Jon Shaw talks to Talk of the Town
You wait your whole career to be part of a successful winning team and then injury strikes. It’s fair to say the season so far hasn’t been an easy one for Jon Shaw.
A hernia ruled the striker out of the opening day defeat of the season at Southport before he was drafted in to fill a void in attack in the Town’s next four matches, leading the line admirably despite some obvious discomfort.
With the subsequent hernia op done and dusted his recovery was quick. Within three weeks the centre-forward was back in training but, after just a fortnight, his luck took a turn for the worse once more and a torn calf muscle put pay to a return to first team action.
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel and the 30-year-old is on the road to recovery.
And, while he admits the season so far has been a frustrating one, he’s desperate to fulfil the promotion dream he had when he first arrived at Kenilworth Road last summer.
“It’s been the worst time of my career for injuries, I’ve never had a spell like it,” admits Shaw. “It’s been inexplicable and so frustrating.
“I’ve waited my whole career to play in a team like this and I’m sitting on the sidelines. But I couldn’t be happier for the lads. We’ve got a fantastic squad and I’m supportive of them. I want to be part of it and I want to come back and be in contention to do that. That’s the aim once I’m fighting fit.”
No footballer likes being injured and Shaw is, naturally, no different. Luckily, however, the striker has had the support from a lot of people from inside the club during his time out of the first team limelight.
“I’ve had my moments when I’ve felt down, especially with the recurrence of this calf injury,” Shaw says. “It’s tested me, but Simon Parsell, the physio, has been brilliant and Dave Richardson, the fitness coach, the manager, the staff and all the lads have been great.
“You can be struggling sometimes when you get a set-back but there’s always a time when someone in the dressing room will do something daft and you have a laugh and a joke. The best thing for me, though, is going home to my wife and children, and I think overall I deal with it well. I’ve always been mentality strong but that’s football, it tests you.
“The backing I’ve received has been great and it reminds me of a time I had at Rochdale, when I was 24. I tore a hamstring which kept recurring much to me and my manager’s frustration. He wasn’t so supportive, he just wanted me fit and he couldn’t understand why I wasn’t. That made that it hard for me to deal with but I’ve had the full backing of everyone here which has been fantastic.”
Gladly the calf injury which has kept him out is showing signs of improvement, but sadly a fairytale return against his former club Gateshead last Saturday failed to materialise.
“I was looking at the fixtures a few weeks ago and thinking that this could be the game to come back for,” says Shaw. “Any game against one my former clubs is something I look forward to. It was written last season that my first game for Luton would be against Gateshead and I enjoyed that moment.
“Gateshead have always been good to me and I wish them all the best of success. They play good football and their style always suited me – much like how we play now.”
Having netted 35 times in 2011/12 for the Heed, Shaw’s unveiling at Kenilworth Road, together with further high-profile arrivals, made the Town strong favourites for the title last term.
However, that failed to materialise, and despite a fine run in the FA Cup – which saw Shaw start the historical win at Norwich – the promotion dream soon faded, Paul Buckle was replaced by John Still in late February, and Shaw ended the season with eight league goals from just 26 starts.
So, what happened last season? Why would was it the Hatters could beat Norwich one week and then lose at Barrow the next and, importantly, what’s the difference this season?
“This season we seem more organised,” explains Shaw. “We train and play in a certain way, a way the manager says is the ‘Luton way’. It’s geared us to being more successful. Since his first day we’ve been training like this and, I think we’ve added more quality to a squad that was already very good.
“Last season there was a lot of expectancy on us but that is the norm at a big club like Luton. The run in the FA Cup was great but there’s no doubt it affected us.
“The cup ties against Wolves and Norwich were completely different animals to the league games. Those FA Cup matches proved we were good enough – we’d soak up the pressure and hit those teams on the counter.
“In the Conference we couldn’t play that way. It would be the other way round and we’d be hit by a sucker punch.
“I look back at the game at Woking on New Year’s Day as a turning point. We were in touch at the top and doing well in the Cup and the Trophy. Unfortunately for me, I missed a good chance, their keeper made an unbelievable save and we ended up losing the game.
“All of a sudden we were beating Wolves and Norwich but slipping too far behind in the league. It was tough in the dressing room because the mood was so up and down. We’d go out and give it our all in the Conference but couldn’t get results. I’m sure we won’t be the first and won’t be the last team to have a cup run affect us like it did.”
Now, though, the Town are riding on the crest of a wave. Unbeaten in 14 league games the Hatters are hot on the heels of leaders Cambridge and Shaw can’t wait to be back involved.
“I’m not far away now,” he says. “I’m thinking positive and that’s the way you’ve got to be. My body just needs to get used to dealing with running and training again.
“But the way we’re playing, and the way the development squad are playing week in, week out it’s going to be difficult for me to get into the team.
“I’m up for the challenge, though. I’ve waited all my career to play in a successful team like this and I will be doing anything to make sure I can play my part.”