Jake Howells wants to fill the boots of Hatters hero Keith Keane after he penned a new three-year deal – revealing he was never going to leave.
At only 21 years old the left sided midfielder has assumed the mantle of Luton’s longest serving player after his former team-mate made the switch to League One Preston North End last month.
Like Keane, Howells came up through the club’s academy and since making his senior debut in 2008 – two weeks after his 17th birthday – he has gone on to make 183 appearances.
“It’s a bit weird that I’m the most capped player and I’m only 21 still – it’s crazy,” the midfielder said.
“I’m happy for Keano. He’s gone to a League One club and I hope he does really well. He’s great player and a great bloke so I wish him all the best.
"Hopefully I can live up to what he did at the club. That’s something to look up to but I’m proud of how many games I’ve played already. Hopefully there are plenty more to come.”
But Howells admitted that the honour of being Luton’s longest serving current star comes with its pressures.
“I’ve got to step up the mark now,” he said. “I’m still learning and I take a lot from the older pros, but I’ve played a lot of games and I don’t think there are many at my age that have as many appearances.”
Last season saw Howells’ contribution to the Hatters’ cause recognised by Wales who handed him his first cap for the under-21 side – one of only two players from the Blue Square Bet Premier to get selected.
He appeared four times in total for the young Dragons and played in European Championship qualifiers – a marker that did not go unnoticed.
With rumoured interest from Football League clubs, keen to snare the out-ofcontract youngster, Howells revealed his head was never turned.
“When Luton offered me a new deal and I was over the moon,” he said.
“At Wembley [in May’s play-off final defeat to York City] I was playing for my contract. Us losing really hurt because I really thought it was our year.
“From then I just had a bit of time off but all along I knew I was going to play for Luton. A three-year deal at Luton Town is something you can’t turn down.
“A lot of clubs are releasing players these days. There was no doubt from my part.
"I’ve always wanted to play for the club. Paul Buckle is a good manager and I want to play for him.”
But despite staying in the non-league for another year, Howells was quick to point out that he has lofty ambitions, saying: “I do want to play higher in my career, like any professional footballer would. It didn’t happen last season but I think it will in the next one.
We’ve brought in some top signings and with the great support we’ve got, I think this year could be ours to win the title.”
And after Stevenage and then Crawley both secured back-to-back promotions out of the Conference, Howells thinks that at the end of his new three-year deal, Town could see themselves back in the Championship.
“I think we’ve got the potential to do it,” the midfielder said, adding: “If we can go up this year then I think we can do again and then, who knows?”
Howells will report back for the first day of pre-season training tomorrow where he will get to meet Buckle’s five new signings – Jon Shaw, Scott Rendell, Garry Richards, Danny Spiller and Ronnie Henry – though nine of his old team-mates have left in the last month.
He said: “It’s going to be like I’m in a new school but I can’t wait. We’ve brought in a lot of experienced Football League players, which the club hasn’t done for a while. The future looks good for Luton Town.
“We had a lot of good players last year but we have brought in a lot of brilliant new ones.
“We have got a lot of winners in our team now, which we haven’t had over the years since I’ve been here.”
Howells’ first 15 minutes cameo in senior football in May 2008 against Huddersfield saw him line up alongside former Liverpool and Scotland midfielder Don Hutchison, while he has featured with a host of other players that have gone on to the top echelons of the British domestic game.
But the youngster thinks that the squad that Buckle has assembled looks strong.
“I’ve played in a lot of teams at Luton Town and the squad we’ll have this year will be up there with one of the best,” he said.
“I’m very excited about starting the new season and I can’t wait.”
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