New Luton signing Burke relishing the competition to break into Town's defence

Centre half backs himself to make an impact at Kenilworth Road

Friday, 2nd July 2021, 10:39 am
Updated Friday, 2nd July 2021, 10:43 am
Summer signing Reece Burke
Summer signing Reece Burke

New Town signing Reece Burke is ready for the competition that he faces to earn a place in the Hatters defence this season.

After a tough first campaign back in the Championship when the Hatters conceded a worrying , where they conceded 82 goals, Town’s back-line tightened up immeasurably last season, breached just 52 times.

They kept 15 clean sheets compared to just seven the year before, with Sonny Bradley, Tom Lockyer and Matty Pearson all having regular stints in the centre of defence.

Pearson has since left for Huddersfield, but Lockyer is fit again after being called up to the Euo 2020 Finals squad for Wales, although he didn't feature, while club captain Bradley has signed a new deal this summer too, giving boss Nathan Jones some real options to choose from.

However, the former West Ham youngster said: "There’s some great players and there’s going to be a lot of good competition, but that’s what makes a good team.

"When you’ve got players all fighting to play in the same position, whatever position it is on the pitch, you need that competition to be driven and I think that’s why it’s good for me.

"If you don’t concede, the worst you can do is walk away with a point so a clean-sheet for a defender is like scoring goals.

"That is what we aim for every game, if we get a clean-sheet you don’t lose the game.

"Most defenders will say that a clean sheet is always a bonus because you’re half-way there to getting three points.

"As defenders you also want to try and chip in with goals, so if everybody is chipping in that is what makes a good season but you have to have a strong base to start off with."

On just what he thinks he can add to the Town's defence should he get the nod, Burn who has played for England at U18-U20 level, continued: "I’m quite strong in the air and I like to class myself as a ball playing centre-half.

"I read the game quite well, people might say that I’m not the biggest but I’m quite smart with the way I get around the pitch and use myself.

"Fitness-wise I’m quite fit, most clubs that I have been at they say I’m quite fit so I think overall, a ball-playing centre-half, I like to get things going, get the ball off the keeper and start things.

“My first loan move to Bradford City I played pretty much the whole season on the left of defence and I've played a little bit on the right side of the three.

"It's mainly right side of the four at centre half, but I can play anywhere at the back, I like to back myself."

Although just 24 years old, Burke is already a fairly experienced Football League campaigner after making his Premier League debut for the Hammers as an 18-year-old in 2015.

He had loan spells at Bradford, Wigan and Bolton, then signing permanently for Hull City in a £1.5m deal in July 2018 when he knew his game time at the London Stadium would be limited.

Racking up almost 200 appearances was something the defender is proud to have achieved, saying: "I always remember my dad telling me when you’re old enough, play league football, that’s what he said to me.

"Ever since I turned 17, 18, I’ve always wanted to understand what the real game is like, when you’re turning up, you’re fighting for three points and you’ve got the pressure of the fans.

"At a young age I’ve always wanted to play games, so the way I see it, the more games you play, the better you become, that’s what I’ve always been about.

"It’s going to get difficult no matter where you go, you’re not guaranteed to play, you’ve got to work hard and got to put yourself in the team.

"I know there’s going to be competition at Luton, but at the end of the day you’ve got to back yourself as a player to be able do that that.

"I’ve come here to work hard and hopefully I do play many games for Luton."

After deciding to leave a Hull side who won the League One title to return to the Championship last season, on what he thinks is the aim from Town chief Jones, who led the Hatters to a 12th place finish, Burke added: "He is ambitious, everyone has to be.

"It is nice to come to a place where everybody works hard and gets what they deserve at that end of the day.

"I believe that Luton will hopefully push on and get play-offs this season but if not then next season.

"Nathan wants to keep building, the club is going in the right direction and all I see is positive things.

“As soon as you start working with everybody, the players and staff, you buy into what they want to do and I think that’s when you become a part of it.

“I’m not going to walk into Luton and think, ‘hang on a minute, I’m flying here’.

“I need to work my way in, becoming part of the team, because I’m a new face around the training ground, and build that way.

“I’m excited for it, looking forward to it. I know the staff all seem very driven and that’s what I want.”