Hatter keeper reveals 'cheeky' comments from Charlton boss Bowyer did Luton a 'favour' during relegation battle

Town keeper James SheaTown keeper James Shea
Town keeper James Shea
Shea admits players were given that 'little bit extra' to prove Addicks chief wrong

Town keeper James Shea revealed that the ‘cheeky’ comments from Charlton Athletic boss Lee Bowyer did Town's squad a 'favour' in their ultimately successful attempts to stay up last season.

Just before the season was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic in March, the Addicks were in the drop zone themselves, four points above Luton and five in front of Barnsley.

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With Hull, Wigan and Middlesbrough on 41 points and Huddersfield just one further ahead, Bowyer remarked there was only one place up for grabs, apparently discounting the Hatters' and Tykes' chances of staying up, by saying: "I think Middlesbrough will be in it, I think Hull are in it, obviously Wigan.

"There’s a good five teams fighting for one place I think and we’re one of them obviously."

However, Shea admitted that it only fueled the desire among Luton's players to avoid the drop, something they managed on the final day, while Charlton were relegated back to League One after failing to win any of their final seven matches.

The Town stopper said: “What baffles me, I remember the Charlton manager Bowyer, he wrote us out of it, saying 'there’s only one team to go down.'

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"You look at it now and think 'how’s he come out with that,' it did us a favour though.

“You do hear about it, and you think 'that’s cheeky, don't say things like that.'

"It did give you that little bit of extra to go out and hopefully prove them wrong and thankfully we did.”

When the campaign resumed, the Hatters had nine games to save themselves, which when trailing safety by six points, seven if you include the goal difference, looked a nigh on impossible task.

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Although Shea retained the belief that they could do so, he knew it would take some run of form, continuing: "You always say to yourself, 'we’ve got a chance here, we can do it,' but deep down you think, 'we’ve got to go on some run.'

"As soon as we came back, it just started from that first game, when Macca (Callum McManaman) got the goal against Preston.

"Then you go to Swansea, you beat Swansea, we went to Leeds, battled and got a well-earned point against Leeds and you think 'we could do this'.

"To be fair the Reading one (5-0 home defeat) probably did us a favour.

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"It brought us back down to earth, showed us it’s not going to be easy, we're not going to be able to just turn up and win.

"Then it was like one defeat in the last 12, so it was a great run by the boys and even though I didn't get to play, it was just great to be a part of it.

"It did me a favour the lockdown as when I was injured before, with my hand, it got me back involved with everyone.

"I loved it, the nerves were gone, I’m not going to lie to you, it’s horrible, there’s nothing you can do.

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"You’re sitting there and it’s probably easier when you're playing as you’re involved.

"I remember the Blackburn game, I'm asking the people behind, 'what's the score, what's the score,' the nerves were gone.

"But we did it and it was just as big staying up than going up the year before."

One of the main reasons Town achieved survival was the return of manager Nathan Jones who got Luton playing with a real structure and belief they could stay up, something that hadn’t always been the case under previous boss Graeme Jones.

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When asked about Jones' impact in such a short space of time, Shea said: "He can take a lot of credit, as I don’t think any other manager would have kept us up, I honestly believe that.

"He came in, it was like he’d not even been away.

"The first day he was straight back, he knew everyone, it was great by Gary (Sweet, chief executive) and everyone else to get him back in, as he just carried on from when he left and slotted back into place like it was before.

"He got the wins and it probably helped being behind closed doors with him and everything, but you can see how much it meant to him at the final whistle.

"He was desperate for us to stay up, he wanted to be the one to keep us up, he was desperate for it."

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Shea had been signed by Jones during the manager's first spell in charge back in the summer of 2017, so he was thrilled to see the Welshman return after his disappointing spell at Stoke City.

He added: "You see what he’s like on the touchline, you do want to play for him, you want to run through brick walls for him.

"I was a bit shocked that the old manager left, I was shocked about that, but when I heard he was coming back I was over the moon.

"You’ve always got something to prove, but you know what he’s about, you enjoy his training, you know what he’s bringing.”

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