Ross Barkley: Luton’s Latest Recruit

It was a chastening first 90 minutes of top-flight football for Luton Town at the weekend. A string of defensive blunders saw them resoundingly beaten by Brighton at the Amex Stadium and hammered home the fact that for all the talk of fairy-tale escapes, this is a squad severely lacking in Premier League experience. Solly March opened the scoring before the break, João Pedro doubled the lead from the penalty spot on his debut, and Carlton Morris pulled one back for Luton only for Simon Adingra and Evan Ferguson to add to Brighton’s comfortable lead.


Of those who started on Saturday, only Tahith Chong and Marvelous Nakamba had already made their Premier League debuts. Luton know they won’t survive on plucky good luck alone. But in signing former Chelsea and Everton midfielder Ross Barkley, they’ll hope they can draw on the Englishman’s wealth of top-level experience whilst also adding an unpredictable star quality to an attack that appears to lack cutting edge. 


Barkley enjoyed a fruitful season at OCG Nice last year, racking up 28 appearances and scoring four goals. But the 29-year-old was left yearning for a return to England, and in Luton, he has found a team who will put him front and centre of their bid for survival. That said, Barkley, who has been blighted by injuries and inconsistency over the years, would be mindful to look at the experience of former England teammate Jesse Lingard at Nottingham Forest last season. A player with a fearsome reputation and a knack for the spectacular, he struggled to nail down a starting spot, as Steve Cooper came to rely on those with more dependable output. 


With over 200 Premier League appearances to his name, it would be easy for Barkley to cast himself as the saving grace of Luton’s campaign. The firefighter here to do ‘little old Luton’ a favour, strolling around the training ground with an expectation that his reputation will carry him into the starting XI. But ultimately, what Barkley can teach them about the rigours of top-flight football, his teammates can teach him about discipline and cohesiveness. 


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Luton aren’t here by accident. Their rise up the football league has depended on a strong core of players like Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu and a buy-in to a culture that has propelled them far beyond their means. To abandon that would be to undo years of hard work, and the onus is on Barkley, a man with European and international pedigree, to set aside his personal aspirations and integrate himself into Rob Edwards’s plans. 


Physically imposing and technically tight, Barkley can offer Luton security on and off the ball, whilst his eye for goal will no doubt endear him to those inside Kenilworth Road. So, as Barkley enters the twilight of his career, now is the time to relinquish the poster boy image and give all of himself to a club in desperate need of cohesion as they fight to stay in the league.


By: Sam Tabuteau / @TabuteauS

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Hugo Pfeiffer / Icon Sport