Tom Craddock: If I had my time again, I definitely wouldn't have left Luton
Striker wishes he had stayed with the Hatters
Former Luton striker Tom Craddock has revealed that if he had his time again, he wouldn’t have moved away from Kenilworth Road when he did.
Back in August 2010, Craddock who had finished the previous season as top scorer with 24 goals, was sold to Oxford United ahead of the transfer window closing after slipping down the pecking order under then boss Richard Money.
However, speaking to the Luton News about the move from Kenilworth Road, Craddock, who notched 38 in 86 matches for the Town, felt he should have remained patient and fought for his place, rather than heading to the Kassam Stadium.
He said: “I was going into the last year of my contract, my girlfriend then, she’s my wife now, had moved down, so she had a job in the area and we were happy.
“We were planning on getting a house as we liked the area, then at the start of the season, Richard (Money), he made it clear that I wasn’t his first choice striker basically.
“So I had a decision to make and I thought I’d get my head down, but the club mentioned they wanted to speak to me about a new contract.
“I was getting mixed messages and being a young player you’re a little bit impatient.
“I thought, ‘I was top scorer last year’ and I didn’t understand why I wasn’t first choice.
“It was frustrating, as I started the season, I played the first four or five games, I started one, I scored two goals and a couple of games I was an unused sub.
"Then I scored on the Saturday and on the Bank Holiday Monday, I didn’t even get off the bench.
“So I’d gone from starting and scoring, to not getting on and I felt as though I was getting pushed a little bit.
“I didn’t want to leave, but I thought what’s going to happen as I was in the last year of my contract?
“Maybe I was a little bit naive because I thought if I’m not playing, I was still hungry to do well in my career.
“Looking back I should have thought, ‘I’m in the last year of my contract, I need to sit tight and I’ll get my chances.’
“It was a combination of me feeling I was getting pushed, but also me being impatient.
“Then the opportunity came to go to Oxford, I met the manager (Chris Wilder) and liked the manager, it was a big club and I went there.
“If I’m honest, I didn’t really want to leave, but I just thought my mind was made up for me a bit really. If I could go back, I definitely wouldn’t leave, I would have stayed and stuck it out.
“I’m not blaming anyone in particular as I think the club didn’t want to lose me for nothing potentially at the end of the season and I got on well with Richard.
“He had his thoughts, but I had quite a good relationship with him.
“I’ve spoke to Richard since and Gary (Sweet, chief executive), and I think if we all sat down, I probably wouldn’t leave and I think they would say maybe the same thing, but it’s just one of those things isn’t it.”
On paper, Craddock’s record with United was pretty decent, scoring 28 in 88 matches, but by then he was already starting to pick up the injuries that were to eventually force him into an early retirement.
He continued: “I went to Oxford and did quite well, although I suffered some injuries. I scored some goals, but I was in a real good groove at Luton, I was comfortable with the fans and I went to Oxford and it wasn’t quite the same.
“I was always trying to get what I had at Luton and I didn’t get it.
“I think the Oxford fans looked at me, ‘he’s come from Luton,’ and they see Luton as big rivals.
"It was good, there were some fantastic people at the club, but it just wasn’t a match made in heaven as it had been at Luton.
“I had three seasons at Oxford and I worked out when I was fit, I scored about 20 goals in maybe 52 games.
“So I had a good record in the Football League, but the last 15, 20 games I was carrying an injury and I was playing at 50 or 60 per cent and just didn’t do myself justice.”
Craddock went on to have a tough spell at Portsmouth, scoring one goal in 12 games over two years, before turning out for Guiseley and Spennymoor Town, calling it a day in his early 30s.
He added “Basically once I left Oxford, my career was done really, I couldn’t get back fit.
"I had a chance to go to Portsmouth at the end of my contract and Portsmouth are a massive club.
"I went there and I just couldn’t get fit, it was one thing after another.
"Then I got a knee injury and spent the full two years basically trying to get fit and rehabbing in the gym.
"I made two or three starts, scored one goal, made more substitute appearances, but I was just struggling with injury all the time.
"At the end of my contract, the new manager Paul Cook came in and because I’d done well against him previously, he invited me to train, but the quality of the players had increased that summer and i could just feel myself, I wasn’t the same after the injury.
"So I went to Cambridge where Richard (Money) was manager and scored five goals in two 45 minute appearances in pre-season, so I could still finish, but even he didn’t sign me.
"It was a combination of finances, but also, I wasn’t the same player I was when he had me at Luton, and that made my mind up really.
"I decided to move back up north and dropped into the Conference, I played part time with Guiseley, started coaching and just had my little boy and made the decision that I didn't want to be moving round year after year with my career on the decline.
"It would have annoyed me more than anything, and also I wanted some security for my family.
"I started coaching in Middlesbrough’s academny, did a year at Guiseley and even then with my knee I wasn’t able to train on astro-turf, but then training two nights a week wasn’t good for me as I needed to try and stay as sharp as I could.
"I dropped down to play at Spennymoor and signed a two year contract there, it's a really good club, a really well run club, I wanted to go in there and be an experienced player, but it didn’t really work out there either.
"I played maybe 10 games, it's a recurring theme, scored four or five goals, but I just wasn’t able to get any runs going, just because of the injuries.
"I could have carried on, but I just decided to call it a day then as it had gone too far and I was getting more frustrated with the game as I’d gone from playing in the Football League, playing at Wembley and then you have to drop further and further down.
"With the knee injuries, I just couldn’t do it any more, it was causing me a lot of pain, so I just decided to stop and then transitioned to coaching.
“I coach part time at Middlesbrough, and I’m a qualified PE teacher at a school in Darlington where I was born, I really enjoy it.
“I’ve got a young family so I can spend plenty of time with them, it’s good.”