Town chief reflects on 'special' moment as popular Luton skipper Lockyer makes emotional return to Kenilworth Road

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Club captain attends first match since his cardiac arrest against AFC Bournemouth

Luton boss Rob Edwards was left to reflect on the ‘special’ moment that saw club captain Tom Lockyer make his first return to Kenilworth Road ahead of Tuesday’s stunning Premier League victory against Brighton & Hove Albion.

The Town skipper had been back at the training ground on Monday for the first time since suffering an on-field cardiac arrest against AFC Bournemouth on December 16, meeting all his team-mates and receiving a specially encased football after making his top flight debut this term. He then headed to the stadium for the midweek contest, announced to the supporters ahead of kick-off and then embarking on an emotional lap of appreciation to a standing ovation from home supporters, clearly thrilled to see the Welsh international once more.

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Speaking afterwards, Edwards said: “It was really special. Seeing him at the training ground yesterday was really good and we spoke about coming in and seeing the supporters again, we think it will be the right thing to do. He was up for that and I think you can see, and I’ve just seen the pictures, it was the right thing to do for him. They’re great pictures, so it was a really good night for us.

"He came down and saw everyone before, he went round and saw all the boys. I asked him if he wanted to (speak in the changing rooms), but he had to shoot out and get down to go and do his bit. I think he saw everyone individually, I asked him if he wanted to speak, he’s the captain, but I think he had to get down and see the supporters.”

With the crowd buoyed by seeing the defender, the groundswell of goodwill carried on to start of the game, as Luton scored twice inside the opening two and a half minutes to stun the Seagulls, Elijah Adebayo and Chiedozie Ogbene both on target. There was no stopping the hosts after that, Adebayo netting twice more to complete his first ever top flight hat-trick, as the striker said: “Locks being here, it was fitting that he was here and he witnessed such a fantastic display from the boys, so that one was for him.”

Meanwhile, midfielder Jordan Clark continued: “It was unbelievable. He came in yesterday, gave us a big lift and we knew he was coming tonight. He’s a bit of an omen I think, we score four and the number four returned back. It was great for the fans and great for him. He got a massive, massive ovation which he fully deserved and he was a good luck charm to us tonight as well.”

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As mentioned, Lockyer had been back to the Brache on Monday, greeted by close friend Carlton Morris on his arrival, meeting a number of the medical staff who helped save his life at the Vitality Stadium, then taking his place in a special presentation made by two Luton legends, Mick Harford and John Still, as the Town players received their Premier League footballs.

Tom Lockyer applauds the Luton Town faithful at Kenilworth Road on Tuesday night - pic: Liam SmithTom Lockyer applauds the Luton Town faithful at Kenilworth Road on Tuesday night - pic: Liam Smith
Tom Lockyer applauds the Luton Town faithful at Kenilworth Road on Tuesday night - pic: Liam Smith

Speaking to the club's official website about his visit, Lockyer said: “It’s been good, I’ve really enjoyed coming in and seeing all the lads. I haven’t seen them since that happened, so really nice to see them all and be back in the building, I really enjoyed myself. My golfing partner, Carlton, I have seen him, he has been up to the house, that has been nice, but lovely to see him again today, all the lads have been amazing and good to see them all.

"It makes you miss it, being away you almost get a bit disconnected from the football as it is unique, it is different from anything else you do. So it is nice coming in the changing room, having that camaraderie and see all the lads again, I’ll be cheering them on and wishing them well.”

On how is doing during his time away from the game, the 29-year-old, who has had an operation to have an ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator) fitted since the incident, added: “I’ve got a couple of Harry Potter jigsaws, but I think the Lego is my favourite, I’m on to the Lego now. Just anything to try and keep me busy really. Being so active for all my life, not just football, but just everything else in general as well, to then be told that you can’t really do anything has been quite difficult. I’ve just been trying to find things to do in the days, I’m a bit of a handyman now, DIY, if you need a wonky shelf, or a wonky picture frame, I’m your man at the minute, so anything to keep me busy.”