Mpanzu believes Luton are flourishing without the threat of relegation looming large
Long-serving midfielder reflects on reaching 50 points
Midfielder Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu believes the Hatters squad are revelling in the fact they aren’t involved in a relegation battle this season.
A 1-0 win at Preston North End on Saturday saw Luton reach 50 points for the campaign with nine games still remaining, a tally which virtually guarantees them safety in the Championship for another term.
It’s a world away from the same stage last year as although Luton were improving, gaining a 0-0 draw at Wigan Athletic before the season was suspended due to coronavirus, they still looked very much like they would be on their way back to League One.
The return of Nathan Jones as manager and a terrific end to the season saw Town avoid the drop though, while this season they have never really flirted with the idea of going down, sitting closer to the top six than the bottom three for the majority.
On not being involved in a fight for survival, Mpanzu said: “It depends who you are, sometimes people like pressure, some don’t.
“For me, if there’s pressure on it might make you play better, but it’s nice when you go into a game feeling a lot better that if you make a mistake you can keep going and it doesn’t affect us too much.
“We’ve got to take that mentality out of our head though and keep playing games and winning, get a winning mentality in the club.”
When asked just why he thinks the Hatters have enjoyed such a turnaround in fortunes this term, 15 points ahead of where they were when Jones came back for his second spell, Mpanzu continued: “It was our first season in the Championship, so we’ve got to take it as we can.
“We’re 15 points better off this season, it’s great for us, but it’s not the end of the season.
“We’ve still got nine games to go, whatever happens, happens, we can’t take our foot off the gas and just keep playing as well as we can.”
One of the main reasons behind Town’s marked improvement is their ability to keep clean sheets, with a 12th of the season picked up at Deepdale on Saturday.
It saw Luton win a seventh away game this term, all by the margin of 1-0, as Mpanzu said: “We’ve had some great away performances.
“We beat Bournemouth, and beat (Nottingham) Forest, sometimes those are the best victories, you don’t concede and win 1-0, get three points, you’re happy.
"That’s credit to whoever’s been in the back four, back five we’ve played.
“Clicker (Jordan Clark), Glen (Rea), Kal (Naismith), Matty (Pearson), Locks (Tom Lockyer), Sonny Bradley, they’ve all been great, Martin Cranie.
“We’ve got a lot of great defenders so whoever’s played has slotted in, got a partnership going and contributed.”
Although Town hadn’t won at Preston since 1972, Mpanzu hadn’t been fazed by the stat ahead of kick-off, adding: “Not really as last time we had a great game here, we lost 2-1, (Harry) Cornick had a great chance saved and they went up the other end and scored.
"We beat them at home, so we had full confidence that we could come here and get a victory and we did."