'We've disgraced our club and our town' – Stevenage boss Darren Sarll rips into players after 7-1 Luton humiliation
PUBLISHED: 19:15 14 October 2017 | UPDATED: 19:54 14 October 2017
Danny Loo Photography 2017
“We’ve disgraced our club and our town” – that was the verdict of Stevenage manager Darren Sarll after his team went down 7-1 against Luton Town in one of Boro’s heaviest defeats ever.
Stevenage never gave up, but were ripped apart by a clinical Luton display that saw the Hatters’ Luke Berry net a hat-trick from midfield – with Ben Kennedy getting one back for Boro just before half time.
On the Kenilworth Road pitch after the game, Sarll accused his players of disrespecting the club and told reporters that were the transfer window open, every single member of today’s Stevenage team would be on the transfer list tomorrow.
“We’ve disgraced ourselves,” he said.
“We’ve disgraced our football club, we’ve disgraced our town, and we deserve all of the obvious criticisms that are coming our way.
“When I went and saw the fans at the end, I can’t argue with any of their pleas or their criticisms. We’re just in a place where we have to take all the punches that are coming our way and hope we can get back up again in time for Tuesday night.
“The big thing for me is we’ve disrespected the football club and that doesn’t sit right with me. I work too hard for that disrespect for come our way.”
Asked to identify reasons why Stevenage were defeated so heavily, Sarll pointed to the reliable finishing of the Luton forward players and his own side’s soft defending.
He said: “When chances are presented they score, and when we opened our doors – which was fairly often, especially when the ball got in and around that final third – we knew that crosses in particular and counter-attacks were going to be of massive significance today.
“We were so soft defending our own box. So if you have a softness to your defence in one box, where every time the ball gets played into the box you allow an opponent to get a shot on goal, what do you think ends up happening? We end up conceding lots of goals.
“We conceded a shoddy first goal, absolutely shoddy – and we go down the other end and we miss the post by whatever distance, a millimetre or a mile. We missed. And that pretty much summed up the afternoon, I thought.
“First half, on play, I thought was OK – but every time they got in and around that box my heart skips a beat, and every time we got in and around their box, I was unbelievably disappointed with our quality of finish, or lack of quality of finish.
“That’s the logic behind it. The emotion obviously kicks in and sometimes it’s hard to find the logic, but if you don’t defend the box – we should be absolutely appalled with ourselves this evening going home, and we all have to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves: really, have we given everything today? I don’t think we have given everything today.”
Sarll said Boro’s past successes at Kenilworth Road had been built on sound defence and tactics, but that “if you don’t give yourself a chance to stay in the game at Kenilworth Road, you get killed”.
He said: “They have the resource to recruit what should be the very best in our league, and you saw what is the very best in our league in terms of individual forwards in particular. They’re absolutely in the form of their career and they punished us, over and over and over.
“The biggest knife in the heart for me is that I’m a fighting man, and when difficult times come my way I try to get myself to the front and push my chest out and go toe-to-toe.
“Today, so many of our senior characters didn’t go toe-to-toe. They didn’t puff their chest out. They just walked away and cried aimlessly in the corner.”
Turning to the penalty incident that gave Luton their fourth, Sarll said the decision was soft but that Luke Wilkinson should have known better than to challenge Luton’s James Collins so closely.
He said: “Luton are good at that. The players are told not to go too tight with a Hylton or a Collins. Collins did it to Wilkinson last year at Crawley.
“You go too tight and they fall and they get their pens. Who’s in the wrong? The player that falls or the player that knows that he’s going to fall yet still goes and gets that tight? It’s a very tough one.
“I thought it looked soft. It’s just a stupid, stupid moment in the box. It’s just highlighting what I’m saying.
“I can’t go through every goal because I can’t remember them. There was too many of them. But it just goes to show how shoddy we were defending our penalty box. As a defensive unit, we were nowhere near.
“I’ve put out what I consider my best team today – maybe minus Jack King, who’s close but not fit enough yet. And that’s what Stevenage had for them today. It’s very disrespectful and I’m disgraced by the performance.”
Sarll then launched into lashing criticism of not just his players’ performance, but their character as well.
He said: “Let’s be emotional about this – if that transfer window was open right now, there’d be 11 on the transfer list tomorrow morning. Fourteen including the subs, because they weren’t good enough either.
“We have to work with what’s inside, and if they’re any type of human being, if there’s any morality about them as people, our players. For the first time in my 18 months I’m questioning that morality and their integrity.
“We play a really good side on Tuesday. Tactically, when I researched this game and watched Accrington play Luton, I thought Accrington were the better side for large parts of the game.
“If we think we’re going to turn up and play someone lower down – we’re playing as good a side as we played today on Tuesday night.”
Asked what he would like to say to the Boro faithful – many of whom will have to go to work on Monday with Luton fans – Sarll said he would have this black mark on his CV for the rest of his career.
“We all feel the same,” he said.
“I’ve no idea where the players are right now, because I’ve left them in a certain state – but we’re all unbelievably disgraced and disappointed by that performance.
“‘Disgrace’ might come across as harsh, but I don’t think it does. I think it’s the perfect adjective to describe what the afternoon’s been about.
“We’ve been a disgrace to the football club and to the town, and we should be the people to put it right if we can.”
Looking ahead to Accrington’s visit to the Lamex Stadium on Tuesday night, Sarll said he expected a tough game against a fine manager in John Coleman.
“He does unbelievably well every year,” said Sarll.
“They play a brand of football that’s so difficult to defend against, because they play in such big areas all the time.
“I wouldn’t have thought that fatigue would come into it. If I was any of them the motivation should be at its highest tomorrow and on Tuesday night, because we’ve let everyone down.”