Hatters boss talks Walton, Moore, Macey and King
Hatters boss Nathan Jones has spoken of the disappointment of losing England Under-21 goalkeeper Christian Walton at the start of transfer deadline day – but backed new signing Stuart Moore to prove himself during his loan with the Town to the end of the season.
Walton was recalled by parent club Brighton on Tuesday morning as cover for the Seagulls' number one stopper David Stockdale following an injury to regular back-up Niki Maenpaa last weekend.
It sparked a scramble to sign a replacement in time for that night’s game against Cheltenham, with Reading keeper Moore, 22, coming in and playing in the 3-2 defeat, then Arsenal’s Matt Macey's arrival on the same length loan also announced before the deadline passed.
Speaking at his Ely Way press conference this afternoon, Jones said: “For us, and I’m speaking purely about us, it’s massively disappointing to lose the best goalkeeper in the league. He’s a Championship goalkeeper playing for Luton Town in League Two, so it’s massively disappointing.
“He’d built up an unbelievable relationship with the back four and the confidence he has in possession – we’ve invested six months’ work in Christian and it’s come to massive fruition, it really has, because he’s established.
“There will be Championship clubs now looking to take Christian Walton, comfortably. It’s been a real good fit in terms of us and them, but Brighton have to do what they have to do, and the goalkeeping situation is such an important one.
“I’m grateful to Brighton that they trusted us with him. It was a gamble – but a calculated one from our point of view, because I knew him. It’s disappointing, but we understand the decision.
“It’s disappointing for the lad because he was really enhancing his career, but he’s enhanced his career sufficiently enough that Brighton rely on him and will have no problem putting him in.
“It’s a big loss for us, but it gives an opportunity for others who are on our list because we lost Jonny Mitchell, when everyone said he was brilliant. We haven’t done bad on keepers to be fair, and we’ve just taken two real good young ones now.”
Twenty-four hours after playing for Reading's development side against Derby, Moore (pictured above) went straight into the team to face Cheltenham at Kenilworth Road and after tipping over a huge fifth-minute clearance from his opposite number Scott Brown for his first touch in a Luton shirt, Cheltenham took the lead from the resulting corner through Will Boyle.
Asked whether Moore has bounced back from that early baptism of fire, Jones said: “Yes, he has. I don’t think we saw the true Stuart Moore the other night, but for the preparation coming in, the late call-up – it’s not ideal especially for a goalkeeper, because so early in the game as well to put pressure on, because they are a good side from set pieces.
“It was a difficult one first five minutes, and then I think it affected him. He’s been a different character since then, and that’s what we want. We knew with the recall so late, and having to arrange it and having to go back and forth, back and forth, it wasn’t an ideal situation.
“That’s what we were disappointed with, but he got through the game and now we build from there.”
Elaborating a little more about the process that led to Moore’s arrival, Jones went on to explain that Moore had not had chance to train with his new team-mates.
“He was literally straight in,” said the Welshman. “I was at Tottenham versus Southampton U23 game on Monday night and we found out there was a possibility Christian might get recalled. That wasn’t guaranteed until the morning. Then we had to put in the contingency plans, which we have in place anyway because we have our lists.
“We got that early, so we knew Stuart was going to come in. But then the time he has to come here, he has to sign and spend the afternoon in the hotel. He comes in and meets the lads for the first time and it’s a home game in front of thousands. It’s a bit of a whirlwind for a young keeper. That probably reflected in the game.
“Now he’s had a bit more time to settle down and join in, and spend time with us, so now we’ll see the real Stuart Moore.”
The arrival of another 22-year-old, Macey, was announced after Tuesday’s game, but Jones explained that the Gunners youngster (pictured below) coming in was not a reaction to the defeat.
“As soon as we knew in the morning that Christian was going back to Brighton, then we had to go to our lists, and Stuart’s been on our list. I’ve known about him for a long time, so we took him early – we knew we were going to take him.
“We had a lot of phone calls that day about ‘Would you take him? Would you take him?’ – and Matt came up. Matt is a fine young goalkeeper and one we’ve been aware of, and he’s at a fantastic club.
“We felt that we needed another one and that’s when we took Matt, but he was at the game, watching it.”
The gaffer also spoke glowingly of homegrown product Craig King, and explained that the 19-year-old (pictured below) is a big part of the club's future plans.
"It’s a tricky one with Craig," added Jones. "I spoke to Craig not long ago, because he’s shot up. This time last year he probably wasn’t in our first team plans, but he’s had such a rise and development that he’s pushed himself into those plans.
"I spoke to him the other day and he’s not ready yet to be our number one, he’s not ready to step up yet. I don’t feel that, in all honesty. We’ve said to him, continue your development, it might need a loan just to give him more game time, but we really like him.
"He’s done very well when he’s played, he really has, it’s just I don’t feel he’s ready to be that number one yet. It’s going to be a big second half of the season, with some big games, and it would be foolish of us to go into it just relying on Craig – yet!
"I’m very bold with my young players and I will put them in. It’s just putting them in at the right time and the goalkeeper one is a real tricky one. Craig understands that, and he knows that we rate him here. But he’s still on his pathway of development."