Town keeper felt Ross Barkley's move to Luton saw the England star fall in love with football again

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Midfielder had a starring role for the Hatters last term

Luton’s decision to bring in midfielder Ross Barkley on a free transfer during the summer was a move that worked out perfectly for both parties according to Town stopper James Shea, who felt the new challenge allowed the summer signing to fall back in love with football once more.

​The 30-year-old headed to Kenilworth Road after leaving French Ligue 1 side Nice following just one season, as he became a massive hit with Town fans, playing some of the best football of his career at Kenilworth Road, scoring five goals and adding four assists in his 32 Premier League outings. His outstanding form and Luton’s relegation to the Championship means a heavily rumoured move to Aston Villa appears more and more likely now, as although Shea would love to see him stay in Bedfordshire, asked about his impact on the squad, he said: “He’s a top fella, a really, really nice fella. I haven’t got a bad word to say about him.

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“I remember when he first came, I was at the zoo with Danny Hylton, at Whipsnade Zoo and it came up on Twitter, Luton had signed Ross Barkley. We both looked at each other and went ‘how on earth have we signed Ross Barkley?’ It came out of nowhere! I did not have a clue and we thought it was a joke at first. He comes in, he was quiet at first, really quiet, just settling in and then he settled in nicely and he was a brilliant player.

Ross Barkley looks to move the ball for Luton - pic: Liam SmithRoss Barkley looks to move the ball for Luton - pic: Liam Smith
Ross Barkley looks to move the ball for Luton - pic: Liam Smith

"When he got his fitness going he was brilliant for us, he was a top, top player and a top, top fella as well. There was a lot of talk about him getting picked for England again and it worked out for everyone, it did. Ross came to us to get himself going again, to probably fall in love with football again, and it’s worked out for everyone. If he does go or if he does stay, I wish him nothing but success.”

Barkley himself has spoken about not experiencing a squad that is quite as tight-knit as Luton’s before, as talking to the Luton News earlier in the season, he said: “I've probably never been part of a team that’s so close and that’s a credit to the manager and the staff as well. It’s different, the togetherness. There’s no cliques, everyone’s together. It's like my group of mates at home, it's very similar, you feel like you've known each for a long time.”

That was something that Shea felt got the best out of the ex-Chelsea and Everton midfielder, who also has 33 caps for England to his name, as he continued: “I really do think he just enjoyed being around a normal group of boys that worked hard. He came in every day, had a great time with everyone and that’s what it’s about as well. You want to go into a place where you enjoy going in every single day and for him being at Luton he was probably a big fish in a small pond as he was brilliant for us, a top, top player.”

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While it was a move that worked out for both player and club, it was also one that went down extremely well with supporters, many stating Barkley was up there as the greatest ever to wear the shirt in Town’s long history. Asked about that, Shea said: “They mention him saying he’s been the best player they have ever seen, and that’s fans that have been there a lot longer than me, so he must have been doing something right.”

Barkley went on to form a hugely promising partnership with on-loan Arsenal midfielder Sambi Lokonga, although injury to the Belgian international meant the pair were sadly only able to start 13 games together. He was another player who got injured at a crucial time, missing two months of the run-in, as Shea added: “I thought Sambi was brilliant, I thought he was fantastic. After the Liverpool game when he went off, I thought he was a really really big miss for us.”

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