PREVIEW: Luton Town v Swansea City

Hatters entertain the Swans this weekend

Friday, 17th September 2021, 4:33 pm
Dan Potts saw this header ruled out against Swansea last season

Swansea appear to be in a real rebuilding mode this term after being thrust into disarray just a few weeks before the start of the campaign with former manager Steve Cooper deciding to leave the club.

The former England U16/17 boss had been in charge since the summer of 2019, guiding the Swans to the play-offs in both seasons, although they were unable to make that final leap back to the top flight.

However, with another year in the second tier beckoning and Cooper still having 12 months left on his contract, he decided to move on, saying: "I am very proud of what we have achieved over the past two seasons, especially getting to the play-off final, but it feels like a good time for all parties to make a change.”

Swans chief executive Julian Winter appeared to, publicly at least, take the news well, saying in a statement of his own: "This decision was reached amicably and I would like to place on record my thanks to Steve for his professionalism while this process has been resolved.

"Just like the playing squad, when a manager has 12 months left on a contract, there has to be a coherent plan that allows the club to continue to build both on and off the pitch, and that involves dialogue around contracts.

"We felt as a club that the situation needed clarity and with a new season edging closer, the mutual nature of this decision allows both parties a chance to look forward."

The Swans didn't wait too long to have their new man in place though, raiding MK Dons for manager Russell Martin, who along with coaches Luke Williams, Matt Gill and Dean Thornton all agreed to move to Wales.

Winter said of the appointment: “He very much fits the profile of a young and hungry coach who wants to succeed, and he is more than ready for the opportunity.

“After earning plaudits with Milton Keynes Dons for the attractive, attacking style that he implemented, we quickly realised Russell would be the right person to take us forward.”

It wasn't just Cooper who was on his way out though, as a number of big names left too, including the largest one Swansea had, striker Andre Ayew, who had managed 35 goals in his last two seasons, as he headed to Qatar side Al Sadd SC in July.

Welsh international Connor Roberts then headed to the Premier League on deadline day, as Burnley came in for him, while City's Championship rivals Bournemouth also purchased Jamal Lowe.

The Swans were happy to splash some cash prior to Martin's arrival, spending £500,000 on Wigan's Kyle Joseph, also bringing in striker Joel Piroe from PSV Eindhoven for £1m.

Martin has also had the chequebook opened for him too, as he brought in former Luton loanee Flynn Downes for £1.5m from Ipswich and Southampton's Irish international forward Michael Obaefmi for the same amount, plus ex-Manchester City attacker Oliver Ntcham from Celtic.

It is taking time for Martin's philosophy to work though, as he began with a 2-1 defeat at Blackburn, before seeing off Reading 3-0 in the Carabao Cup.

A home draw with Sheffield United and defeat to Stoke meant the new boss finally got a first league triumph at the fourth time of asking, winning 1-0 at Bristol City last month.

It didn't bring any instant improvement though, City losing 3-1 at Preston, before back-to-back stalemates this week against Hull and Millwall meaning they have won just one Championship game to date.

That puts them fifth from bottom on five points, already, even though it is extremely early stages, some seven points away from the top six spots they have occupied on a regular basis.

Goalscoring has been their main problem, with just four netted, the joint worst in the division, drawing three blanks, with only two players, Piroe and Jamie Paterson on target in the second tier.

Martin isn't worried just yet about the lack of goals, telling Wales Online: "I think we’re so close.

"If Pato (Jamie Paterson) or Michael (Obafemi) puts the chance away (against Millwall), I don't think we’re talking about that.

"That’s the fine margins in football. When you don’t score it leaves you open to getting criticised, but that’s football and that’s life."

"We’re confident it’ll come, we’ve lived it before, we've been through all of this. It’s up to us to help them find solutions.”

Meanwhile, the manager certainly isn't panicking despite the disappointing start to the season either, adding: "The coaching staff have lived this before.

“We know the pain you have to sometimes go through to get to where we want to get to.

"I lost the first four games at MK Dons. When I took over we were in a relegation fight, we'd had a really poor start.

"We hadn't won in 10 games, hadn't scored in nine.

"But I didn't want to go in there and just fight, from day one it was about building.

"I was asked to bring an identity to that team and stay up. We did both and we built on it last year."

Team news: Luton will probably be without captain Sonny Bradley after he missed Wednesday night's draw at Bristol City with a hip injury.

Jordan Clark and Admiral Muskwe are both doubts, while Cameron Jerome appeared to suffer cramp before he was substituted at Ashton Gate in midweek.

Glen Rea and Danny Hylton are both fit once more though, leaving Allan Campbell and Fred Onyedinma as the only other main absentees.

For the Swans, Korey Smith and Rhys Williams are in contention to make their return to first-team action after both have been out recently, while Liam Walsh was involved for the first time this season against Millwall.

Top scorers - Hatters: Harry Cornick, Luke Berry (2). Swans: Joel Piroe (4).

Milestones: Striker Danny Hylton will make his 150th appearance for the Hatters if involved against Swansea.

The 32-year-old arrived from Oxford United in the summer of 2016, but has been hit by injuries recently, making his first appearance of the season at Bristol City on Wednesday night.

Hylton's stoppage time equaliser was the 59th goal he has netted for Luton, to put him 18th in the club's leading scorer ranks.

Man in the middle: Tony Harrington - taken just one game so far this term, West Bromwich Albion's 2-1 at Blackburn in the Championship last month.

Refereed 36 games last season, including the League One play-off final, showing 97 yellows and five reds in total, also having Luton twice, away defeats at Millwall and QPR.

Officiated Town three times the campaign before, a 3-1 defeat at Nottingham Forest, 7-0 reverse at Brentford, although did have the 3-0 EFL Cup win at Cardiff.

Previously to that, had officiated Luton on seven other occasions, with Luton winning two, drawing two and losing three, sending John-Paul Kissock off against Wrexham in March 2012.

Assistant referees are Mark Scholes and Craig Taylor, with the fourth official Darren Drysdale.

In charge: Russell Martin, 35-year-old who was with Brighton's academy as a youngster, then moving to Wycombe Wanderers and Peterborough United, captaining the club to the Championship, before heading to Norwich in January 2010.

Played over 300 times for the Canaries, earning promotion to the Premier League twice.

Had brief spells with Rangers and Walsall, while also represented Scotland 29 times, as he joined MK Dons in January 2019.

When manager Paul Tisdale left the club, Martin was named in charge in November 2019, hanging up his boots to concentrate on the role.

Led the Dons to 13th in League One during his first full season, before agreeing to move to Swansea last month, signing a three year contract.

Manager record: Nathan Jones never faced Russell Martin before, but has gone up against Swansea five times previously.

Picked up two wins, with one victory at the Liberty Stadium when Stoke boss in October 2019 and followed that up as Luton manager in June 2020 just after the campaign resumed following lockdown.

Jones' other three games have all ended in defeat though, with one 3-1 loss for Stoke and last season's double for the Welsh side.

View from the opposition: Russell Martin talking to Wales Online: “They’re going to be tough. They have a really clear identity.

"The manager has worked with the group of players for a very long time. They’ve recruited well and they bring a real intensity, spirit and togetherness.

"Nathan Jones is someone we have a lot of time for.

"He’s done a brilliant job with real clarity in what they’re doing.

"It’s a tough place to go. We’ve had two games and we’ve looked how we want to look going forward, but this is the next task.”

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

He featured over 80 times for the Swans, netting 12 times, including the last goal at the Vetch in April 2005, before going into academy coaching when retiring.

Started out at Norwich's academy, and then returned to the Hatters in the summer of 2019.

Swansea snapped up Ipswich Town midfielder and former Luton loanee Flynn Downes for £1.5m in the summer.

The 22-year-old came through the ranks at Portman Road, playing 100 times for the Tractor Boys, scoring three goals, while had a six month loan spell at Kenilworth Road from January 2018.

He made 10 appearances as Town won promotion to League One, while moved to Swansea in the summer and has had four outings so far

Played for both: Paul Price - centre half who joined Luton from Welwyn Garden City in July 1971 and made 230 appearances scoring eight goals.

Was loaned to Minnesota Kicks in the North America Soccer League during 1977-78, but returned to Luton and was then sold for £250,000 to Spurs in June 1981, part of the FA Cup winning side in 1982 and League Cup finalists the same season.

Joined Swansea in January 1985, as he played over 50 times, before returning to America and the Minnesota Strikers, finishing his career in non-league, ending at St Albans City.

Won 25 caps for Wales, scoring once, as he had a managerial career with Western Australian League teams Western Knights in 2009, moving to coach Sorrento in 2011 and then appointed manager of Armadale in 2015.

One to watch: Joel Piroe – 22-year-old Dutch forward who played his youth football for SCE Nijmegen, Quick 1888, SC Woezik and NEC Nijmegen.

Moved to Feyenoord and then PSV Eindhoven's academy, signing his first professional contract in November 2016.

Loaned to Sparta Rotterdam for the season in August 2019, the Dutch youth international was signed by Swansea for a fee reported to be £1m in July, with the potential to rise to £2m.

Adapted well to life in England so far, scoring on his Swansea debut in an EFL Cup win at Reading and has three goals in the league as well.

We've got form: Luton did have the upper hand over their opponents on home soil over the years, until recently when the Welsh side have begun to enjoy their trips to Kenilworth Road.

Matches between the two clubs started when the Swans were known as Swansea Town, as Luton lost 4-0 at home in the Southern League during February 1913, gaining swift revenge with a 5-0 victory though.

The Hatters went on to enjoy some big wins, hitting six twice and five on three occasions, before the Welsh side became Swansea City in 1969.

Town continued to enjoy the better of proceedings, starting with a 5-0 Division Two thrashing in September 1979.

Another 5-3 success followed in 2001, but a 3-0 victory later in the year is Luton's last win in front of their own fans, as they have now lost the the last three matches, failing to score in the most recent two.

Overall, the Hatters' record is 18 wins, five draws and seven defeats in their 30 matches, scoring 80 and conceding 35.

Last time out: Luton were undone early on in their last meeting against Swansea last term, with Conor Hourihane scoring what turned out to be the only goal of the game on just three minutes.

Defender Dan Potts had an effort ruled out for offside, before he had to replaced after suffering a head injury, while Jordan Clark flashed a header wide in the second half.

Hatters: Simon Sluga, James Bree, Dan Potts (Martin Cranie 47), Matty Pearson (Kazenga LuaLua 83), Kal Naismith, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Jordan Clark, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Harry Cornick (James Collins 70), Elijah Adebayo.

Subs not used: James Shea, Glen Rea, Luke Berry, Joe Morrell, Tom Ince, Sam Nombe.

Referee: Darren Bond.

Attendance: None.