The story of Luton Town’s fall to non-league football and eventual rise to become a Premier League club is something most would only consider being made possible on Football Manager or a FIFA game. Considering all of the ups and downs throughout the last 20 years of the club’s existence, what have you made of the journey?
Steve Hines: It has to be THE most remarkable of journeys. Started by poor ownership and a betrayal by the FA & the league, it has made our story totally unique. Crowds of below 5,000 during the darkest of the conference days with not enough away fans to fill in the “O” in the name of Luton on the away end seats, our resolve has been tested to the limit.
It was poisonous at times as a list of managers and players couldn’t deliver what the fans and the board so desperately needed – promotion back to the league. It happened with the appointment of John Still as manager and a confrontation between a fan and our captain at the time, Ronny Henry. A clear the air meeting & total inclusion from all sides of the club saw a new dawn emerge quickly and basically, no one could stop us.
Plenty of football fans expect Luton to be in a relegation fight throughout the entirety of the current Premier League campaign — what are the expectations for the rest of the season?
SH: As fans, we are under no illusion that the days in the Conference and the struggles have really defined us as a club and we hold our identity close to our hearts and treasure it. The rise up the leagues has been stupendous, especially as the nucleus of the team have gone through several tiers together.
Getting to the Premier League is a wonderful reward to all the fans that were loyal during those days and the unrelenting pursuit of a model club by the owners – 2020. Premier League? We are having a laugh! The support has been fantastic and will be until the end of the season.
To quote Martin Tyler’s famous line – we are all drinking it in!
What have Luton fans made of the job Rob Edwards has done thus far?
SH: The Luton fans immediately fell in love with Rob Edwards. When Nathan Jones’ time ended for the second time, the club and the fans were ready for something new. Rob and his staff have bought a humbleness and honesty that we all admire.
Half of the planet are ex-Watford managers, so at some point, this situation was going to happen where we employed someone with a connection. For Rob to come straight from them down the road to us and deliver immediately makes it even more beautiful! Even in relegation, there will not be one murmur to question Rob or the staff.
Ex-Villan Marvelous Nakamba was certainly a key addition to Luton’s promotion push last term and made his move permanent in the summer - how has he performed so far this season?
SH: Marvelous has acted up to his name. He has an energy level to him that is infectious and he is high up the Premier League stats for tackles, interceptions, etc. Imagine if he had a shot on him, eh! He has been a wonderful and integral addition to our squad, providing a level of composure that only comes with experience at this level. One of the first names on the sheet.
Aston Villa haven’t faced Luton Town since the first round of the League Cup during the 2016/2017 season, with the then League Two outfit beating Roberto Di Matteo’s Villa 3-1 at Kenilworth Road - what sort of match are you expecting to see on Sunday at Villa Park?
SH: This weekend, we are expecting probably the sternest test of the season so far. Villa are on fire, scoring goals for fun. The pace is a concern and we have injuries in our defence, so not an ideal situation. I hope we start the game with an added aggression and intensity as we have eased our way in to some games and could have been three or four down quite quickly, so we need to be on it from the very first kick.
We do offer a different threat to what you come across every week and any complacency could give us a chance and we will be buoyed from our late comeback against Forest. I hope we can be the team to upset the form book, but we will see!
Which eleven players do you think Rob Edwards will start?
GK – Kaminski
DEF – Kabore
DEF – Lockyer
DEF – Osho
MID - Doughty
MID – Nakamba
MID – Mpanzu
MID - Barkley
ATT - Ogbene
ATT - Adebayo
ATT – Morris
Luton haven’t conceded more than two goals in a match since the 3-0 loss to Chelsea on August 25th, which shows how quickly they’ve adapted to life in the Premier League - what is your prediction for the final score?
SH: Aston Villa 4 – Luton Town 2