Hatters boss relieved Sluga is not going away to sit on the bench for Croatia while he is aware of keeper's contract situation

Town chief thinks staying in England will benefit the Hatters

By Mike Simmonds
Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 2:23 pm
Updated Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 4:38 pm
Town keeper Simon Sluga
Town keeper Simon Sluga

Luton manager Nathan Jones was relieved to see Croatian boss Zlatko Dalić only name goalkeeper Simon Sluga as a stand-by for his country's World Cup qualifiers this week.

The 28-year-old has been a regular member of the squad since Jones returned to Kenilworth Road, but has featured just once in that time, a 3-3 friendly draw with Turkey in November 2020, often left warming the bench.

Despite being a major player in Town’s success last season, keeping 13 clean sheets in all competitions and going to the Euro 2020 Finals earlier this year, it hasn’t been enough to break into Dalic's plans for the matches with Cyprus and Slovakia, meaning he will now stay in England for the next fortnight, unless called up to replace one of Dominik Livakovic, Ivica Ivusic or Ivo Grbic.

Jones is more than happy that is the case, saying: “I can’t fathom what’s happened with Simon Sluga if I’m honest as he goes away, doesn’t play and for me it’s a pointless exercise.

"It’s always nice to be called up for your country, but when it affects your life and your career, there has to be a reason and a rationale for doing it.

"I’m glad, and I say this with the greatest respect, it will do him good not going away, to have a few days rest, to clear his head a little bit and come back fresh.

"I can’t really fathom what has been going on with that, so I’m glad he’s not going away and I pray that he doesn’t, and that this international break will be the benefit of Luton in terms of Simon rather than a Croatian bench.”

Sluga has not missed a minute of Championship action this season, keeping three clean sheets, but from the 35 shots on target, has been unable to prevent 16 of them going in.

In his last three matches, six from the nine shots at goal managed by Bournemouth, Swansea and Bristol City have hit the net too, as Jones continued: “It’s an incredible statistic, it really is.

"We’re very good on our chances conceded, it’s just that when we do concede a chance we concede a big one.

"We conceded three from outside the box and three from deflections, really, for all three goals against Swansea.

"Yes they were better than us in the second half, but one, we should’ve put the game to bed, two, we had a big, big chance and, three, there were big deflections on another day that could go anywhere and then you win the game.

“Bournemouth actually scored with their only two chances.

"They had the odd shot from outside the box, but that was their only chance.

"So it is frustrating at the minute because it’s not like the goalkeeper is making errors, but teams are being clinical against us and we’re not then showing that clinical side against others.

"The volume of chances we are creating and opportunities, we have to be more productive, and that will come.

“God willing, it will all even itself out and then we’ll go on a run similar to others."

Meanwhile, the former Rijeka stopper, who was Town’s record signing when snapped up for around £1.3m under previous manager Graeme Jones back in the summer of 2019, is now in the final year of his contract at Kenilworth Road.

When asked if it was a situation he was keeping a close eye on, Jones added: “We’re always on top of those things.

"It’s not something we come to in March and April, (saying) ‘he’s out of contract, we better do something’.

“There’s always a plan in places for everything we do, so, let’s see where that takes us.”