Behind Enemy Lines: Luton Town

MILLWALL are back at The Den this evening looking for their first home league win of the season.

Victory at Wycombe on Saturday was the second of the Championship campaign for the Lions, who will be looking to push on with winnable games against Luton and then Barnsley on Saturday.

Alex Grace spoke to Hatters fan Max Masters ahead of tonight’s clash.

Why do you support Luton?

I grew up in Central Bedfordshire. Grandad having been going for 75 years took me to my first game at the Kenny and I fell in love straightaway.

In the 19-odd years I’ve been going it’s been quite a ride from the Championship to the Conference (and back!), but the spirit around the club, especially at the moment, is something else.

What season did you first start following the Hatters?

2001-02. My first game was a tight battle with Plymouth which we won 2-0. We went on to get promoted out of Division Three that year led by Joe Kinnear.

What is the most memorable Luton game you’ve seen?

There’s been a few over the years but there’s a tie between being in the away end at Norwich in the FA Cup in 2013 and winning the JPT in 2009.

Having 40,000 Luton fans booing the head of the Football League and going on to win at Wembley was an incredible memory, but in all honesty I think there could be some more coming in the next decade.

Staying up on the last day of last season was dramatic and it’s been a solid start to this campaign – how do you see the season going?

Dramatic barely covers it!

I think most Luton fans would take a solid, comfortable mid-table finish but it’s never that simple with Luton too often.

I think we’ll surprise a few people. The way we’re playing and the way the squad is coming together, I’m hoping we’ll have enough to achieve the above and more.

Nathan Jones returned for a second spell in charge late last season – was that a popular decision amongst fans?

At the time it raised a lot of discussion…Luton fans aren’t quiet about opinions at the best of times. But this was very much, “cat, meet pigeons”.

The way he left us for Stoke will never be forgotten, not for the money or the opportunity, but to leave us mid-season and then accepting the League One manager of the month award in a Stoke kit with Bet365 on the front (Luton have been actively anti-betting sponsorship due to community projects).

It took me a couple of hours of phone calls with my best mate and Grandad to get my head around it, but ultimately he was our best chance of keeping us up last season. Most fans were willing to give him a go on probation and he fully delivered to pull off the great escape.

As a manager he’s introduced a lot to the squad on and off the field and got us playing in a way which Luton fans haven’t seen in a long while but can really get excited about.

What are your hopes for the season?

Mid-table, or with a really decent season maybe even play-offs.

Until we have the new stadium (which genuinely is coming finally), a genuine promotion push is probably a jump too far for us, but as I say we’ll surprise some people.

Catch that sixth place and who knows. We’ll start with getting revenge on W*ford back at the Kenny.

Gary Rowett was appointed Millwall boss last October – what do you make of the job he’s done so far?

It was an odd one because it happened a day or two after you guys drew with us, I thought it was another victim of the #teamslikeluton pandemic.

But seriously, the momentum you guys seemed to get after Rowett came in was noticeable, to go from looking at the bottom three to just finishing short of the play-offs. It’s still early days this year but two wins – albeit probably ones you’d expect – isn’t a bad start.

What have you made of your team’s start?

Encouraging with the exception of the W*ford game. We’ve very much picked up where we left off at the end of last season, playing out from the back to build goals and create chances.

Its early days still but it’s a good start.

Millwall came from 1-0 down to beat Luton 3-1 in this fixture last season

Were you happy with Luton’s summer business?

Very – probably more for the players we’ve kept like Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu and James Collins, but the additions of Joe Morell (Bristol City), Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall (Leicester) and Sam Nombe from Milton Keynes (not Dons) could really give us a boost.

Only small doubt is if we could have got in a proper goal-scorer (without Collins we struggled finishing against Stoke) but there’s potential in our current lot if they can hit form.

Getting James Bree in permanently from Aston Villa is excellent. He was a big part of our survival and really came into his own post-restart.

If you could add two Millwall players to the Luton side, who would they be and why?

Someone like a Matt Smith to bolster our goal-scoring options certainly wouldn’t go amiss.

I’ll go predictably with Jed Wallace given his start to the season.

Who are Luton’s danger men?

Covid-19 test pending…Collins is our front man. Arguably not the most creative but he’s on the end of everything finding a way to make an impact. He’s still to win some fans over but he’s the hardest worker in the team. Ireland dropping him is definitely our gain.

Rudock Mpanzu – having played for us from the Conference and up what can you say about Pelly? Crowd favourite, skilful, powerful and he scores bangers – what more could you want?

Obviously due to Covid-19 fans are unable to attend games at present – will you be following from home?

Having moved to Berkshire for work and playing hockey a lot of Saturdays, I don’t get to as many games as I’d like. So having them all available (even at £10 a pop) actually works fairly well for me.

It’s nothing like a bouncing Kenilworth Road on a Tuesday night under the lights, but unfortunately there’s apparently bigger things than football.

The cardboard cut-outs we’ve got of myself and Grandad in the David Preece Stand will have to do. Having this game on Sky is a bonus.

What’s your predicted Luton starting XI and formation?

Jones will almost certainly throw a few complete spanners into the works but my guess would be:

4-3-1-2

Sluga; Crainie, Bradley, Pearson, Norrington-Davies; Rea, Berry, Morell; Ruddock Mpanzu; Collins, Cornick.

Score prediction?

Away from home since the restart we’ve been good…I’m going to go 2-1 Hatters.

Staff

(@NewsAtDen)