Town's Young Player of the Year is 'hungry' for more first team outings with the Hatters

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Nelson looking to continue gaining first team experience at Luton

​Young Town midfielder Zack Nelson has been left ‘hungry’ for more after experiencing his first taste of senior football with the Hatters last term.

​The 19-year-old, who joined Luton four years ago having been released by Tottenham Hotspur, had already caught the eye when coming up through the youth ranks, none more so than scoring a hat-trick against Birmingham City at St Andrew’s in the FA Youth Cup third round back in December 2022. Nelson had been in and around the first team squad under manager Rob Edwards, named on the bench three times in the Championship promotion-winning season, something that was to become a regular occurrence in the Premier League due to the Hatters’ mounting injury issues.

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He earned his top flight debut in the 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace back in March, playing his part in the visitors’ last-gasp equaliser too, winning the ball back to begin the move that saw Cauley Woodrow find the net from Andros Townsend’s inviting stoppage time cross. Nelson then came on with fellow academy graduate Joe Johnson during the latter stages at the Etihad against Manchester City in May to make his second appearance, the hosts running out 5-1 winners that day.

Zack Nelson is congratulated by Gabe Osho after making his Premier League debut against Crystal Palace - pic: Liam SmithZack Nelson is congratulated by Gabe Osho after making his Premier League debut against Crystal Palace - pic: Liam Smith
Zack Nelson is congratulated by Gabe Osho after making his Premier League debut against Crystal Palace - pic: Liam Smith

Asked about his hopes for the future, he said: “It hasn’t really sunk in for me yet, I’m just hungry for more if I’m honest. I always want to get the next appearance and just as many as I can get really. With the staff we’ve got here, they always want young players to come through so hopefully I can see how far I can go. That’s the goal at the end of the day, just get as many appearances for this great club.”

With Nelson’s talents beginning to shine through at Kenilworth Road now, it saw him named the club’s Young Player of the Year by the coaching staff at the recent Luton Town Supporters’ Trust awards evening. On what it meant to win, he continued: “It’s an unbelievable achievement. I didn’t really expect it because of the amount of talent that we’ve got in the squad, so many good young players. I couldn’t have done it without my team-mates, so I’m really grateful to have them. The coaches could have selected anyone from a really talented group, so I’m just honoured to win the award.”

Asked why it was Nelson who had got the honour, Town chief Rob Edwards said: “He deserved it. Zack in particular has really stepped up, he’s trained with us every single day, been a big part of the group. We're not just going to give appearances away cheaply, him and Joe (Johnson) are setting the standard with our young players. Jayden’s (Luker) done well out on loan, we’ve got high hopes with a number of our young boys.”

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Recalling just what it was that Edwards had said to him ahead of that first top flight outing at Selhurst Park, Nelson said: “Just come on, express myself and be me. I took on board what he said and I was just buzzing to be out on the pitch. Cauley’s equaliser late on, that made it even more special. It was an unbelievable feeling so many different emotions that came through me at the time, I can’t even describe it.”

Nelson’s second game was slightly less memorable for the Hatters, given the fact that they were on the end of another heavy defeat to the champions, but being on the pitch with the likes of Julian Alvarez and Jeremy Doku meant it was still a special occasion for the teenager, who added: “It was amazing. Playing against the best in the world, you can take so many different things away from playing against them, so it was a really good experience.”

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