Town boss Nathan Jones admitted it was with a ‘heavy heart’ that he opted to release both Jake Howells and Alex Lawless yesterday.
With Howells having made 334 appearances for the club and Lawless playing 203 times, the pair were the longest serving members at the club, with both starting in the weekend’s impressive 4-1 win over Exeter City.
“It’s a disjointed squad and we have to make tough decisions to get the balance back.”Nathan Jones
However, after inheriting a huge squad from previous manager John Still, Jones was well aware there were always going to be some difficult choices he had to make.
Speaking exclusively to the News/Gazette, he said: “For Alex and Jake, they were great lads to have for Luton Town and great servants.
“It was with a wrench and a heavy heart that we had to do it, but these decision had to be made.
“It’s only because of the size of the squad, and the amount we’ve got under contract that if I was to retain those as well, it meant I wouldn’t have the scope, not the financial scope, but the scope in terms of numbers to freshen the team up.
“Jake’s time was frustrating as he got injured half way through and that kept him out for five, six weeks and then Pottsy (Dan Potts) did well in the time so it’s not like he came straight back in.
“Alex did really well but we have seven, eight central midfield players at the club.
“So for me to bring in someone different, left footed, or a wider player, one of those would have to have moved on.
“We’ve got far too many right footed central midfield players that have the same attributes, so it’s a disjointed squad and we have to make tough decisions to get the balance back.”
On the timing of the decisions, with Howells left disappointed he hadn’t found out until Tuesday morning, Jones continued: “It was late decisions on both because they were tough ones.
“Some of the others we made decisions a while back on and let them know, but saying it’s late, it’s still the first week of May and I don’t know what more I could have done.
“We could have let them go weeks ago, but would that have been fair? They’ve been good servants to the club, there’s no easy way to do it. If I’d known three weeks ago, four weeks ago and said ‘you’re not going to get another contract, you can now go,’ would they have wanted to hang around?
“Would they have wanted to continue to play at the club? Would their attitude have been exactly the same? I don’t know them well enough to be able to say that.
“I think it would have been but we were still deliberating on Friday with regards to one of them. It was just tough decisions, it’s never easy and they would like things done differently sometimes, but it’s been done in a professional manner.
“They were still part and parcel of our squad, and I’ve done all I could to help them, they’re decisions we didn’t take lightly and ones we made as professionally as we felt we could.”
Speaking about Lawless’ departure, Howells, said: “I’ve spoken to Al, not long after his meeting, and he’s in the same sort of boat as me now.
“He’s gutted he’s not going to be here next year as well, but he’s old enough and been around a long time.
“He’ll get his head down and work hard and things will hopefully go well for him and I’ve got no doubt they will.”