Luton defender Tom Lockyer has thanked Town’s fans for the numerous messages of support he received during his time in hospital recently, admitting it had kept him going.
The 28-year-old was taken to the Cleveland Clinic in London after suffering an atrial fibrillation and collapsing on the pitch during the opening 10 minutes of the Hatters’ play-off final against Coventry City at Wembley, kept in for five days as he underwent tests and eventually a minor operation on his heart.
It meant he not only missed the on-field celebrations after Luton’s penalty shootout victory that saw them reach the Premier League, but also the open top bus tour around the town and promotion party in St George’s Square, as around 20,000 fans hit the streets to celebrate.
Lockyer still managed to take in the events though, as he told the club’s official website: “I watched the parade on BBC News from my hospital bed and that was really touching as well, and what a turnout they had.
“It was incredible and amazing to see so many fans turn up for the boys, because we have created that special bond between the fans and the players, and that has definitely helped us all season.
“The supporters have been our 12th man when we’ve needed them, so it was incredible to see, and I am so grateful for all the support and lovely messages I’ve had since.
“Reading them all on social media kept me going in hospital, so thank you to everyone, it’s been amazing.”
The defender also hailed boss Rob Edwards, who broke down during his live interview on Sky after the game when shown the tweet from Lockyer’s dad Steve that revealed he was okay and able to see the moment the Hatters became a top flight club once more.
The Welsh international continued: “We were watching the interview with Rob at the time, and it made my mum cry saying what a lovely bloke he is.
“I just said to her ‘Yes, he is amazing, he’s been amazing and you can see what a genuine person he is as well.’
“He’s not just an unbelievable manager, but you can tell the ethos he has about family first always, and we have created a family.
“Luton Town is a family now. It was amazing to see.”
There was also one other great moment for Lockyer when he went back to the training ground at the Brache this week and was able to see Mick Harford, the Luton legend himself having had health worries in the past after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
The popular centre half added: “My car was still at the training ground from when we travelled down to Wembley, so I went to go and get it and I saw Big Mick’s car in there, so I went in and they were having a recruitment meeting upstairs.
“I went up and saw him, and it was a really nice moment, a special moment that we shared.
“He said he was really surprised at how well I was doing.
“Obviously when people mention hearts and have seen what happened, and I said I’d had a little operation, people think the worst, don’t they?
“But I said I was fine, and he said it was so great to see me doing so well and it reassured him.
“I think it was worse for everyone else not knowing, but when he saw me he said it put all his nerves at ease.”
Although the defender missed the trip to Las Vegas, he will now head away with his partner Taylor where he hopes what Luton have achieved this term will finally sink in.
He added: “The doctor’s orders now are two weeks’ rest without raising the heart rate, then I’m good to go.
“So it’s going to be a two-week holiday somewhere just chilling out, eating some good food and just taking everything in.
“For me it hasn’t really sunk in what we’ve achieved, because I wasn’t there and I didn’t make the Vegas trip with all the lads.
“So now we can get away and hopefully it sinks in when we’re away. That’ll be really nice.”