Bilic likens Luton's rivalry with Watford to West Ham and Millwall rather than Liverpool against Everton

Hornets boss head of Town’s trip to Vicarage Road on Sunday
Watford boss Slaven BilicWatford boss Slaven Bilic
Watford boss Slaven Bilic

Watford boss Slaven Bilic has described the rivalry between his side and Luton Town as one that doesn’t quite reach the levels of the Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton, believing it is more akin to West Ham versus Millwall.

The Hatters head to Vicarage Road on Sunday afternoon for a match to be played in front of fans for the first time since 2006, with Nathan Jones’ side going into the game four points and 10 places above their hosts in the table.

Bilic, a former Croatian international in his playing days, turned out for the Hammers during London derbies with Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea when at Upton Park, plus also featuring for Everton against Liverpool at Anfield once as well.

Having just taken over at Watford last month, the Hornets boss admitted he hadn’t known just how big a game Sunday was until the build-up, as he told the club’s official website: “In the last couple of weeks, people at the club have been talking about it and I didn’t know it was this big, but it’s huge.

“It’s not just three points, it’s much more than that.

“It’s not Liverpool and Everton, it’s more like West Ham United and Millwall, and it’s the first time since 2006 with supporters.

“These kinds of games are the ones when you are a player and manager that you are waiting for.

“It’s a big occasion and every footballer who has come to this level is not just because of the quality, but because they have the motivation and drive.

“Those kinds of players look forward to these days and the big derbies.”

Although Bilic himself is new to the depth of feelings between supporters of both clubs, he will make sure the players are aware ahead of the grudge match, as he continued: “You don’t want to miss them or let them pass you by, you want to play in them and affect those games and be a protagonist - and so do I.

“They know (how important the match is), I’m going to remind them in a nice way, but they know.

“It’s a big game, not an ordinary game, not that there are any ordinary games in this league.

"Every game in the Championship is extremely competitive, but this adds a bit more.

“I played in the late 1980s and early 1990s in Yugoslavia and Croatia during the war.

"Dinamo and Hajduk was a friendly derby, but Hajduk and Red Star was the biggest derby in the country.

"It was more than football, let’s say.

"These games are the ones you want to play.

"These games give you a special kind of sweating before the matches.”

On what he is expecting from a Hatters side who go into the game on a seven match unbeaten run, Bilic added: “Luton are established in the Championship.

"Very direct, similar to Millwall but not the same, so you need to prevent them and everyone has to step forward and be on the front foot, be willing to help their teammates and be positive.

"We just have to be more consistent.”