Town keeper Shea reaping the rewards for showing patience and a lack of ego during his time out of the Luton side

Former Arsenal youngster has started Hatters' last nine matches

By Mike Simmonds
Friday, 4th February 2022, 4:32 pm
James Shea claims the ball during Saturday's 0-0 draw with Blackburn
James Shea claims the ball during Saturday's 0-0 draw with Blackburn

Patience and a lack of ego is paying off for Luton keeper James Shea with his extended run in the Town team recently.

The 30-year-old is closing in on 100 appearances for the Hatters after arriving in the summer of 2017 on a free transfer following his release by AFC Wimbledon.

Starting behind Marek Stech in the pecking order, he was given his opportunity midway through season, playing the final eight matches, making 13 appearances in all as Luton were promoted from League Two.

He began the following campaign on the bench once more, but this time it was just for three fixtures, as with Luton taking the division by storm to claim the title, Shea won the Golden Glove award for his 19 clean sheets.

Now a Championship side, the keeper saw Simon Sluga signed for a club record fee, as he was used in the Carabao Cup to begin with, but did come in when the Croatian international missed out to some poor showings, going on to enjoy 13 league outings and 16 in total.

Last term, the ex-Arsenal youngster again had to play second fiddle, with just 10 appearances, not featuring following the Boxing Day defeat to Reading.

It was a familiar tale this term, Shea on the bench once more, but this time when Sluga missed out due to being a close contact of Covid on his way back from international duty and then having an illness himself, it saw Town's deputy step and keep his spot, for 10 of the last 11 games, with six shut-outs.

Town boss Nathan Jones opted to sell Sluga on deadline day this week rather than let him walk away for nothing in the summer, but although the Croatian has left, Shea faces a battle on his hands once more, Aston Villa stopper Jed Steer joining, the 29-year-old having played three top flight games for his parent club.

Speaking about Shea's efforts since being recalled, Jones said: "Apart from slipping over about nine times the other day (against Blackburn), he’s been outstanding!

"We’re really pleased for him because some players are patient and they realise their role and his role has been to push and to really challenge constantly, then when he gets those opportunities, to take those opportunities.

"He’s done that ever since I’ve been here and he’s not a number two, he’s a goalkeeper we have who is good enough to be number one and competes and shows great attitude and humility.

"He has wonderful technique and has a temperament that is second to none.

"I'm pleased for him because he’s part of the environment we have here and those who can’t be patient and let it show are not here anymore.

"Lots has been said about after the game, but we know what we go into games to do and it’s a great group, they showed that the other night.

"To be prepared, because that’s what we were, to not dominate the ball but to be potent in everything we did.

"Sometimes you have to put ego aside and James Shea is the epitome of that."