Hatters striker Jerome concedes he needs to do more to force his way back into the thoughts of Town boss Jones

Striker ready to fight for a place at Kenilworth Road

By Mike Simmonds
Saturday, 8th January 2022, 6:30 am
Cameron Jerome in one of his appearances from the bench this season
Cameron Jerome in one of his appearances from the bench this season

Hatters striker Cameron Jerome has resolved to do more in training as he attempts to force his way back into the selection thoughts of manager Nathan Jones this season.

The 35-year-old, who moved to Kenilworth Road on a free transfer from MK Dons in the summer, started promisingly for Town, scoring on his debut in the Carabao Cup exit at the hands of League Two Stevenage.

He then impressed when coming on against West Bromwich Albion and beginning the 1-0 win at Barnsley, one of three starts in five matches.

Since then though, Jerome has gone to make just one start since, the 2-0 loss at Preston in late October, and has barely featured from the substitutes bench either, his last outing coming in the 2-0 defeat at QPR in November.

Although satisfied with his efforts as one of the senior players in the squad, Jerome felt he might need to up the ante at the Brache now to earn his chance against Harrogate Town in the FA Cup third round this weekend, saying: “In terms of being around the place, talking to the guys, being that senior player in the dressing room, then yes (I'm happy).

"I’m training every day and trying to keep my standards in training high, trying to keep my own personal standards high, what I set myself, my availability, all those things.

"I think they come quite naturally as a senior player anyway and it’s something the manager was keen to add in the summer in terms of that little bit of experience to the squad, which we didn’t have here.

"He managed to do that as he brought in people like myself and Henri Lansbury, albeit Henri’s played a little bit more than me, but it’s also testament to the guys in front.

"Harry Cornick has been performing really well, the level of performance from Elijah Adebayo, really good and the manager’s got a few of the younger players he’s brought in who have got high potential as well.

"They’ve not managed to cement their places in the side as of yet, so there’s a number of factors.

"It comes with your age, I wasn’t expecting to play as many games in myself, I’ve played one or two, I probably could have played a few more, but maybe that’s down to me.

"Maybe I need to show the manager a little bit more, 'look I’m still here, I’m still hungry.'

"Regardless of the situation or my age, or the form of other players, I’ve got to maybe push it in training a little bit more to force the manager’s hand to say, 'Cam’s training at a really high level and he looks hungry, looks ready to play again.'

"So it's maybe something I'm not doing that I have to look at, and speak to the coaching staff about that.

"At the minute I’m happy in terms of how things are going, what I am contributing, in terms of off and on the pitch.

"I know there’s plenty of games, it’s a long season, it’s a 46-game season plus cup competitions.

"So maybe on Sunday if I get the nod it might be an opportunity for me to put myself back in the manager’s thinking.”

Following a season in which he scored 15 goals in 38 games for MK Dons, Jerome did admit it has been tough not getting the kind of match action he had hoped for when signing at Kenilworth Road.

He continued: “I’ve had some minutes here and there but it has been a little bit frustrating.

"I’ve always been used to playing at every club I’ve been at, I’ve played the majority of the games, but as I’m getting older, a little bit wiser, I see the role I’m doing on and off the pitch which is what I was brought in to do.

"I’m under no illusions that I thought I would come here and play every game at all but I would have liked to have played one or two more, of course.

"When you’re fit and healthy, you have the appetite to play football and that’s not changed with me, but I’m just being patient.

"When the opportunity does come then hopefully I can take it and give a good account of myself.”

The experienced forward has been regular performer for the majority of his career at Cardiff, Birmingham, Stoke and Norwich, so it is taking some adjusting to not always being on the teamsheet, or even coming off the bench.

He said: "As a player you want to play every game, especially if you’re fit and have no injuries niggles or anything like that.

"You are looking forward to the weekend and when you have been used to playing every game for so long, it is difficult to step back away from it and play a minimum role, but it is something that happens and it’s a transition that takes adjusting to.

"You have to find a way of dealing with that situation, helping the cause and looking at the bigger picture.

"The bigger picture for us is this football club moving forward and the manager obviously sees my qualities on and off the pitch, enough to trust me and sign me in the summer.

"Whether that is going to be playing games, being around the squad to be the senior pro that helps in the changing room then so be it.

"As your career is winding down, it’s a transitional period which takes some getting used to, but it happens to everybody at the latter stages of your career.”

With Luton starting their FA Cup campaign at home to League Two opposition in Harrogate on Sunday, Jerome is hoping the Hatters can make progress to ensure there are more games for the squad to play in what is already a busy start to the year.

He added: “The further you go, the more games there are and we’re under no illusions that we will win the cup but we will be taking it seriously.

"The challenge in itself is that really, to see how far you can go.

"Hopefully if we can be an underdog and get a good draw in the latter stages then that will be perfect but in terms of getting through this game, you have to take every round as it comes.

"It builds up minutes for the players who haven’t necessarily had many so it is an opportunity for those guys to stake a claim for the positions as well.”