The 20-year-old holding midfielder got his first taste of senior football as part of the travelling squad for our pre-season trips to Melbourne and Oslo last summer and made the bench for our EFL Cup defeat at Liverpool in October.
He linked up with the Shrimpers in League One in January and after being named as a substitute for his first 10 games, he finally made his competitive debut from the start in a 3-2 home win over Walsall a week ago on Saturday (March 18).
Back on the bench for this weekend’s 2-0 victory at AFC Wimbledon, which maintained the Essex club’s play-off hopes, Luke is grateful to some of the senior pros at Southend for showing him the ropes and opening his eyes to the realities of league football.
“From the first day I arrived they were great,” said Luke of his team-mates. “There wasn’t any of this ‘oh, he’s come from Tottenham’ – obviously I’ve had to work hard in training but the boys have taken to me really well.
“I travel in with Anthony Wordsworth and Adam Thompson pretty much every morning. We’re all Hertfordshire-based and right from the first day they asked where I was coming from and said I could jump in with them. We meet up in Broxbourne and we take it in turns to drive in, I’ve been invited on any trips out and they’ve looked after me like a brother, giving me advice here and there. They’re key members of the squad so normally their opinion is very valuable. Even watching them on the pitch, I’m just learning every day.
“Obviously stepping up from the Under-23s into a first team is a big change. There are some players who’ve been there and done it in football so every day I’m learning from them, learning how the game is and if I can pick up little things here and there, that’s something to take from this experience.”
Casting his mind back to his debut against Walsall last week, Luke said: “After I found out I was playing I was really excited. I’d been on the bench quite a few times, I’ve seen how the games are and picked up bits but I was just desperate to get out there, show what I can do and help the team. I haven’t come here to be selfish, I’m here as part of the team so I was fairly relaxed once the game started, I didn’t want to make it too much of a big deal or big it up too much because you get lost in the occasion otherwise. It’s still a game at the end of the day and one we wanted to win, so I was just focused and prepared to do all I could do to play well and help the team.
“There’s a whole atmosphere around the games, people are relying on you, you have to make sure you’re there for the second balls and make sure you’re tracking the runners. You always do it for the team because you don’t want to let them down and you do that extra running because you don’t want to let yourself down as well.”
So how does Luke assess the progress he’s made over the last year? “It’s definitely a step forward to come here. It was unbelievable to be part of the first team (at Spurs) in pre-season, that was the first stepping stone, then the next part is growing up and that’s something that I’ve been able to do a little bit more coming out to Southend. The next step is obviously to play more games and long-term, the dream is to play in the first team at Spurs.”
Elsewhere, young striker Shayon Harrison scored his first goal for Yeovil Town in League Two on Saturday (March 25). Named in the starting line-up, he headed home in the 70th minute of his side’s trip to Exeter City before being withdrawn with 13 minutes left. However, his afternoon was tarnished after his side let slip a 3-0 lead to draw 3-3 in the last couple of minutes. Shayon has also seen action off the bench over the last fortnight, being introduced in the last 15 minutes in consecutive draws, 2-2 at Barnet and 1-1 at home to Accrington Stanley.
Left-back Connor Ogilvie was back in action for league rivals Stevenage in their goalless draw at Cambridge United on Saturday after missing out on last weekend’s 3-0 home win over Portsmouth through injury. Prior to that, the defender played 90 minutes in a 2-0 victory at Luton Town and 1-0 defeat at Blackpool. Striker Ryan Loft, also on loan at Stevenage, came on for the last few minutes against Portsmouth.
Back in League One, Luke McGee returned to goalkeeping duties for Peterborough United in their 1-0 win at Gillingham on Saturday after dropping to the bench for last weekend’s 1-1 draw at home to Oldham Athletic – ending a run of 38 straight starts in all competitions for the Posh since early September. He played in a 2-1 home defeat to Oxford United and a 3-3 draw at Chesterfield earlier this month.
Over in the US, Anton Walkes was an unused substitute for Atlanta United as they secured their first ever MLS victory in some style on March 12, winning 6-1 away to Minnesota United amid heavy snowfall. He wasn’t involved in the 4-0 home win over Chicago Fire last weekend, though.
In France, Clinton Njie has featured as a second-half substitute for Marseille in a 3-0 home win over Angers and goalless away draw with Lille in Ligue 1 over the last few weeks while, in Italy, Federico Fazio continues to start regularly for Roma, helping them to Serie A wins over Palermo (3-0 away) and Sassuolo (3-1 at home) of late. He scored in the first leg of Roma’s Europa League round of 16 tie with Lyon but saw his side lose out 5-4 on aggregate.
Nabil Bentaleb, currently on loan at FC Schalke 04 before joining them permanently this summer, also hit the target at the same stage of the Europa League, his second-half penalty in the second leg of his side’s tie with Borussia Monchengladbach proving decisive as Schalke progressed on away goals after a 3-3 aggregate draw. He’s also featured in Bundesliga wins over Augsburg (3-0 at home) and Mainz (1-0 away) of late.