PREVIEW: Sheffield Wednesday v Luton Town
Sheffield Wednesday are starting to enjoy something of a resurgence in the Championship after an excellent Christmas period.
The Owls had endured a difficult start to the campaign, as under Dutchman Jos Luhukay’s charge, they won only six games, sitting 18th in the table, just six points above the relegation zone.
However, the 55-year-old’s 11 month reign was ended on December 21, after losing 19 of his 49 matches, as on the decision, chairman Dejphon Chansiri said: “I would like to place on record my thanks to Jos for the efforts he has given.
“But now is the right time for both parties to move on and I wish him all the very best for the future.”
Under caretaker Lee Bullen, Wednesday picked up swiftly, beating Preston 1-0, and following that up with a single goal triumph at Middlesbrough.
They they held both West Brom and Birmingham to creditable 1-1 draws, making it four games unbeaten, climbing to 16th, but more importantly, now some 10 points above the bottom three.
The Owls then announced earlier this week that former Sunderland, Birmingham and Aston Villa boss Steve Bruce had been appointed as heir new manager.
However, he won’t actually take up his position until February 1, before which Steve Agnew and Stephen Clemence will take charge of the team, although Bullen remains as part of the senior coaching set-up.
Off the field, there remains uncertainty at Hillsborough with owner Chansiri saying he is putting the Championship club up for sale.
The Thai businessman, who bought the Owls from former Portsmouth and Leicester City owner Milan Mandaric in 2015, told a fans’ forum he would put the club on the market.
He said: “I will put this club on the market. I believe many people want to buy.”
The Owls have found things tough going during Chansiri’s time in Yorkshire, placed under a transfer embargo between April and August this year after breaching Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules.
Team news: Luton have doubts over Dan Potts and Marek Stech, who both have groin problems, while they will wait to see if Harry Cornick is fit after his ankle injury suffered on New Year’s Day.
Glen Rea remains out for the season after suffering knee ligament damage.
For Wednesday, Fernando Forestieri (hamstring) is doubtful, while Kieran Lee (knee), Gary Hooper (groin) and Sam Winnall (hamstring) are sidelined.
Top scorers: Hatters – Elliot Lee, James Collins (10). Owls – Lucas Joao (8).
Man in the middle: Robert Jones - has taken 23 games so far this season, the majority in the Championship, showing 77 yellows and one red,
Officiated the Hatters’ 1-0 defeat at West Brom in the Caraboa Cup, the only time so far he has kept his cards in his pocket.
Last season, refereed Luton’s 3-0 home loss to Coventry, dismissing Glen Rea in the 90th minute.
Assistant referees are Jonathan Hunt and Adam Matthews, with the fourth official Daniel Middleton.
In charge (although not yet): Steve Bruce – 58-year-old was appointed Sheffield Wednesday manager this week, although isn’t due to actually take permanent charge until February 1.
Started his playing career with Gillingham, before heading to Norwich City in 1984, winning the League Cup in 1985 and then joining Manchester United in 1987 for a fee of around £800,000.
Picked up 12 trophies at Old Trafford, including three Premier League title and the European Cup Winners’ Cup.
Finished his playing days with Birmingham and then Sheffield United, as he started his managerial career with the Blades and had spells in charge of Huddersfield Town, Wigan Athletic and Crystal Palace before joining Birmingham City in 2001.
Spent six years at St Andrews, leaving in 2007 to take over at Wigan once more, resigning to become Sunderland boss at the end of the 2008–09 campaign.
Was dismissed in 2011, soon appointed Hull City chief in June 2012, leading them to the Premier League, plus the FA Cup final, before leaving in July 2016.
Took over at Aston Villa four months later, as they reached the Championship play-off final last season, losing to Fulham, although he was dismissed in October 2018.
View from the opposition: Caretaker boss Steve Agnew talking to the club’s official website - “Luton are not to be underestimated, they are a very, very good side and capable of scoring goals.
“But from what I’ve seen this morning, our lads are up for this.
“The FA Cup is a fantastic competition to be involved in and the players are looking forward to it.
“Speaking with the players this morning, there is feeling here of ‘why can’t we go on a cup run?’
“We feel we can do just that.”
Played for both: Steve Howard - Striker began his career with Hartlepool, before a spell with Northampton and then Luton who shelled out a mere 50k for his services in March 2001.
Regarded as one of the best bit of transfer business ever for the Hatters as he stayed for five years scoring 103 goals in 228 games becoming a firm fans favourite.
A £1m move to Derby followed where he netted 17 in 63 league games, before heading to Leicester for £1.5m, finding the net over 30 times for the Foxes.
He had a spell at Hartlepool again which also included a loan move to Sheffield Wednesday during his time at Victoria Park.
Spent two months at Hillsbrough, scoring one goal in eight, that coming in a 2-0 home win over Middlesborough.
We’ve got form: Luton haven’t often enjoyed their trips to Hillsborough over the years.
They started with a 6-0 defeat in Division Two back in 1899, as they followed that with 4-0 and 4-1 defeats too.
In fact, Town had to wait for their 12th visit, some 71 years later to experience that winning feeling, after eight defeats and three draws.
However, they did it in style though, as Malcolm MacDonald’s hat-trick and two by Don Givens sealed a 5-1 win.
It didn’t lead to a real resurgence though, Luton going another nine games and 16 years until winning again, a Division One game finishing 2-0 in their favour in November 1987.
Weirdly though, the Hatters recent form has seen them win their last two visits, while two draws means they are unbeaten at Wednesday for some 15 years now.
Overall they are still way behind though, with four wins, 10 draws and 15 defeats from their 29 trips, scoring just 30 goals while shipping 57.
Last time out: A Lewis Emanuel goal on the stroke of half time was enough to seal a 1-0 win for Luton on their last trip to Hillsborough, that a Championship clash in August 2006.
Hatters: Marlon Beresford, Kevin Foley, Leon Barnett, Sol Sol Davis (Chris Coyne 86), Lewis Emanuel, Markus Heikkinen, Richard Langley, Steve Robinson, Carlos Edwards, Rowan Vine (Adam Boyd 85), Warren Feeney.
Subs not used: Dean Brill, Russell Perrett, Dean Morgan.
Referee: Anthony Bates.