PREVIEW: Luton Town v Swansea City

Swansea looked like they were going to be one of the pacesetters in the Championship this season after a stunning start to the campaign.

By Mike Simmonds
Friday, 20th December 2019, 10:47 am
Updated Friday, 20th December 2019, 10:47 am
Adrian Forbes scores Luton's third goal in a 3-0 win back in October 2001
Adrian Forbes scores Luton's third goal in a 3-0 win back in October 2001

Going into the season on the back of a 10th placed finish in their first year back in the second tier following relegation from the Premier League, it hadn't been the best of summers to be a Swans fan.

Highly-rated manager Graham Potter, who had earned plenty of plaudits during his 12 months at the club, headed to the Premier League, with Brighton & Hove Albion taking him to the south coast.

That saw England U17s boss Steve Cooper come in, his first role in club management, although it wasn't just the coaching staff that were cherry-picked by the top flight.

Flying winger Daniel James headed to Manchester United for £15m, while top scorer Oli McBurnie departed too, the Swans' coffers bolstered by the sum of £20m.

Crystal Palace shelled out £2.5m for Jordan Ayew, while Leroy Fer and Luciano Narsingh both swapped Wales for Holland, joining Feyenoord.

Cooper did manage to keep hold of Andre Ayew, Borja Baston and Bersant Celina though, ensuring a high quality squad remains at the Liberty Stadium, while adding Declan John (Rangers) Jake Bidwell (QPR), Ben Cabango (The New Saints) and Kristoffer Peterson (Heracles)

The new boss did use the loan market too, raiding the Premier League for Freddie Woodman (Newcastle United), Ben Wilmot (Watford) and Sam Surridge (Bournemouth), looking abroad to bring in Aldo Kalulu from Basel.

Despite the upheaval, everything looked beyond rosy in the opening few months of the season as Swansea beat Hull 2-1 on the opening day, drew 0-0 at Derby, before defeating Northampton Town 3-1 in the Carabao Cup.

That was the prelude to another four successive Championship wins. including a fine 1-0 success at Leeds, as they took 16 points from a possible 18 to sit at the top of the tree.

They even put six past Cambridge in the second round of the cup, before the first bump in the road arrived when going down 1-0 at home to Nottingham Forest on September 14.

However, it didn't look to have affected the side too much as successive draws with Bristol City and Reading were quickly forgotten as Charlton were defeated 2-1, making it just one league defeat in the opening 10 matches as the Swans remained at the summit.

A 2-1 cup exit at Watford wasn't the worst outcome, but Cooper's side started to experience the tougher side of life in the Championship, as two defeats from three, both at home, to Stoke and Brentford, came either side of a 1-1 draw at bottom club Barnsley.

To highlight the inconsistencies, Swansea went on to pick up back-to-back victories, including a 1-0 success over bitter rivals Cardiff, but a six game winless run followed, taking just three points, as their home form proved a real issue, losing to Millwall and Fulham, while drawing against Blackburn.

Leaders West Bromwich also thumped them 5-1 before the rot was finally stopped last week, as Middlesbrough were seen off 3-1, although the visitors did finish the game with nine men after two red cards.

Team news: Luton could have Martin Cranie available for the clash, although Dan Potts remains a doubt following his groin problem.

Danny Hylton is unlikely to be considered, while Izzy Brown (hamstring) and Brendan Galloway (patella) are also out.

Wayne Routledge could be back in the Swansea squad after recovering from his calf problem, meaning just long-term absentees Joe Rodon and Jordon Garrick are unavailable for selection.

Top scorers: Hatters: James Collins (7). Swans: Andre Ayew (9).

Man in the middle: David Webb - taken 14 games so far this season, with 11 at Championship level, showing 41 yellow cards and no reds yet.

Officiated one Luton game, the 1-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday back in August.

Refereed Town once in the 2017-18 season, a 2-0 home win over Port Vale, while took Hatters twice the year before, sending off Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu in a 2-1 home win over Notts County and a 3-0 win at Cambridge as well

Only other game was a 2-2 draw at Chesterfield in League Two on Boxing Day 2008, Ian Roper grabbing a last minute leveller for Luton.

Assistant referees are Lee Venamore and Mark Russell, with the fourth official Alan Dale.

In charge: Steve Cooper - 40-year-old who began his playing career with Wrexham, but never made a first team appearance for the club.

Featured for Rhyl, Bangor City, The New Saints and Porthmadog, before studying for his coaching badges and started work at Wrexham's academy, named head of youth development.

In September 2008, went to Liverpool to coach the U12s, appointed as manager of the Reds' academy in July 2011, overseeing the development of Raheem Sterling and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

In 2013, he joined the FA as a youth coach educator, before becoming England U16s manager in October 2014, taking charge of the U17s the following year.

Led his side to the final of the 2017 UEFA European U17 Championship, where they lost to Spain, before winning the 2017 FIFA U17 World Cup, beating Spain 5–2 in the final.

Appointed head coach of Championship club Swansea City in June 2019 on a three-year contract.

View from the opposition: Steve Cooper talking to Wales Online: “They’re at home. I think they’ve picked up three-quarters of their points at home so if they’re at their best it tends to be there.

“We need to be ready. It’s a cliche but there isn’t a game in this league that you don’t have to be ready for in every aspect.

“I think in the last week or so through conversations we’ve had as a team, we’ll focus on ourselves.”

One to watch: Andre Ayew – 30-year Ghanian striker, who started his career at Marseille, before joining Swansea in June 2015, as he scored 12 goals in 34 Premier League appearances.

That saw West Ham part with over £20m for him in August 2016, as he netted nine times in 43 top flight games for the Hammers.

Swansea then forked out £18m to take him back to Wales in January 2018 but he didn't score in the second half of the season.

Joined Turkish side Fenerbahce on a season-long last term, but managed just five league goals as he was back at the Liberty Stadium in the summer.

Notched twice on his return in a 3-1 Carabao Cup win over Northampton, as although it took until his eighth league game to get off the mark at Charlton, is starting to relish life in the Championship.

Bagged seven in his last 13 outings, including three in two, with a double against Middlesbrough on Saturday, leading to reports that Leeds could be interested once the January transfer window opens.

Friendly faces: Hatters boss Graeme Jones became assistant manager to Roberto Martinez in March 2007, when the Swans were in League One.

Stayed in Wales for just over two years, heading to Wigan with Martinez in June 2009.

Luton's head of academy coaching and professional player development Adrian Forbes played 79 times for Luton between 2001-2004, scoring 19 goals, before moving to Swansea in June 2004.

He went on to make over 80 appearances, scoring 12 goals for the Swans, before going into academy coaching when retiring, and returned to the Hatters in the summer.

Played for both: Goalkeeper Keith Barber started his career at Dunstable Town, before moving to Luton in 1970, going on to play 158 times for the Hatters.

Joined Swansea in 1977 and appeared in almost 50 games for the Swans as they won promotion to the Third Division.

Had a brief loan move to Cardiff, before heading into non-league with Bridgend Town.

We've got form: Matches between the two clubs started when the Swans were known as Swansea Town, as Luton were beaten 4-0 at home in the Southern League during February 1913, before gaining revenge with a 5-0 victory in the following game.

The enjoyed some hefty wins over their opponents, hitting six twice and five on three occasions, before the Welsh side became Swansea City in 1969.

Despite the name change, Town continued to have the upper hand, with some big triumphs, starting with a 5-0 Division Two thrashing in September 1979.

Another 5-3 success occurred in 2001, as Luton have won four and drawn one of their six matches since the name change, although did lose the most recent encounter 3-1.

That makes Town's total record as 18 wins, five draws and five defeats in their 28 matches, scoring 80 and conceding just 33,

They have only drawn two blanks in that time too, the last coming in a goalless Division Three South draw way back in 1925.

Last time out: Luton went down 3-1 at home to Swansea in their last meeting at Kenilworth Road, a League One clash in January 2008.

The visitors went ahead through Keith Keane's own goal on five minutes, before Guillem Bauza made it 2-0 on 64.

Paul Furlong came off the bench to score within a minute of coming on with 16 to go, but Jason Scotland added a third for the Swans to secure victory.

Hatters: Dean Brill, Richard Jackson (Paul Furlong 73), Alan Goodall, Chris Perry (Lewis Emanuel 57), Drew Talbot, Keith Keane, Steve Robinson, Don Hutchison, David Bell, Calvin Andrew, Darren Currie.

Subs not used: Steven O'Leary, Dean Morgan, Paul McVeigh.

Referee: Fred Graham.

Attendance: 6,756.