O’Donnell determined to repay Town chief’s faith

Stephen O'Donnell
Stephen O'Donnell
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Full back Stephen O’Donnell is determined to rediscover his best form at Kenilworth Road this season after admitting he found it tough at times last year.

The 24-year-old was signed by former boss John Still at the start of last campaign, but struggled in the opening matches and was eventually hauled off against AFC Wimbledon in September, before injury kept him out for three months.

“I’m hoping given the chance again that I’ll prove the gaffer’s loyalty and show that I’m more than good enough for the level.”

Stephen O’Donnell

However, he then came back against Portsmouth during the Christmas period and kept his place under Nathan Jones, starting all of the new manager’s 21 games in charge.

Some much improved displays followed too as O’Donnell tightened up defensively and was often leading the forays forward from his right back role.

On his end to the season, O’Donnell said: “I certainly didn’t think I showed my best stuff, but I certainly did better in the second half.

“I’m hoping given the chance again that I’ll prove the gaffer’s loyalty and show that I’m more than good enough for the level.

“Time will tell and I’m the one hopefully in control at the moment.

“So I need to work hard and do well then I should keep my jersey, but if not, then JJ’s (James Justin) there biting at the heels and if he gets the chance, then I’m sure he would take it.”

O’Donnell, who made 33 appearances last term, had been far from happy with both his and the side’s efforts last term, as Luton never seriously threatening a play-off challenge until a brief period after Jones took over.

He continued: “It’s a real tough one, I always try to reflect and it was a poor season, as a team and individually.

“I ended up racking up enough appearances that you could maybe hide and say it was successful enough.

“But, by my own standards, I don’t think I hardly got an assist, I didn’t get any goals and I was at fault for a few goals and they’re the wrong stats, they should be the other way about.

“I should be getting some goals and there’s going to be mistakes in the back four, but I went away in the summer, took a couple of weeks off and then started working hard trying to prepare because, everyone has different levels of ability.

“I know that, physically, I need to be there and be a big positive on the team. Hopefully I’ve managed to do that and hopefully the quality will come.”

Despite releasing a host of players in the summer and making seven new signings, Jones hasn’t opted to add in the full back areas, although O’Donnell isn’t assuming the role is definitely his.

He continued: “The transfer window’s not shut so we’ll wait and see. If he doesn’t bring in someone that’s just testament to how good James Justin is, nothing to do with myself.

“I just need to hopefully work hard, and if it does work in my favour then great, but there’s competition all over.

“Nobody can really afford to rest on their laurels, not that they should have before, but I’m just hoping that I’m in the number two spot come Plymouth.”

Meanwhile, the former Scottish U21 international believes that under Jones’ style of play, with the full backs expected to attack, he can flourish, adding: “That’s definitely something that will suit my game. I’ve not had that.

“It’s a style I need to play to get the best out of me. It’s offensively, coming high, using my engine and hopefully the quality on the ball will come.

“It’s something I had in the past, I just don’t know where it went. I think I lost it for a year, somewhere on the M1 and the M6! But I’m excited about the season on a personal and a collective level.”