King would love to be Luton's number one at Power Court

Former Luton keeper Craig King
Former Luton keeper Craig King

Ex-Hatter still dreams of playing for the club once more

Former Luton goalkeeper Craig King would love to be the Town’s number one when they eventually walk out at Power Court in the future.

The 23-year-old left the Hatters in the summer of 2017, turning down a new contract at Kenilworth Road after bravely admitting he had been battling with depression.

King, who had made four senior appearances for Luton, all in the Checkatrade Trophy, stepped away from the game for a while in a bid to get better, but is now back between the posts for National South side Oxford City.

However, he would love to don the Hatters’ jersey again if possible, as speaking to the club’s official website yesterday, he said: “I said it in an interview after that West Brom game (2-0 win, King saving a penalty from now Town player Callum McManaman), and obviously that was early in the talks about the new stadium, that my target is to be the number one keeper when the stadium arrives.

“It’s kind of something that is still in the back of my head to be honest.

“You never know what is going to happen in the next couple of years if I work hard and put everything into it, which I’m going to do.

“Never say never. That’s my target, so I’ll have to make sure that the Luton staff feel the same way and give them a decision to make!

“I played four senior games – Gillingham away, 2-1 was my debut game – and thinking about that game is enough motivation for me to get back out there in front of a crowd again and doing what I want to do for the foreseeable future.”

He has been on the Kenilworth Road surface since that win over the Baggies though, selected by England C, the national non-league team, for a representative match to help celebrate the Bedfordshire FA’s 125th anniversary.

He continued: “When I heard it was at Kenilworth Road, I thought how typical! I couldn’t wait.

“I played the second half and managed to keep a clean sheet in front of some of the Luton fans as well.

“It was good everything just went very well and like I keep saying, it’s already the motivation to get back into it and prove what I can do and what people can overcome when they’re in a bad head space.”

King was back where it all started this week ahead of the Heads Up weekend, where football unites to kick off the biggest ever conversation on mental health and well-being.

The stopper confirmed he is in a far better place now thankfully, saying: “I’m very well, better than ever.

“It is nice being back here to be honest seeing everyone again, it’s amazing seeing the transformation of the club on and off the pitch.

“I have and always will be a Luton fan, it’s like coming home right now so I’m loving life.

“I’m playing football again and hopefully in the summer looking to move on to a pro club again, so everything is really positive.”

After a brief spell training with Met Police, King got back into the game two years ago thanks to a former Luton youth coach, Joe Deeney, who had joined Oxford as an assistant to Mark Jones.

On how his move came about, he said: “It was a great opportunity for me to get back into football.

“I’ve played under Joe Deeney for years and he gave me the phone call saying they were struggling for a goalkeeper.

“I wasn’t intending to be there long, just for when their keeper got fit again, but obviously I started playing again and got the vibe that I wanted to get back into it.

“At first it was just nice to play football but now I feel like a new person mentally. I’ve overcome everything that I needed to do and so I’m better than ever and ready to kick on again now.”

King is combining his playing commitments with a job as a greenkeeper at Chesham & Ley Hill golf course.

Looking back over his Town career, the keeper, who came through the ranks at Kenilworth Road, believes nothing will top his debut as part of one of the youngest ever Hatters sides, featuring six academy graduates, who won 2-1 at Gillingham.

He said: ““I think Gillingham will always top it.

“My first game playing against players like Bradley Dack, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, going in as massive underdogs and performing the way we did with such a young squad, proving to all the fans and all the staff that we were good enough – it was just a great feeling.

“Obviously getting that shirt with everyone signing it with my name on the back, for a club that I was at for nine years old, it was special.”

One player that night, James Justin, is now plying his trade in the Premier League, after a club record deal took him to Leicester City in the summer.

King said: “It’s always nice seeing players like James excel because you always knew that he had a talent and the main thing for me is he had the correct mentality as well.

“He is so dedicated, a good professional off the pitch and I think he got rewarded and took his chances when he could.

“He got thrown in last minute against Aston Villa on TV for his debut and he took that chance and you see where he is now, he’s flying. I loved working with James for years, so I’m happy for him.”

Meanwhile, King was also quick to pay tribute to the club's supporters who have helped him during his own battle away from the pitch, adding: “Occasionally in my local Tesco I get the odd Luton fan come up to me and go ‘how are you doing’, and it is nice because I’ve always said that the club is like a massive family on and off the pitch.

“The relationship that I have with the fans is very special and I always thank them for the support I had and I will always be supporting this club.

“Great club, great people working behind it, great fans, it’s good.”