Luton boss relishing the challenge of facing one of the Championships 'best squads' at Bramall Lane

Town manager previews Sheffield United clash

By Mike Simmonds
Saturday, 22nd January 2022, 8:56 am
Updated Saturday, 22nd January 2022, 8:58 am
Luton chief Nathan Jones
Luton chief Nathan Jones

Luton boss Nathan Jones is well aware that despite Sheffield United’s position in the table, the Blades represent one of the most difficult opponents his side will face in the Championship this season.

Relegated out of the Premier league last term, United appointed Slavisa Jokanovic in the summer, but struggled badly under the former Watford and Fulham manager, who was sacked just 22 games into a three year deal in November, with the club sitting 16th.

U23s chief Paul Heckingbottom was his replacement, the ex-Barnsley, Leeds and Hibernian boss starting well to his new role, with three wins, one draw and a defeat.

That has seen the Blades move up to 12th place, just one below the Hatters, but still have a squad brimming with Premier League talent, including Billy Sharp, Morgan Gibbs-White, Oliver Norwood, Rhian Bewster and Conor Hourihane to name just five.

Jones was fully aware of that ahead of Town's first trip to Bramall Lane since November 2005, saying: “They’ve got one of the best squads, biggest budgets, ex-Premier League, so you expect them to be right up there.

"They've got some fantastic players, strikers that know the level and can score at this level, midfield players that are fantastic, they’ve got defenders, they buy people, they’ve got big, big players right throughout the squad.

"But these are the challenges we like, we'd much rather be going to Sheffield United than Fleetwood for example and that’s with the greatest respect.

"It’s another great test and that’s what we want.”

Luton can make the trip to Yorkshire full of confidence too, claiming successive league wins for the first time this season when beating Reading on Wednesday.

It means they are now unbeaten in five, and after a Christmas off due to Covid outbreaks, are without a defeat since late November.

Jones added: “We’re unbeaten since November, that’s a long time.

"I know we haven’t played most of December, but that’s a nice thing.

"It was important to go back-to-back, as we’re playing catch-up with games, so people have jumped ahead of us a little bit and got points and what we’ve got to show for it is games in hand.

"So it’s important that we’ve gone back to back, it’s a big thing and we've still another four games this month.

"So there's a chance to do that and if we can have a real good month then it puts us in a much healthier position.

"It’s such a tough league and you don’t want to have to play catch-up, you don't want to have to do what Rotherham did last year, because it killed us having so many games called off.

"Now that we’re in a bit of fluency and a little bit of freshness after the month, we’re looking forward to the game.

"They come thick and fast, they’re tough and we know we’re going to have to be at our best.”