Luton Town are set to lose their leading marksman as James Collins edges closer to a summer move to Cardiff City.
The contract of the Republic of Ireland international expires this summer after a four-year spell with the Hatters, and each season he has hit double figures for goals as he’s gone from League Two to the Championship with the club.
But after 68 goals in 172 appearances, the 30-year-old is heading out of the exit door at Kenilworth Road and is heading to the Bluebirds as Mick McCarthy brings in some competition – or a potential strike partner – for Kieffer Moore.
With the likes of Matty Pearson, Sonny Bradley and Pelly Ruddock all out of contract this summer and no new contracts announced yet, Nathan Jones could be set for a big rebuild of his squad.
Finding a goalscorer to replace Collins will be tough though – let’s look at three options that could be considered to fill the boots of him.
He may be 32 years old now and he may not have found the back of the net for Reading in 20 appearances this past season, but there will still be a goalscorer in Baldock somewhere.
The majority of Baldock’s appearances came off the bench and because of the form Lucas Joao was in, as well as having an expensive other option in George Puscas, the former Brighton and West Ham man was never going to get an extended run in the side.
However with Collins departing Luton, Elijah Adebayo is likely going to become the number one man up-front for Nathan Jones, and he could do with a smaller striker next to him buzzing around and occupying the other defenders.
Baldock can still do that even in his 30’s, and for at least one season he could be a viable option.
What club do these 21 former Luton Town players ply their trade at now?
The Premier League loanee route is a market that Luton have explored this season by bringing in Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall from Leicester City, and he was a roaring success in the middle of the park for the Hatters.
It’s something they could exploit again when looking for a Collins replacement, and a season-long loan to the Championship could be the making of Louie Barry of Aston Villa.
The 17-year-old has had an interesting career already having been at West Brom’s academy before joining Barcelona in 2019 – that move lasted just a few months however and he switched to Villa in January 2020.
In a goal and performance that saw Jurgen Klopp label him as a ‘little Jamie Vardy’ Barry scored in his debut appearance for Villa’s first team back in January in the FA Cup against Liverpool, and his form for Villa’s under-23’s in the Premier League 2 has been sublime, scoring 13 times in 17 appearances.
Harvey Elliott has flourished at this age at Blackburn Rovers this season so there’s no reason as to why Barry cannot do the same and Luton could really give him that chance to shine.
The other option is for Luton to take a punt from lower down the EFL – they’ve never been the biggest spenders so the top scorers from League One can already be ruled out as they’re going up in price.
One player who has been linked to Championship clubs though is Stephen Humphrys of Rochdale, who netted 11 times in 29 outings last season in a campaign where Dale were unfortunately relegated into League Two.
He still has a year left on his contract but you can’t imagine that the 23-year-old would cost a lot of money for Championship standards, and he may very much fit the bill in what Nathan Jones is looking for when it comes to a striker with a powerful shot and an eye for goal.