Justin backs himself as he prepares for ‘important’ pre-season

Hatters defender James Justin with Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu
Hatters defender James Justin with Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu

Hatters defender James Justin can’t wait to get his pre-season up and running when the Hatters return to the Brache today.

The young right back missed last season’s vital preparation after picking up a hamstring while on England U20 duty, and then had to watch on for large parts of the season as Jack Stacey cemented his place in Town’s back-line.

I didn’t get a pre-season at all, and that’s a very important part in the manager’s thoughts and plans and I wasn’t there for it, so hopefully this year will be better.

James Justin

However, both are now back on an even keel for the upcoming campaign, as Justin said: “When I went away with England last year, the injury hindered me a bit in pre-season. I didn’t get a pre-season at all, and that’s a very important part in the manager’s thoughts and plans and I wasn’t there for it, so hopefully this year will be better.

“It’s a very good bonus as last year I didn’t really get a break because I did my hamstring. But this year I had a good two, three week break, then I got back in the gym and since then it’s been hard work.”

When fully fit again, Justin featured 17 times in League Two, but only 10 of them coming from the start, as he couldn’t displace either Stacey or Dan Potts.

On the challenge of reclaiming his place this term, he said: “I back myself to the hills and back, but they’re both good players and we’ll see how the season goes.”

The full back, who came through the ranks at Kenilworth Road, has often been the subject of intense transfer speculation whenever the window has been opened.

Last summer, Luton turned down a six figure bid from Nottingham Forest for his services, while Premier League Brighton were heavily linked in January as well.

Although this time, there has been far less interest in the 19-year-old due to the amount of games he played, Justin never lets it bother him.

He said: “It doesn’t affect it at all, obviously I was frustrated during the season, as every player wants to be playing week in week out.

“But at the end, I kind of came to grips with how it was going to be, so I just had to get on with it and keep working hard. It’s a bit different now, but it’s part and parcel of how many games I played this year and the back half of last season, so it’s nothing that fazes me.

“Whenever you step on the pitch and come down the tunnel, it’s just focus.”

Town’s promotion to League One saw Justin have another year added to his deal, as he is now contracted to the club until 2021.

He sees his future in Bedfordshire too, as long as he can break back into the team once more, adding: “I knew it was coming since when I signed the contract, it was in a view to it, so it’s all good.

“I just want to be playing wherever I am.”