Still believes Mpanzu would be worth £25-30m as he hopes to see ex-Hammer become a Premier League player

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Ex-Town manager brought popular midfielder to Kenilworth Road

Luton boss John Still believes a player of Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu’s talent would cost around £25-£30m in today’s transfer market as he hopes to see his former charge walking away from Wembley as a Premier League player this weekend.

The 73-year-old was in charge of the Hatters back in December 2013 when he signed a relatively unknown Mpanzu, then just 19, from West Ham United, where he had made one first team appearance, on a loan deal.

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He played seven games before heading back to Upton Park, although Still was soon able to entice him back to Kenilworth Road on a permanent basis just a month later, as the team went on to lift the title that season, making their return to the Football League.

Almost a decade on and Mpanzu is still with the Hatters, having made 367 appearances in the Conference up to the Championship, scoring 23 goals too, as he has become a regular feature of the Luton midfield for whoever has been at the helm.

Possessing bundles of energy, an ability to drive forward with the ball, plus an eye of a pass, see his cross for Gabe Osho’s opener against Watford this season, while add in the occasional banger as well, then when asked for a valuation on the now 29-year-old, Still said: “25, 30 million pounds, that’s what I think.”

Recalling his first meeting with the youngster, who will become the first player to play in all of England’s top five divisions with the same club if Town can defeat Coventry City in the play-off final on Saturday, Still continued: “He came with his mum and I didn’t know whether to speak to Pelly or his mum.

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"I knew his agent a bit, and I think the best thing for Pelly and for us at the time to try and make it happen, was he came on loan at first.

Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu with former Luton manager John Still - pic: Tony MargiocchiPelly-Ruddock Mpanzu with former Luton manager John Still - pic: Tony Margiocchi
Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu with former Luton manager John Still - pic: Tony Margiocchi

"Once he got first team football, I think it’s difficult for players who go out on loan, play first team football anywhere, to go back and play 23s.

"It’s not the same and I think he felt the connection, maybe that this was the right thing to do.

"Trust me when he came, he wasn’t a boy, he was a man.

"He might not have been old, but he was a man and I think that he was quite prepared to make a decision about his career that he felt was the right decision.

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"Go and play first team football and if I’m good enough I’ll make progress and can go on as opposed to what does happen in Premier League clubs, because of the eliteness of it, young players get swallowed up sometimes.

"Supporters want people to go and spend millions of pounds on players, they want to see young players come through but the young people who come through have got to be not good, but be extra special at some clubs.

"With the greatest of respect to Pelly he made his choice and hopefully there’ll be a time on Saturday evening when he’s walking home as a Premier League player and it’s a fantastic story, it really is.”

Having been at Boreham Wood prior to joining West Ham, then Mpanzu himself felt he was ready for the rough and tumble of the then called Blue Square Bet Premier, saying: “Because I was at Boreham Wood before, I had a taste of it, so it wasn’t a complete culture shock.

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"People are playing men’s football, it’s physical, you’ve got to have attributes, you’ve got people shouting at you saying ‘do this, do that,’ and you’ve got to take it on the chin and become a man at a young age.

"I think I had that already, and coming from Boreham Wood to West Ham back to Luton, was able to cope with it a lot better than others who hadn’t played there before.”

However, on whether he thought Mpanzu would have the chance of making history and reaching the top flight in under 10 years while still being with the same team, Still continued: “It will be an incredible achievement.

"In my career, I’ve always tried to sign what I call young, hungry players.

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"I knew Pelly as a player at West Ham, I’m a West Ham supporter, so I knew of Pelly and I just thought he had great energy.

"He was still trying to make a career for himself, so we took him on loan, he did exceptionally well, so fortunately we were able to buy him.

"Did I think he would be playing in the Premier League for the same club in a short period of time? No, I didn’t.

"Did I think he would progress his career? Yes I did.

"But when you talk about people playing in the lower leagues, playing in the Premier League, you’re now talking about playing with and against the best players in the world, it is, the Premier League is the most elite league in the world now.

“So I wouldn’t have said that I thought he would do that and it’s unbelievable credit to him that he’s hopefully going to achieve that.”