analyst and Chappy will help with the recruitment and the scouting, so I’ll just have a foot in both camps really in terms of trying to help and assist everyone."