First Team

Luke Berry | The Final Farewell

Ask Luke Berry what he wants Luton Town supporters’ abiding memory of him in a Hatters shirt to be, and his answer is as humble as he always has been.

“Just gave it a good go,” says the 31-year-old midfielder. “The main thing is that I was a good person and I gave it a good go. I’m not too fussed about anything else really.”

Not one fan who has watched him score 26 times in 184 Hatters appearances over seven seasons, win three promotions from League Two to the Premier League and write himself into club history as the only man to score in all four top divisions would argue against that.

From his debut at Mansfield in August 2017, to the two Premier League fixtures in which he scored at Kenilworth Road, against Nottingham Forest and Brentford, Berry gave it absolutely everything whenever he wore the Town shirt.

But did he ever think that when he made the move from Cambridge United, he would end up in the top flight with us?

“Probably not, no,” he says. “Probably that was a bit too much of a dream, thinking that we’d get to the Premier League in six years. I definitely thought it was on the up. I definitely thought we’d get out of League One.

“I thought potentially for sure that we’d be in the Championship, because the players we had at the time – we had JJ, Stacey, we had a really good team. But I could never have dreamt of going again into the Premier League.”

Eleven of the Town’s 18-man squad that day at Field Mill went on to play in the Championship for the Hatters, while James Justin and Jack Stacey move to the Premier League with Leicester and Bournemouth respectively.

Five of the group were still in the Town squad that made history by reaching the Premier League – Berry, Dan Potts, James Shea, Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu and Glen Rea.

“One of the main things is that there has been good people at this club, and that’s down to recruitment really, isn’t it? Recruiting the right people and every single player I’ve played with here has been a great character in their own way.

“They are all different, all different people, we are all a bit weird – but we all want the same thing, we all want to do well on the football pitch, do well for the fans and do well for the club. We’ve all got that in common, which is something that is very important.”

Later in his farewell interview, he added: “That’s down to the board and everyone, but we’ve kept a real big key group of players who have always stayed together.

“You’ve still got Pelly and Sheasy who will carry that on. We’ve all just bought into what the club is about and we’ve just tried to do our best.”

From a headed goal – his only one for the Town – to trigger a perfect hat-trick against Stevenage in October 2017, Berry’s knack of arriving in the right place at the right time in and around the penalty area continued into the world’s best league when, thrown on as a sub, he snatched a late equaliser against Forest in March.

He then delivered one of the most down-to-earth interviews on Match of the Day, describing his appearance on the iconic Saturday night show as “a schoolboy dream”, adding with a smile: “When I scored in the Conference it wasn’t like this, it was just get home!”

Respected BBC broadcaster Pat Murphy tweeted afterwards: “Lovely interview on @BBCMOTD with Luke Berry. A PL footballer smiling & self-deprecating.”

On etching his name into the Club’s history books, Berry said: “It didn’t really sink in straight away to be honest, because we wanted to win the game, which was the frustrating thing.

“It’s a weird one because I never really thought I’d score in the Premier League, so it never really registered. It probably won’t be until I finish that I really appreciate it, because when you’re in it every day, all you want to do is ‘well, I scored two but you want three, then you want four, five’.

“It was a great day and being on Match of the Day was weird, even getting interviewed for it, I was thinking ‘This is going to be on Match of the Day’. When you are a child growing up, you see players on there and think ‘That’s cool’ – I don’t know, Alan Shearer getting interviewed when he’s scored, or Rooney, or these kind of players…and somehow I worked my way on there!”

Berry’s departure this summer came after the club agreed not to exercise its option to extend his contract to an eighth season, in order to allow him to seek regular football elsewhere.

Manager Rob Edwards spoke of the respect he has for the midfielder, and how it was only fair to allow him to move on – with Berry last week being reunited with Nathan Jones, the manager who brought him to Bedfordshire, at League One side Charlton Athletic.

That respect is mutual, with Luke having this to say about the Town manager who recently signed a new four-year contract.

“He’s been brilliant since he came here,” said Berry. “He’s always said to me that I’m an important player to the team, but I wasn’t playing and I hadn’t been playing consistently for the whole time he’s been here, but I’ve always felt that I could come on and make an impact and try to help the team.

“He’s done so much this season to keep us believing that we can stay up. He’s improved every single player in the team, he’s improved the team as well.

“He called me just before I was going to go, and I just can’t describe how brilliant a person he is. He’s such a family person who just wants you to do well.

“There is no bitterness, there is no nothing. He just wants you to make the right decision and the fans can see that with his interviews, that he just cares about you.

“It’s easy to say that, but not everyone does that, not everyone cares about you as a person as well as a footballer…and he does.”

On the Hatters’ support, especially through the past year, Berry said: “Some away days we were coming off so dejected because maybe we’d conceded a late goal, or we were leading and we’d lose, and bits like that.

“We’re clapping and you’d think the fans might be a bit down as well, but they’re not, they’re upbeat, they’re singing, they are the loudest voices in the stadium.

“We could never hear their fans, so it’s a massive credit to them that they stuck with us for the whole season and hopefully for the boys staying, they can do that next season because it’ll be massive.”

And finally, if he ever gets to come back as an opposition player, Berry would relish the opportunity to say thank you and farewell to people who have backed him from day one.

“It'll be funny, because I remember playing here at Kenilworth Road before I came here, and I thought ‘I’d love to play here, because it’d be great, it’d be so good’. Just the intensity of the ground, I always thought it’d be so good.

“Playing here now and then coming back, I don’t think it’d feel like that because I’m so used to it. I would be so happy coming back here, and a draw would be a good result for everyone, but hopefully I’d get a nice ovation and I’d give everyone a clap after the game.

“It would just be good to see everyone around the club as well, because everyone has done so much for me.”

And you’ve done so much for us, Bez. Thank you…and good luck at the Valley!

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