Hatters did ‘absolutely everything they could’ to keep hold of striker Isaac Vassell according to boss Nathan Jones.
The Luton chief saw his exciting forward depart the club for Championship outfit Birmingham City this morning for an undisclosed fee.
Jones conceded they would have stood firm over Vassell in the face of most offers, but the fact he refused to sign a new deal and would have left the club as a free agent in the summer, having turned 24, eventually proved the breaking point.
He said: “The club tried absolutely everything to keep hold of him.
“We offered him a contract, we’ve been in negotiations or trying to get him to sign a contract and we’ve turned down a number of offers, but when a player has one year left on his contract, it’s difficult to then let it run down.
“We would have turned down pretty much any offer, unless it was something absurd if he had more than one year left on his contract, but we’ve had to do what we’ve had to do.
We tried absolutely everything to get him to sign a contract at this football club and it got to a point where he categorically said he’s not going to sign a contract for us.Nathan Jones
“It’s not something we’ve wanted to do, but we tried and I reiterate to everyone out there, we tried absolutely everything to get him to sign a contract at this football club and it got to a point where he categorically said he’s not going to sign a contract for us.
“So once that happens then we’ve got a decision to make. Either we gamble, and hope we can change his mind during the season, or when you receive an offer then you’ve got to consider it.
“We turned down as many offers as we possibly could, leading up to now, but once we categorically knew and it became quite evident that he wasn’t, then we had to do the right thing moving forward for the football club.”
Vassell had signed a new 18-month deal in December 2016 that took him through to the summer, but his rapid progress took almost everyone by surprise, as Jones continued: “We try not to let anyone’s run down here so that we get in those situations.
“Sometimes it happens, because with Isaac for example, we had him on a two year deal quite early it’s just his rise was meteoric from January to April.
“So since then we’ve reiterated our desires to offer him a new deal, but when that breaks down and someone says ‘no, I am not going to’, then we had to do what we had to do.
“I praise the board and I thank the board that they stood strong for so long, but there comes a time when you have to do the sensible thing really.
“We showed as much ambition as we possibly could have in a sensible world to keep hold of him and we turned down so much, but in the end, we couldn’t do it anymore.
“So we’ve been forced into a position that we didn’t want to be in and it’s the only set of individuals that haven’t trusted us with development and so on.
“He was adamant that he wanted to leave, we wish him all the best, he’s been a fantastic player here for us, been a fantastic character.
“He works hard and he’s developed so quickly and that type of player draws attention.”
Although James Justin, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu and Frankie Musonda have all signed long term deals recently, on whether he felt Vassell had been advised badly to make the step up to soon, Jones said: “Advisers do what advisers do, they advise.
“Every set of advisers and parents when people have had opportunities, have said, ‘this is the place to develop when you’re ready’.
“And we don’t stand in people’s way if they move quicker than the football club, 99 per cent of people trust us, some don’t.”
Now the deal has finally been done, after weeks of rumours and speculation, there was an element of relief for Jones, as he said: “I’m actually relieved it’s done, as it’s been going on far, far too long.
“It was starting to distract the way that we were moving forward and as you can see from Saturday, he was nowhere near the levels we expect from him.
“We move on, so lets this be the end of it now. We wish him all the best, we hope he does fantastically well as I’m sure he’ll always remember the time he was at Luton.
“I just hope that he does continue his development as some people move early and some people jump to levels and they want to do it, but at times it’s better just to develop, be ready for that level and then go
“He will make it in the Championship, how quickly is another thing.
“What we wanted to do here was give him another year’s development and then if he continued that development, we believe he could have gone even higher.”
When asked if he felt the dealings had affected the players too, as Town were beaten 1-0 at Barnet on Saturday. Jones added: “I don’t know, when you’re so engrossed in trying to do something for one individual, you tend to neglect a few things and for me, my days were spent just trying to get certain things arranged.
“I’ll be glad when the window shuts as it is a distraction, a real distraction and when your head gets turned, it’s difficult to get anyone to focus.
“This has been going on for quite a long time and not just with one club, but we’re here and we wish him all the best and now got to focus on what we want to do.”