Jones expects former striker Collins to get a good reception from Hatters fans although hopefully after Luton have beaten Bluebirds

Ex-forward returns to Kenilworth Road this weekend

Thursday, 25th November 2021, 4:25 pm
Updated Friday, 26th November 2021, 12:12 pm
Town striker James Collins with Nathan Jones after scoring the winner against Watford last season

Luton chief Nathan Jones expects returning striker James Collins to get a fine ovation from the Kenilworth Road crowd on Saturday, but hopes the Hatters faithful save until after the game with the forward and his Cardiff side leaving empty-handed.

The 30-year-old was one of Jones' main signings at the start of the 2017-18 season, as the serial promotion winner was brought in from Crawley Town to score the goals to lead Town out of League Two.

He did just that, netting a hat-trick on his debut against Yeovil and then finishing the campaign with 20 to his name, bettered only by Danny Hylton, as Luton finished runners-up behind Accrington Stanley.

James Collins in action for new club Cardiff City

With Hylton suffering an injury-hit League One campaign, Collins took on the mantle of Town's talisman, bagging 25 goals as the Hatters were crowned champions.

He was then leading scorer for the Hatters in their two seasons in the second tier, with 14 and 13 goals, never failing to reach double figures during his time at Kenilworth Road, while he also earned a Republic of Ireland debut in September 2019 as well.

Having racked up 72 goals in 183 appearances to sit 13th in the club's all-time scorers list, including a winner from the penalty spot as Luton defeated arch rivals Watford, Collins decided to move to Wales in the summer at the end of his contract, with Saturday the first chance he will have got to run out in front of Town's fans again since leaving.

When asked if he would get a good reception, Jones said: "Absolutely, our fans are not stupid.

"Our fans know when someone’s done well for them, know has given everything for them, know they've moved on for the right reason, or whatever.

“I would expect James to get a good welcome but that’s as far as it goes, because at the end of the day, he’s gone to Cardiff, chosen to go to Cardiff.

"So let’s not give him too much of a good welcome because we wouldn’t want that coming back to haunt us.

“But he’s earned everything he gets and then maybe we can clap him off, after hopefully he’s been involved in a Luton win, or he’s played some part in the game where Luton wins.

"Then you can give him all the ovation he wants.”

Since moving to the Bluebirds, Collins has found life nowhere near as prolific to his four years with Luton, taking 17 games to get off the mark for his new club, eventually scoring his first goal in the 2-1 win at Preston North End on Saturday.

He then came off the bench during Wednesday night's 1-0 defeat at home to Hull, an 11th sub outing from his 18 appearances in total, missing a glorious chance to equalise in stoppage time, heading against the post from close range.

On why his former player has struggled in his new surroundings, Jones added: "I don’t know, it’s not for me to comment on things like that.

"James Collins will score goals, he will score goals, sometimes it’s difficult when you go to a new club, to settle and I think he was well oiled her.

"He knew what we did and sometimes that takes a bit of time to gel at a new club.

"We have one or two of that here, Admiral Muskwe for example has taken a little bit of time, because he’s picked up a few little injuries and not quite got a run yet.

"But I know Admiral will be a success for us and eventually I’m sure James will for Cardiff."