Having only played Luton Town once competitively since our last win at Kenilworth Road in 2007, Saturday’s opposition presents an element of the unknown.
To find out more about the Hatters, canaries.co.uk got in touch with Luton Today sports reporter Mike Simmonds.
canaries.co.uk: Luton finished 19th in the Championship last season, having been in the relegation zone ahead of the final day. Having won League One and League Two in the two seasons prior, was last season considered a success?
MS: Definitely. Staying up was the only real aim for them last season after coming up from League One, and especially with how they were before the season was finished due to lockdown. They were picking up a little bit of form but didn’t really look like they could do it.
To come back in those last nine games and stay up was a fantastic achievement, so I’d say that was the one thing that they needed to do and they did it.
canaries.co.uk: How much of a difference did Nathan Jones make, keeping them up in such dramatic fashion?
MS: He was a massive difference, because had he not come in I don’t think the club would have done it. He came in and gave them a bit more ambition when they were going into games; a more positive approach.
He got the players playing and believing that they could actually do it this time, which hadn’t always been the case beforehand. The tactics that he played, especially away from home, meant Luton looked a lot more solid and they stayed up because of the away form in the end.
He’s a huge part of the reason they managed to stay up.
canaries.co.uk: The form really picked up from mid-February onwards, with just two league defeats from the final 15 games. With that in mind, what are your expectations for this season?
MS: I think this season they can definitely look to hopefully not be involved in a relegation battle as much as they were last season. I don’t think they’re going to finish massively high up the table or challenge for the play-offs, or even mid-table really.
But you’d like to think they wouldn’t be going down to the last day of the season needing a win to stay up. That’s the aim - to be clear of that kind of battle early on and look to grow from last season.
They would take a lower mid-table season as a success this term and then keep trying to build as a club really.
canaries.co.uk: How will they be viewing the Carabao Cup, having reached the third round of the competition in 2019-20?
MS: They’ve always done okay in this cup and seem to get through a couple of rounds and then play one of the top teams and then go out.
They’ve got a couple of players missing through international duty (tell us about it) but I think he’ll play a strong side for the game, because he can view it as another warm up for the actual season opener the week afterwards.
I think he’ll be playing a strong side and looking to get through this first round.
canaries.co.uk: James Collins managed 14 goals in the league last season - not bad for a 19th-placed team. Do you think he can replicate that this time round?
MS: He did very well last season and it was the first time he’d played at that level. He’s scored loads of goals in League One and League Two and was always looking to challenge himself at the Championship. I was delighted for him to get the 14 goals.
That was at a side who was struggling and went on some real big losing runs, so to get as many as he did was really good. He can definitely look towards getting the 15-20 mark. Under Nathan Jones, he plays a lot more central.
He was doing a lot more work on the wings, tracking back and not really featuring in the box much under Graeme Jones, but under Nathan he has a more central role so hopefully that can help increase the chances he gets to do that.
canaries.co.uk: Based on what you’ve seen in pre-season, who do you think will be the player to hit the ground running in 2020-21?
MS: I think Harry Cornick did well last season, he got nine goals and that was his most prolific spell as a pro so I think he can look to do that and carry on. Kazenga LuaLua is another one. He joined quite late last season but has joined for pre-season this time.
He’ll now have the fitness behind him and he was looking in really good form towards the back end of last season, so I’d say those two players.
Someone like Glen Rea in the holding role is a big player for Luton as well and now he’s back fit. People like those should hopefully start the season well, you’d like to think.
canaries.co.uk: Luton have played four, won four, scored 16 and conceded no goals during pre-season! That’s a good sign, but should we be careful reading too much into it?
MS: Yeah, I mean one of them was nine against Berkhamsted who are step seven, and one was against Wealdstone while the other two were League Two and League One sides. It’s good, and it’s not a bad thing to win games and score goals before the season starts, but I don’t think they can take too much from that going into the season.
The strikers are happy they’ve got a few and the defence will be in a good mood but I wouldn;t read too much into that ahead of the Norwich and Barnsley games in particular.
canaries.co.uk: Norwich have benefitted from Luton’s academy in recent years. Is that still going strong and do you expect to see any academy players on Saturday?
MS: Yeah, possibly. They have made a couple of signings now ahead of the game, but Sam Beckwith has been playing in the pre-season games so far at left-back and he’s come through the academy, so there’s a chance he might feature as he’s looked excellent.
There’s another youngster called Avan Jones, who’s been playing a little bit at right back. It’s less likely he’ll play now because James Bree signed, but it might be that there’s a spot on the bench as a reward for the good work in pre-season.
Those would be the two who have actually played during the pre-season.