Popular Nakamba thanks Hatters and Villains fans for his Villa Park ovation

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Zimbabwe international receives an excellent reception at his former side

Hugely popular Town midfielder Marvelous Nakamba thanked both the Luton and Aston Villa supporters for the terrific ovation he received at Villa Park last weekend.

The 29-year-old was heading back to a club that he had spent five years of his career at for the first time since his summer departure for Kenilworth Road.

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Signed from Belgian Pro League outfit Club Brugge for a fee of £11m in August 2019, Nakamba went on to play 68 times in all competitions for the Villains as he was a firm crowd favourite, winning the club’s Player of the Month award in November 2021 when Steven Gerrard was in charge.

Town midfielder Marvelous Nakamba looks to win the ball back from his former Aston Villa team-mate John McGinn on Sunday - pic: Nathan Stirk/Getty ImagesTown midfielder Marvelous Nakamba looks to win the ball back from his former Aston Villa team-mate John McGinn on Sunday - pic: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images
Town midfielder Marvelous Nakamba looks to win the ball back from his former Aston Villa team-mate John McGinn on Sunday - pic: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

However, he was then sidelined by a knee injury which kept him out for a few months and also saw him miss Zimbabwe’s Africa Cup of Nations tournament in January 2022, returning to feature in the final games of the season.

Nakamba then didn’t play for Villa in the 2022-23 campaign, as once Gerrard was sacked and four-time Europa League winner Unai Emery replaced him, he was allowed to leave on loan, heading to Kenilworth Road in January.

He was a huge factor in why the Hatters were at Villa Park in a top flight contest, with his stand-out performances seeing Luton enjoy play-off success by beating Coventry City on penalties at Wembley in May, netting in the nerve-wracking shoot-out himself.

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Signing for Luton permanently in the summer for an undisclosed fee, Nakamba’s name got a warm reception when read out by PA announcer ahead of kick-off, while when he was replaced with 15 to go, the majority of the 41,785 inside the stadium rose to give the Zimbabwean a rousing round of applause.

Speaking about the ovation, he said: “Of course it was a good feeling.

"I'm someone who’s more close to people, more close to everyone that is around me helping each other, so of course it was a good feeling from both fans to get that reception.

"It keeps me going to still stay grounded and still stay humble.

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“It’s somewhere I’d been for a long time, it was a little bit strange (going back), but it’s football, it's part of the journey.

"I’m very grateful for what they did for me, grateful for the club, the fans, everyone, my former team-mates there, some I still speak to them now regularly, so it was a good time.”

Despite leaving Villa in the summer, it was clear that the club still has a firm place in Nakamba’s heart, as he continued: “It was a big game for me, going back.

"In England they were the first club that gave me the chance to play in the Premier League, so it was a good time to go back there and the reception I received also.

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"I saw some friends there, and the fans, the players, everyone around the club.

"It was a good moment for me, but a pity we didn't get the result that we wanted as a club for Luton.”

Town had already needed keeper Thomas Kaminski to make a fantastic double save early on from England striker Ollie Watkins, before they conceded on 17 minutes when a free-kick routine saw an unmarked John McGinn fire into the bottom corner.

The game was over around 20 minutes after the break, Moussa Diaby and a Tom Lockyer own goal putting Villa 3-0 in front, as Nakamba admitted the way Town were breached was disappointing.

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He added: “The goals we conceded were frustrating of course, but it is what it is.

"We just have to stick together and fight until the 90 minutes.

"It was a pity we didn’t get the result that we wanted but now we’re looking forward to the next game.”