Communication key for Lacey as Still continues to challenge him

L13-897 LTFC v Aston Villa. wk 30.L13-897 LTFC v Aston Villa. wk 30.
L13-897 LTFC v Aston Villa. wk 30.
Talented 20-year-old defender Alex Lacey is being challenged every step of the way by boss John Still to become the player he promises to be, writes Mark Wood.

The youngster was surprisingly once again handed the captain’s armband for Tuesday night’s 2-0 friendly victory over Aston Villa, despite regular captains Ronnie Henry and Steve McNulty being both in the back four.

And Still is adamant that Lacey must become a more forthright force, saying: “I think he’s very talented, I think he’s got good quality, I think he’s a bright lad, but he doesn’t communicate well enough, he’s not strong enough. not positive enough and he’s not purposeful enough, so he’s got a bit better!”

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Still is hoping that the influence of McNulty and Henry will have an effect too, as he continued: “That’s what you’re hoping that it rubs off and I’ve tried to put him in a position that he’s got to communicate better because it would be remiss of me not to try and find a way of him communicating better, because if he’s going to make a career for himself that’s a part of his game he’s got to get.

“If he doesn’t make it as a player it would hurt me if it was because he can’t communicate.

“If he couldn’t pass, couldn’t head, couldn’t run, couldn’t tackle, that’s a different reason, but if he doesn’t do it because he doesn’t communicate he’s going to let himself down and I’m determined not to let that happen.”

Experienced defender McNulty admitted Lacey is facing something of a trial by fire under Still, but has backed him to go on and make a name for himself.

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He said: “The gaffer says it’s confidence-building and I’ve tried to tell the gaffer to lay off him a little bit in training but you know the way the gaffer is, he’s from London and he’s a big character and that’s what he wants Lacey to do, he thinks he’s a bit quiet and obviously me and Ronnie are vocal but he’s a nice kid and he’s a really, really good player.

“It’s going to stand him in good stead, it’s great experience for him. You try and not talk too much and let him try and pull you about which we are doing in training and he’s trying to do all the talking.

“But he’s one to keep your eye on I think and if develops the way he should develop I think you could see him getting sold on.”

It’s unclear who will skipper the Hatters this coming season, with both McNulty and Henry regular skippers last term, but the Liverpudlian feels no need to have the armband.

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He said: “It’s all up in the air, if Lacey starts at the beginning of the season I think we’d all be quite happy to let the young local lad take the captaincy, but there’s nothing to be spoken about at the end of the day as far as I’m concerned, Ronnie’s the club captain and he’s the captain.

“I just think the gaffer’s trying to give Lacey a bit more experience and try and turn him into a leader.”

McNulty is also glad to see a ‘local lad’ like Lacey pushing Town’s veteran performers hard.

“He’s a local lad which is always good, you need these local lads playing in a team and it’s good for him,” he continued.

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“He’s been given the captaincy tonight, he’s trying to get him experience which is really good.

“He’s a really good player but no-one’s ever the finish article, he’s still got a lot to learn, he’ll tell you that himself, but us other experienced lads can only help him so much, but we’ll give him all the advice he needs and obviously the gaffer will try and bring him on.

“But it’s nice to play alongside someone and help them and I think this year he will make his debut and he’ll play a lot of games.

“He’ll be pushing us experienced players because he’s got a lot of talent and he’s a good player.”

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And fellow Luton academy graduate Jake Howells believes Lacey is making strides, saying: “He’s doing the best he can the boy and in training he’s getting more vocal and I think he’s got a lot of ability and I think the gaffer’s probably the best manager that can get it out of him.”

Howells also believes he is in the best hands possible, adding: “As long as Lacey keeps listening and listens to what the gaffer has to say, and he’s trying to help his career, I think he’s got a good chance in his career.

“Ronnie and Macca have done it for god knows how many years now and been through it all and they’ve learned the hard way like Alex is probably going to.

“Given the skipper’s armband tonight is probably going to help him with his experience and it’s going to bode well for when the season comes.

“And if he gets a chance to play it’s going to help him massively and he’s doing well.”