Ex-Luton midfielder Alan McCormack is backing his former side to produce ‘something magical’ in the Championship this season.
The 37-year-old who returned to Kenilworth Road as part of the academy coaching set-up recently was part of the Town team who reached the second tier in 2019, spending two years as a player, achieving back-to-back promotions from League Two.
Although he left just before the club began their campaign in the Championship, McCormack has seen just how the Hatters have progressed from somehow staying up in their first season to now sitting in mid-table with a play-off push not beyond the realms of plausibility.
Ahead of this afternoon's Boxing Day clash with Bristol City, Luton going into the contest sitting 14th, but just six points off the top six, the recently returned academy coach said: “You look at it now, the Championship is so wide open, win a couple of games you’re back in the play-offs, lose a couple of games and you can drop seven, eight places.
“It’s such an open year this year that you just never, never know.
“The way it’s structured, the way the gaffer (Nathan Jones) organises, the way he sees things, his staff and players, you can see something magical happening again this year.
“January will always be a tough period, and then you get to Easter time, so they’re pivotal points of the season.
“Fingers crossed we can produce some more magical moments and Nathan’s had such a big impact, that he would very much deserve it.
“It’s been incredible for him, to come back to the club where they were in the league when he came back and to keep them in the Championship, that’s got to be huge going forwards.”
After leaving Kenilworth Road when the Hatters were about to start their first campaign back at the level in over a decade, McCormack isn't surprised to see them progressing at such a pace after they initially stayed up against all the odds thanks to a Great Escape following the appointment of former boss Nathan Jones with nine games to go.
He continued: "It’s a big club and when you play for this club, you see the fans, at home, Kenilworth Road is always packed out, they always sell out their away, it’s a very well backed, very well supported club, both internally and externally.
"I remember playing in the Championship and getting relegated with Southend back in 2007 (along with Luton), you knew it was a massive club then.
"It took a long time to get back but now they’re back and the structure’s right within the club, it’s run very, very well, very strong.
"It’s got an incredible manager who's revitalised the club at high levels and right the way down the ethos of the club is very much throughout and that breeds success.
"That breeds competitiveness around the whole club, that makes the club strive and to keep moving forward and that’s what they do really well here."
From what McCormack has seen around the club during his time back, he believes the mindset and spirit is there to make it another season to remember too, as he said: “The club, I wouldn’t say is walking on clouds at the moment, but there is a big confidence around the club through all the levels.
“Players are going into games extremely confident, and when you’re like that, regardless of the result, the performances are there.
“Whenever you speak with Forbesy (Adrian Forbes, head of coaching & player development) about the first team, it’s very rare he comes in and says ‘they were awful today.’
“Most times it’s been, ‘very good performance’ or ‘they unluckily got beat,’ or ‘they’ve won again,’ so that’s huge moving forward with the confidence in there.
“You’ve just got to keep the momentum going, the squad is fabulous, the squad is really good, strong, depth all over the place.
“The gaffer can makes four or five changes to the team and it’ll just be as strong, so it’s always good to have that competition about the place.”
One area that Luton are particularly strong is central midfield, a position that McCormack knows well from his own time as a player, saying: "They've got fantastic players, Henri (Lansbury) especially where he’s played and the career he’s had, so to be able to get a player like that shows how strong the club is.
"To bring someone in like that, the young players can be able to watch that and learn from it every day is fabulous moving forward for them and holds the club in great strength."
The main concern at the moment for not just Luton, but every club in the league, is that football will go behind closed doors once more in a bid to try and contain the rising cases of Omicron.
Town's trip to Swansea next Wednesday was due to played in front of an empty stadium until it got postponed, and having experienced that for Northampton during the first year of the pandemic, McCormack added: “Football’s nothing without the fans.
"I did get to play with no fans and then with fans for the one season, the difference it makes is just incredible.
“The fans are football. You can pay people as much money as you want, but if you don’t have the fans watching you just don’t get the same performances.
“Lets hope it doesn’t happen, but for everyone’s safety if that needs to happen for football to continue, I’m sure we can deal with it for a few weeks.
"It won’t be a full season again, but if it’s for a few weeks to keep football going, I’m sure a lot of people would accept it."