Town skipper Bradley highlights Sluga's wonder save at Wigan as a potential turning point in the Croatian's Luton career
Keeper claims Player of the Season at awards night
Luton skipper Sonny Bradley believes that keeper Simon Sluga s impressive reversal in form this season could well be down to his wonder save at Wigan Athletic last term.
With just minutes remaining at the DW Stadium and the scores goalless, the Croatian made an absolutely world class save to get down to his left and tip Michael Jacobs' effort behind for a corner, ensuring the Hatters left with a point in their final match before the season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The significance of that result was to prove even more vital as under the returning Nathan Jones, Luton managed to pull off the Great Escape to avoid relegation back to League One, with Sluga also having a starring role in the 1-1 draw at champions Leeds United.
The 28-year-old had struggled during the first half of the season, as despite making some fantastic stops, a number of errors, particularly at Derby County, saw him dropped from the side in favour of James Shea, admitting himself that he just hadn't been good enough following a club record move to Bedfordshire.
However, following that save at Wigan, Sluga has gone on to be a model of consistency, particularly in his second season at Kenilworth Road, keeping 13 clean sheets in 41 games this term, named the Luton Town Supporters' Trust Player of the Season at the awards evening last night.
Bradley, who has played in front of Sluga for the last two seasons, said of the keeper: "That save at Wigan, I remember doing the press after that game, and it might just be a save like that that might be a turning point for him.
“I’m not saying it is definitely that but it might have been one of those fantastic saves that he made.
“It’s hard for foreign players coming over and coming straight into the squad. I think it maybe just took a bit of time for him to settle, which is completely understandable.
“The playing style, if we’d have continued playing the way we did in that first season in the Championship, if we’d have done that this season, we’d have continued to concede a lot of chances.
"And there was no way we’d have kept the amount of clean sheets that we’ve kept.
“So, I think the style of play and Nathan coming in certainly helped Simon.
"But, Simon’s a really, really good character. He’s got a really good attitude.
"If you speak to Kev Dearden ever, he’ll tell you that his work ethic is second to none.
“He’s always looking to improve and when you have that attitude and that character then the only thing that was going to happen was you were going to see improvements.
“He’ll be away on internationals (Euro 2020 Finals) and hopefully he gets a game. He deserves it.
“But let’s hope he just stays fit, comes back strong and with that attitude he’ll go again, look to improve again.
"He’s had 13 clean sheets this season and there’s no doubt he’ll want more next season.
With Sluga's performances tightening up, it saw the Hatters concede just 52 goals in the Championship last term, some improvement on the 82 they shipped during their first term back at this level.
Reflecting on his side's new-found solidity, Bradley added: "I think there’s a number of reasons, not just one.
"I think the style of play has changed under Nathan.
"At times, in the first season in the Championship, we left ourselves exposed a lot and, at times, we were having to score three or four goals to win games.
“We recognised that and made adjustments accordingly and we benefited from it.
“Obviously, personnel as well. Tom’s (Lockyer) come in and done really well. I think Kal Naismith’s come in and been outstanding for us.
“When you start getting the clean sheets and start getting the results, I think your confidence goes up as well.
"That’s what I’ve noticed in my career, not just as individuals, but a team as well.
“Simon Sluga’s had a big part in that. He’s another one that has benefitted from us getting good results.
"You can almost see that he’s a different player. His confidence is through the roof.
“He’s kept a lot of clean sheets for us, but there’s not just one reason, it’s the playing style and the improvement in personnel and that’s the reason we’ve improved.
“If we want to go again next season and finish above 12th, then we’ll have to do even better than that."