CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW: Derby County v Luton Town
Derby County have been making headlines for all the wrong reasons recently, with actions off the pitch overtaking those on them.
Duo Tom Lawrence and Mason Bennett were both arrested and charged with drink driving following a car crash that took place after a team-building dinner, which saw Rams captain Richard Keogh sustain a knee injury that could keep him out for 15 months.
The duo will appear at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates Court on Tuesday, October 15, with County issuing the following statement today: "Derby County Football Club has completed the disciplinary hearing regarding Tom Lawrence and Mason Bennett in respect of their involvement in the events of last Tuesday evening, which resulted in both of them being arrested and scheduled to appear in court on October 15th.
"Irrespective of the outcome of that process, the club will not tolerate any of its players or staff behaving in a manner which puts themselves, their colleagues, and members of the general public at risk of injury or worse, or which brings the club into disrepute.
"Both Lawrence and Bennett are therefore being fined the equivalent of six weeks’ wages – the maximum contractual limit - and will serve an additional 80 hours of community and rehabilitation, which will include a drink aware course."
Both Bennett and Lawrence were dropped for the 3-2 win over Birmingham City last weekend, although returned to the squad for the 2-2 draw at Barnsley on Wednesday, Lawrence starting and Bennett coming on late on.
Lawrence has also been named in the Wales squad by national boss Ryan Giggs, although Rams chief Philip Cocu has declared the duo are not 'off the hook' yet by any means.
Former Luton defender Curtis Davies, who has now stepped up as captain in the absence of Keogh, after Tom Huddlestone had initially been named as skipper, told the BBC: “ The ones out there need to concentrate on winning and giving our all because that's the only way we are going to turn around reputations.
"Me as a footballer, I've tried to keep the lads focused. While everything is happening in the background, games are still coming thick and fast.
"We have no time, with all due respect, to keep our minds on that."
It has been something of a baptism of fire for Cocu, who was appointed in the summer after Frank Lampard left the club to take over at Chelsea.
He got off to an excellent start, winning 2-1 at Huddersfield on the opening day and then held 0-0 at home by Swansea.
An EFL Cup win at Scunthorpe followed, before the Rams' season stuttered big time, going six league games without a win, drawing four, losing at to Bristol City at home, plus away to Brentford.
They stopped the rot with a 3-2 victory over Birmingham last weekend and were then held to a 2-2 draw at Barnsley in midweek, former Luton attacker Cauley Woodrow equalising in the 90th minute for the Tykes.
It means that the team who have finished in the top six for three out of the past four seasons are currently just a place above the Hatters in 16th, with 12 points from the opening 10 games and already playing catch-up if they want to feature in the play-offs once more.
Cocu was backed in the summer though, bringing in Krystian Bielik from Arsenal for an undisclosed fee reported to be around £10m, while Graeme Shinnie, brother of Town's Andrew, came south from Aberdeen.
He also looked to the loan market, Ben Hamer and Matthew Clarke arriving from Huddersfield and Brighton joining, plus raiding Everton for Kieran Dowell and taking Jamie Paterson from Bristol City too.
Cocu also moved a number of players on, including Bradley Johnson, Alex Pearce, Dave Nugent, Nick Blackburn and Jacob Butterfield, who is now at Luton.
Experienced keeper Scott Carson signed for Manchester City in one of the stranger deals, although there is still plenty of Premier League experience left, including both Huddlestone and Davies.
Right back Jayden Bogle is certainly targeting another three points on home soil, saying: “They will be physical, direct and I think we have played against that a few times this season already, so we know what to expect.
“It will be a tough game. On set pieces they will be looking to put the ball in the box, and we have to defend it well.
“If we keep focused and do the right things then we have a great chance of winning the game.”
Team news: Luton are almost at full strength for the match, with Martin Cranie back in training now, leaving just both Danny Hylton and Glen Rea as absentees.
Tom Huddlestone will miss the match with a hamstring injury and ex-Hatter Jack Marriott is doubtful due to a groin problem, while Richard Keogh out long term.
Top scorers: Hatters: James Collins (5). Rams: Martyn Waghorn (4).
Man in the middle: Geoff Eltringham - Taken eight games this season, six of them in the Championship, showing 25 yellows and two reds, the sendings off coming in his last three games.
Had 37 matches last term, with 125 cautions and dismissals.
First Luton game since the thrilling 3-2 win at York City in February 2016, when Olly Lee scored at the death.
Also had the 1-1 draw at Accrington on the opening day of that campaign, plus officiated Luton's 1-0 win over Wolves in the FA Cup in January 2014.
In charge: Philip Cocu - featured at the top level during his playing days, after starting his professional career with AZ in 1989.
Had spells at Vitesse and PSV Eindhoven, before a move for Barcelona in 1998. where he became captain at the Nou Camp, winning La Liga once and playing in two Champions League semi-finals, leaving in 2004 as the then club record holder for most league appearances by a foreign player.
Headed back to PSV, winning another three Eredivision titles, with one year at Al Jazira, before retiring.
Also won 101 caps for Holland, playing in two World Cups and three European Championships, serving as captain too.
On retiring, joined PSV as youth coach and later assistant manager, while also serving as assistant at the Dutch team between 2010 and 2012.
Was caretaker manager at PSV in 2012, during which he won the KNVB Cup officially manager when Dick Advocaat left and won the Eredivisie title in 2015, retaining it the following campaign.
Named Derby manager in July of this year.
View from the opposition: Boss Philip Cocu - “They are physical and play at a high tempo. They have three wins so we cannot think we will win easily.
"We have to respect their qualities and prepare well but we have the quality to get a good result.”
One to watch: Martyn Waghorn - experienced striker who began his career with Sunderland as he was signed by Leicester for £3m in August 2010.
Never quite got going for the Foxes with moves to Hull and Wigan, then stints at Wigan and Rangers, enjoying a prolific time north of the border.
Joined Ipswich in August 2017, scoring 16 league goals in 44 matches, as Derby bought him for an undisclosed fee in August 2018.
Has managed 18 goals in 54 games so far, including four this season from 10 matches.
Friendly faces: Town midfielder Jacob Butterfield signed for Derby in Sept 2015, as the Rams paid a reported £5m to Huddersfield for him.
Was loaned to Sheffield Wednesday and then Bradford during his four years with the club, as he played 89 times for County, scoring nine goals.
Hatters first team coach Inigo Idiakez signed for Derby from Real Vallecano in July 2004 and had a great first season with the club, named supporters player of the season.
Made 98 appearances in total, scoring 22 goals from midfield, before Southampton signed him for £250,000 in August 2006.
Luton head of recruitment Mick Harford, headed to Derby from Luton in January 1990, the Rams paying £450k for him.
Scored 18 goals in over 50 appearances for the club, going back to Kenilworth Road in September 1991 for £325k.
Rams striker Jack Marriott joined Luton from Ipswich in May 2105, as he netted 28 goals in 91 games for the Hatters, spending two years at Kenilworth Road, as he was sold to Peterborough in June 2017.
A prolific season at London Road saw Derby snap him up in July 2018 and he has scored 14 goal in 52 games so far for the Rams, although found the net just once in 10 appearances this term.
Centre half Curtis Davies came through the ranks at Luton, playing 62 matches before West Brom parted with £3m for him in August 2005.
Went to Aston Villa for £8m and after time with Leicester, Birmingham and Hull, joined Derby in June 2017.
Has played over 50 games for the Rams and is back in the team this season, captaining the team in the last two games.
Forward Chris Martin signed on loan for Luton from Norwich in August 2008, scoring 14 times in 51 games as the Hatters were relegated to the Conference.
Was a major part of the side who won the Johnstone's Paint Trophy though, netting at Wembley as the team beat Scunthorpe 3-2.
Had spells on loan at Crystal Palace, Swindon and Derby, signing permanently for the Rams in May 2013.
Been out at Fulham, Reading and Hull last season, but is back in favour at Pride Park now, scoring three in his last four games, making it over 60 times he has found the net in total for the Rams.
Midfielder George Thorne signed on loan for the Hatters from Derby last season, making three sub appearances as Town won the League One title.
Now on loan with Oxford United and has featured three times for the U's this term.
Keeper Jonathan Mitchell has been with Derby since July 2014, yet to make his league debut for the Rams though, with just five appearances in the club.
Joined Luton on loan for a month in March 2016, playing five times and impressing, before an injury at Pride Park meant he was recalled.
Had a spell at Oxford, playing 15 times and then finished last year with Shrewsbury, playing nine games.
Played for both: Mark Pembridge - midfielder who came through the ranks at Luton, making 70 appearances, scoring six times between 1989-1992.
His form saw Derby pay £1.25m for him in June 1992, and he went on to play almost 150 times for the Rams, finding the net on 37 occasions.
Sheffiedl Wednesday snapped him up for £900k in July 1995 and he then went to Benfica, Everton and Fulham, finishing his career in May 2007, staying at Craven Cottage to coach in the academy and later become U15s and U16s coordinator for the club.
We've got form: Luton have never fared well at the Baseball Ground and then Pride Park over the years, ever since their first visit, a 3-0 FA Cup defeat in 1946.
They did win their opening league encounter, a 2-1 Division Two victory in 1953,
That the started a winless streak of eight games and 35 years, including a 5-0 reverse in 1975, until Mick Harford's goal settled a Division One contest back in 1988.
They made it back-to-back victories Tim Breacker scoring a famous goal against Peter Shilton in a 3-2 triumph on May 5 1990, Kingsley Black on target twice, as the Hatters kept their Division One status on the final day.
Since then, it's been eight further trips, five draws and three defeats for the visitors.
In total, Town have won just the three time from 20 visits, drawing eight matches and losing nine, scoring in only half the games, with 15 goals and conceding 30.
Last time out: Luton were beaten 1-0 on their last trip to Derby, a Championship clash in April 2007.
The Hatters conceded with 37 minutes on the clock, Lewis Nyatanga scoring from a corner, and couldn't find a way back against a side containing former Town legend Steve Howard.
Hatters: Dean Brill, Kevin Foley, Leon Barnett, Chris Coyne, Drew Talbot (B Idrizaj 65), Lewis Emanuel, Matt Spring, Markus Heikkinen, Steven O'Leary (Richard Langley 73), David Bell, Calvin Andrew.
Subs not used: Russell Perrett, Keith Keane, Adam Boyd.
Referee: Richard Beeby.