PREVIEW: Birmingham City v Luton Town

Birmingham are forging a reputation as the most hit and miss team in the Championship this season.

Friday, 25th October 2019, 3:51 pm
Birmingham City boss Pep Clotet

Sitting in 11th place, they have won six games and lost six games, with one draw in their 13 outings so far.

After finishing 19th and 17th in their last two seasons, the club's pre-season planning was interrupted by manager Garry Monk being sacked in the summer, after reports he hadn't been happy about the sale of Jota to Aston Villa for £4m.

Assistant Pep Clotet stepped into the hot-seat as Blues won 1-0 at Brentford on the opening day, before that solitary stalemate, drawing 1-1 with Bristol City.

A 2-0 win over Barnsley was then sandwiched between a pair of 3-0 defeats at Nottingham Forest and Swansea City, as City's inconsistencies started to show.

In fact, City's away record has been their main stumbling block this term, with five of their six defeats away from the confines of St Andrews.

On home soil, they have been in fine form, with just one loss, that to Preston, winning their last two games, against Middlesbrough and Blackburn Rovers.

Jota's departure was the beginning to plenty of ins and outs at the club in the summer, with top scorer Che Adams picked up by Premier League side Southampton after a prolific few seasons with the club.

They also lost Viv Solomon-Otabor to CSKA Sofia, while Michael Morrison headed to Reading as Clotet was given funds to spend, looking almost exclusively abroad in his efforts to do so.

Of the eight permanent arrivals, just two, Josh McEachran (Brentford) and Gary Gardner (Aston Villa) came from England, with Blues shelling out £1.4m on Spanish striker Alvaro from Almaria who has one league goal to his name so far.

Team news: Luton have only striker Danny Hylton on the injured list, as he recovers from his knee problem.

Blues midfielder Ivan Sunjic is available to after serving a one-match suspension against Blackburn.

Gary Gardner is sidelined for several weeks after undergoing minor knee surgery, while Maikel Kieftenbeld (knee) is also out.

Top scorers: Hatters: James Collins (5). Blues: Lukas Jutkiewicz (3).

Man in the middle: Dean Whitestone – vastly experienced official, now in his 17th season.

Taken nine games so far, with 27 yellows and no reds so far, while had 38 matches last term, with 112 cautions and three dismissals, his last coming just over a year ago on October 20, when he sent off Southend's Simon Cox.

First Luton game since Town were beaten 2-0 at home by Wycombe on Boxing Day 2016 in League Two.

Also officiated Hatters twice in the 2014-15 campaign, a 1-1 draw at Exeter and 1-0 win at Tranmere.

Refereed Luton's 5-1 defeat at Reading in the Carling Cup on August 26, 2008, and had Town twice in the 2007-08 season, a 2-0 loss at Huddersfield, sending off Paul Furlong and 1-0 home win over Yeovil, dismissing the visitors' Paul Warne.

Also took the 2-1 win at Barnsley in the Championship back in September 2006.

Assistant referees are Robert Merchant and Mark Russell.

In charge: Pep Clotet - born in Barcelona, Clotet only appeared for local amateurs CF Igualada as a player, as in his 20s, he became a coach, starting with UE Cornellà then RCD Espanyol's youth teams.

Took charge of UE Figueres for a short spell at the start of the 2006-07 season, returning to senior football in the 2009–10 campaign, with Espanyol's reserves.

Went to Sweden for two years, assistant at Malmö FF and then named head coach at Halmstads BK.

In September 2011, joined Norwegian club Viking FK as coach, heading back to Spain in July 2012, working with Málaga CF's reserves side.

Made the move to England in November 2013, appointed academy consultant at Swansea City, then promoted to assistant manager under Garry Monk the following year.

Left in December 2015, as he went to Leeds United in June 2016 as part of Monk's backroom staff, departing 12 months later, when he was named Oxford United manager in July, but was sacked in January 2018.

Appointed number two at Birmingham City in March 2018, when Monk took over as manager, becoming caretaker boss in June 2019 after Monk was sacked.

View from the opposition: Boss Pep Clotet - “I think Graeme Jones is doing a really good job with them.

“They are a positive club on the way up from League Two, they had a really good season last season in League One, they are a very untouched squad that has played together for a lot of years and with a positive attitude.

“They are trying to do positive football. I know Graeme Jones a lot, he was working at West Brom last season, so we spoke a lot when we were playing them.

“Before he was at Swansea and we have a lot of friends in common and he was working with Roberto (Martinez).

“Graeme loves the kind of football that I like as well, so I do respect that. He has a side that is taking a few risks and he manages them very well and they are getting a lot of points.

“It was tough for them at the beginning of the league, but I think it has settled, the side has improved, and they are in for a very good season in the Championship, which is unbelievable for the club.

"I do respect what Graeme is doing there."

One to watch: Lukas Jutkiewicz – experienced striker who began his career at Swindon, heading to Everton in July 2007, having loan spells with Plymouth, Huddersfield, Motherwell and then going to Coventry permanently in July 2010.

Scored 18 league goals in 67 matches, as he was sold to Middlesbrough for £1.3m in January 2012 where he bagged 11 in 64 league outings.

Headed to Burnley for £1.5m in July 2014, but failed to score for the Clartes in his 35 appearances.

Despite that, Birmingham paid an undisclosed fee for the forward in August 2016, as he has netted 35 times in 138 matches, including three this season.

Friendly faces: Town midfielder Andrew Shinnie had five years with Birmingham after signing from Inverness Caledonian Thistle in July 2013.

Played 73 times for the Blues, scoring six goals but had loan spells at Rotherham, Hibernian and also Luton during his time at St Andrews.

Joined the Hatters permanently in July 2018 and has played 90 times. scoring 10 goals.

Striker Jake Jervis, currently on loan with Salford City, came through the youth ranks at Birmingham, making his debut in a 2-1 FA Cup win at Everton in January 2010, replacing Christian Benitez for the final 11 minutes.

Made five substitute appearances in total, as he had a number of loan spells, joining Turkish side Elazigspor in January 2013.

Town head of recruitment Mick Harford was signed by Birmingham from Bristol City in March 1982 for £100,000.

Scored 25 times in 92 games for the Blues, as Luton snapped him up for £250,000 in December 1984.

Became a huge crowd favourite over his two spells at Kenilworth Road, scoring 92 goals in 217 matches, part of the Town team that won the League Cup in 1988 before cementing that legend status last season, leading the club to the League One title.

Town goalkeeper coach Kevin Dearden had a loan spell at Birmingham in March 1992, playing 12 times after signing from Spurs.

Played for both: Rowan Vine - began his career at Portsmouth, having loan spells with Brentford and Colchester, before joining the Hatters on loan in August 2004, as he played 49 games scoring nine goals.

Signed permanently in July 2005 for an undisclosed fee, reported as £250,000 and bagged 10 strikers in 32 Championship games that year.

After 33 goals in 111 games, he was sold to Birmingham in a £2.5m deal on January 11, 2007 that would rise to £3m if the Blues gained promotion to the Premier League, which they did as runners-up in the Championship.

Struggled to really get going at St Andrews, with just one goal in 19 games, sold to QPR for £1m in January 2008.

From there he played for Hull City, Brentford, MK Dons, Exeter and Gillingham, heading to St Johnstone where he netted seven goals in 35 games, including the winner against Celtic.

Went to Hibernian and Greenock Morton, before returning to England, playing for a number of non-league sides, the last of which was Gosport Borough.

We've got form: St Andrews has been a tough place for the Hatters to visit since their first trip, a Division Two contest back in 1947 that they lost 1-0.

That started a 11-year year wait for first victory, with Town going down 5-1 in 1953, as they won on their 11th attempt, John Groves settling a Division One encounter 1-0 in August 1958.

That let to a slight upturn in results, Luton losing just three of their next 11, with their best day out a 4-1 Division One triumph in 1975, Adrian Alston (2), Jim Ryan and Jimmy Husband scoring in front of a crowd of almost 30,000.

However, recent times have gone the way of the hosts, Hatters not victorious since Mick Harford's double was enough for a 2-0 Division One win back in April 1986, with the previous five clashes, seeing Town draw three and lose two.

Overall, from the 26 clashes Luton have won just four, drawing nine and losing 13, scoring 27 times and conceding 44.

Last time out: Town were held to a 2-2 draw on their last trip to St Andrews, that a Championship clash in December 2006.

The hosts went in front when former Hatter Gary McSheffrey scored on the half hour mark, but Rowan Vine levelled just before the break.

Warren Feeney looked like he had won it with 13 to go, only for Neil Danns to pop up with a 90th minute equaliser.

Hatters: Dean Kiely, Kevin Foley, Leon Barnett, Chris Coyne, Lewis Emanuel (Sol Davis 52), Markus Heikkinen (Peter Holmes 56), Richard Langley, Carlos Edwards, Dean Morgan, Rowan Vine, Warren Feeney.

Subs not used: Marlon Beresford, Steven O'Leary, Adam Boyd

Referee: Phil Joslin.

Attendance: 24,642.