Youth teamers make trip as Nathan and Craig undergo surgery
Earlier this afternoon we caught up with Hatters manager Nathan Jones as he and the Town squad prepare to fly out to Hungary for their pre-season training camp this weekend.
In a squad of 21 players boarding the plane from Luton Airport at 8am on Sunday morning, five of last year’s hugely successful youth team – including recently-turned first-year professional Alex Atkinson – are included.
Also on the plane from the Football League Youth Alliance double-winning side are Frankie Musonda, James Justin, Tyreeq Bakinson – who all made their first-team debuts at the end of 2015-16 – and Akin Famewo.
Sadly, lutontown.co.uk can inform supporters that midfielder Nathan Doyle and striker Craig Mackail-Smith will not be travelling after undergoing surgery to repair new, in Doyle’s case, and existing injuries yesterday.
Jones explained: “It’s been a good week’s training. The boys have had their programmes to work on and they’ve come back in good shape, with the results of the individual testing we’ve done coming up really well.
“Inevitably, you get a few niggles and unfortunately we’ve had a serious injury with Nathan rupturing his Achilles tendon.
“It was an innocuous one in the first session on Monday. No-one was near him, we were just playing a bit of keep-ball after the boys had done the Yo-Yo test, and he went down.
“He’s been operated on and all our thoughts are with Nathan. We’ll support him in his recovery and he can take heart from the fact that a couple of the players already here, Magnus Okuonghae and Craig Mackail-Smith, have had the same injury and they came back.
“He knows there’ll be a lot of hard work ahead of him, but with the right attitude and support he’ll get from the staff here, he’ll be back – but it’ll be a long road ahead.”
While the 29-year-old faces several months on the sidelines, 32-year-old striker Mackail-Smith should be back in action much sooner after having a pin inserted in the tibia he fractured at Plymouth in March.
“Craig is still recovering from his fracture at the end of last season, and it hasn’t healed as well as we’d have liked, so he’s had it pinned – which we’re told is the best way of getting him fit and strong again,” said Jones.
“He’ll be in plaster for two weeks, a protective boot for four weeks after that, and then it’s a case of getting him up to speed, so probably another six weeks from then depending on muscle wastage in his calf.”
On the youngsters making the trip, in which the Hatters will stay and train at the Hungarian FA’s equivalent of St George’s Park – the private Globall Football Park & SportHotel – Jones added: “We’re taking five of the young lads with us and it’s all part of their development.
“It’s a chance for them to see how things work at first-team level in a pre-season programme and it’ll hopefully prove good for their future.”
*See the official website for more from Nathan and new Head of Sports Science Jared Roberts-Smith on the Hungary trip over the coming days.