Hatters boss eager to talk up the significance of Luton's 'unique' clash against old foes Watford

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Town manager had been in charge of Luton’s foes at the start of the season

Luton boss Rob Edwards wasn’t about to downplay the importance of this weekend’s tussle against the Hatters’ fiercest rivals Watford, a contest he described as ‘unique’ for himself having begun the season in charge of the visiting side.

After leading Forest Green Rovers to the League Two title last term, the former Wales international’s reward was a chance to take over at Vicarage Road in an attempt to lead the Hornets back to the Premier League.

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That opportunity lasted all of 10 Championship games though as despite chief executive Scott Duxbury’s promise Edwards would be supported ‘come hell or high water’, he was shown the door after winning three, drawing five and losing just two league matches.

Hatters boss Rob EdwardsHatters boss Rob Edwards
Hatters boss Rob Edwards

Arriving to fill the Kenilworth Road vacancy a few months later, following Nathan Jones' departure to Southampton, the 40-year-old has once again shown his qualities as a manager, taking a mid-table Luton to fourth in the table, with genuine hopes of reaching the top flight automatically.

With the game being the first time Town’s supporters can attend a derby clash in Bedfordshire since January 2006, with the 1-0 win in April 2021 played at an empty stadium due to Covid regulations, Edwards is fully aware of just what this game means to everyone connected with Luton, saying: “I can’t sit here in front of you (the media) and say that it is just another game.

“I recognise it’s not, I know what it means and I know what it means to the supporters.

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“Most football players don’t support the team they play for, so it’s difficult to fully engage with that, but what we can do is recognise that the vast majority of us have been brought up in this country and we recognise the importance of all derbies, and what it means to supporters.

“We need to draw on that.

"There’s nothing wrong with talking about it and trying to use that as well.

"We’re at home for this game and we’ve got to try and draw on that and use it.

“I know it’s a big game, it’s been a long time coming and one that there’s been a lot of talk about from the moment that we stepped through the door, so the moment is nearly here.

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“I’d be lying if I said I thought it was just a normal game, it’s not, and it’s important to recognise that it’s not.

"It means more to everyone in the area, means more to supporters, but it can give you an extra few percent, it really can.

"When there’s that noise, that atmosphere behind you, like it will be on Saturday, it can really help.”

With the match taking place against a side he was in charge of just seven months previously, Edwards also admitted it has put an unusual slant on the build-up for him personally.

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Only one other manager has been in charge of both clubs before, that being Neil McBain in the 1930s, with almost 12 months passing between his exit from Watford and arrival at Luton, a spell at Scottish side Ayr United happening in between.

Edwards continued: “It does feel different, I can’t lie to you.

“I’ve never gone up against an old club before, so it will be a new experience for me, but it’s hard to say because a lot of people won’t have necessarily been in my shoes, if anyone.

"As a manager the responsibility that you feel, the pressure that you feel, it’s hard to describe that.

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"You feel like it every game, but it does add to it, as it’s Watford, it’s a local derby, it’s a unique situation where I was their head coach earlier in the season, which has not happened for a long, long time, if ever in the same season.

"All of those things do add to it, adds that spice, but as a manager, the responsibility you feel going into any game, it’s hard to explain, so you feel it for every one of them.

“It’s Luton versus Watford, it’s not Rob Edwards’ new team versus Rob Edwards’ old team or anything like that, it’s not.

"We’ve organised and planned the same way, but we’ve been able to speak about and be open about what it means to people and the fact that it is a derby match.

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"So of course, it will certainly be different on the outside, but in terms of what we’ve done in here and how we’ve prepped, lots of similarities as usual.”

Edwards was involved in his fair share of derby games during his playing days, part of the Wolves side who faced West Bromwich Albion in the 2006-07 season, also turning out for Blackpool against Preston North End later in his career, so he understands what the Town squad will be going through ahead of the match, adding: “I experienced Villa v Blues, I experienced Wolves and West Brom, I played in a couple of those, lost (3-0) at West Brom, won (1-0) at Wolves, so I’ve experienced both sides of it.

"Preston v Blackpool, so a few of them on the playing side, they’re always great occasions.

“You never fully know what they’re (the players) feeling as I’m not them, but there has been a good buzz.

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"I know there’ll be a lot of people looking forward to this one and we want to make sure we put on a really good performance and I know the lads do too.

“It’s one that I’m really looking forward to, I want to bring out the best in us.

"We don’t want the difference in the game, or the difference in the atmosphere to affect us in a negative way, we want to use it as a positive to help us.”