Luton defender Tom Lockyer has spoken for the first time about collapsing on the pitch in the play-off final at Wembley after thankfully being given the all-clear by doctors this week.
The 28-year-old centre half had played an absolutely pivotal role in the Hatters reaching the home of English football after a stand-out season that saw him named in the Championship Team of the Year, setting up a winner takes all clash against Coventry City.
Captain for the day, Lockyer had already gone close with a header before with 10 minutes not even on the clock, he worryingly fell to the floor with no-one around him was immediately stretchered off and taken to the Cleveland Clinic in London, where he underwent a heart procedure last Wednesday.
Able to return home last week, he has now been given the green light to resume playing after a break away, and speaking to the club’s official website about exactly what happened, Lockyer said: “It was a weird one.
“I remember running backwards, and then I went really light-headed and my legs went really weak straightaway, as I was running back.
“I remember stumbling back and then all I remember was (physio) Chris Phillips over the top of me, and he was saying ‘Locks, you’re coming off’.
“I was like ‘No mate, no mate, I’m fine’, but he was saying ‘No, it’s serious Locks, you’ve collapsed, you’re coming off’.
“Then it dawned on me that I was on the floor and this is actually serious.
“It was then that, because I felt fine as soon as I woke up, I instantly just went ‘Oh no, this is the end of my game’ and had the feeling of letting the boys down.
“I just got really emotional. I couldn’t stop crying on the floor.
“They were doing whatever they were doing – and to be honest, even then at the time I felt that I could have got up and walked off, but the medics have to do their job and a massive shout out to them.
“They were, and have been fantastic. I can’t thank them all enough for what they did for me.
“It was probably a lot worse for everyone else watching than it was for me because as soon as I came back round I was fine.
“I never really felt in any danger, and it definitely wasn’t as bad as it looked.
“I had an atrial fibrillation, which is basically the top part of my heart was beating four times faster than it should have been.
“There’s not really any reason to say why that happened, but I’ve had the operation to fix it and it shouldn’t happen again.
“I’ve had my full heart checked and double checked with all the scans and tests they can do on a heart, and they’ve all come back positive.
“Now I’ve had the all-clear, I just want to draw a line under it, and get back to normal.
“But having been through this unexplained experience and all the tests, I would recommend to everyone that if you suffer any rapid irregular heartbeat, chest pain, dizziness or shortness of breath, that you seek medical advice and get checked out.”
With Lockyer taken off, Town’s players didn’t let the clearly worrying situation get to them, taking the lead through Jordan Clark midway through the first half.
Gustavo Hamer levelled for the Sky Blues in the second period, as with neither side able to be separated, the game went to dreaded spotkicks.
Luton’s painstaking preparation for such an outcome paid off, winning 6-5, as Lockyer was thankfully able to watch the action unfold with his family from his hospital bed.
He continued: “I was in the medical room at Wembley, under the stadium, and I couldn’t stop crying in there but it was funny, because it was like a communal room and they kept wheeling in drunk fans next to me!
“We were in there and didn’t hear a cheer or anything, then all I heard was someone shout, ‘Tell him we’re 1-0 up, Jordan Clark!’
“So then I was over the moon with that, and couldn’t stop celebrating and smiling.
“Then (secretary) Chris Clark came down then and got my phone for me, so I started watching it on Sky Go and carried on in the ambulance.
“We got to the hospital for extra-time, and my old man decided for those penalties then to take the photo of the winning penalty and post it out to let everyone know I was all right, so that’s a nice moment we’ve got all together now, that photo.”
Although he wasn’t able to take to the field to join in with the celebrations, the Luton players held aloft Lockyer’s shirt during the trophy presentation, something that wasn’t lost on the skipper, who admitted his time in hospital was made that bit easier in the knowledge Town were now a Premier League side next term.
He added: “It was the best I’ve looked!
“It was really nice to see all the lads having such a good time, which they all thoroughly deserved because it’s been a long hard season.
“When I was watching that, I was obviously delighted but so sad at the same time that after 50-odd games in a season, it all comes down to this one massive game and I don’t play a part in it, and I don’t get to enjoy the celebrations afterwards.
“So it was a hard watch if I’m being honest, but so delighted that the lads could get the job done. It made it so much better for me.
“It was a day of mixed emotions, it was crazy.
“All week I’d been visualising walking up those steps to that trophy and to end it in a hospital bed is not quite what I had in mind, but I was immensely proud to lead the lads out at Wembley – more so than I am normally because of the occasion and it was a massive honour for me and my family.
“That’s probably my only pic of the day, leading the lads out!
“I’m just really thankful that the lads were able to get the job done and we were able to complete our goal of getting promoted.
“It made those five days in hospital after a lot easier.
“I think if we had lost, those five days would have been horrendous, but they made it a lot smoother for me.”