Shea had found it 'difficult' getting used to becoming Luton's third choice keeper

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Arrival of Kaminski and Krul saw long-serving Hatter move down the pecking order

Luton stopper James Shea conceded he had found it ‘difficult’ to get used to his change of role when becoming Town’s third choice goalkeeper last season.

The 32-year-old had dealt with not being a first team regular over the last few campaigns, understudy to Nottingham Forest loanee Ethan Horvath as the Hatters won promotion to the Premier League during the 2022-23 season, playing just once, although was a regular on the bench. He had featured 21 times in the 2021-22 term, but with Luton playing their trade at the highest level of English football and Horvath’s stay not being converted into a permanent one, boss Rob Edwards decided to significantly bolster his goalkeeping department in the summer.

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A number of players were linked, before Town settled on Blackburn Rovers stopper Thomas Kaminski, with Tim Krul also soon arriving from Norwich City to add some real competition. It was Kaminski who was given the number one jersey, going on to quickly cement his place as Town’s leading shot-stopper, while Krul’s vast experience of the Premier League and also international football with the Netherlands meant the ex-Newcastle custodian moved up to number two.

Town stopper James Shea embraces Arsenal keeper Aaron Ramsdale last season - pic: David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty ImagesTown stopper James Shea embraces Arsenal keeper Aaron Ramsdale last season - pic: David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images
Town stopper James Shea embraces Arsenal keeper Aaron Ramsdale last season - pic: David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

It meant Shea would still travel to games to help out beforehand, but then have to take a back seat when the game kicked off, as on how he adapted to his new role, he said: “It was very different and it was tricky at the start. It’s weird as you go out to do the warm up and then when the game's started I’m in the shower getting changed, so it was difficult. But listen, it is what it is, it’s part and parcel of football.

"When stuff like that happens, I always think back to when I was at Harrow Borough and Needham Market and if anyone had said to me then I’ll be where I am now, I’d have snapped your hand off for it. We’re very lucky we’ve had a really great group, a goalkeeping union this year, it’s been fantastic. Thomas has been unbelievable, there’s no other way to describe him and Tim is just one of the best people I've ever met in football if I’m honest, he’s unbelievable. We've had an unbelievable group and it's been a really good year goalkeeping-wise I must admit.”

Despite conceding 85 goals and only keeping two clean sheets in the Premier League, Kaminski was one of Town’s starring performers last term, making a number of stunning stops to finish second in the division behind Manchester United’s Andre Onana. He also won the Castrol Save of the Season award for the double stop against Crystal Palace, while named Players Player of the Year at Kenilworth Road as well.

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It meant the rest of the goalkeepers union couldn’t really have an argument about who had the gloves throughout the campaign, with Shea continuing: “Me and Tim who are behind Thomas, we had no qualms. We can’t walk in and say, ‘why aren't we playing?’ As he’s been our best player. But the whole goalkeeping group has been unbelievable. Tim is just a top, top fella, Tim has been there, done it, worn the t-shirt, a top, top guy. He’s got the experience and knows everything, again a great guy.”

With Shea signing a contract extension recently to extend his stint in Bedfordshire to an eighth year, Edwards now faces another decision with Town in the Championship, Jack Walton coming back from his successful loan spell at Dundee United where he played every single game as the Terrors won the Scottish Championship title to ensure they are playing Premier Division football next season. Having signed from Barnsley in January 2023, the 26-year-old is yet to make a first team appearance for Luton, as Shea said: “I speak to Jack quite frequently, I keep in touch with Jack quite a lot.

"He’s loved it up there, he’s done really well for Dundee, really, really well. He had the most clean sheets, won the league, and he’s had a really, really good season. I’m looking forward to seeing Jack again, so when he comes back it will be great to have him come into the goalkeeping group and whatever happens, happens.”

Whatever the Luton boss goes for, Shea knows that having to choose between four quality goalkeepers is something that the manager will be after, as he added: “You want the competition, you don’t want it easy as then you get complacent and then you think I’m going to play and you don’t have to worry about it and you can’t be like that. I know from just working with them, Thomas would never be like that. We’ve got such a good group, everyone’s pushing each other every single day and it will only benefit the club.”

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