Ahead of Sunderland’s top of the table clash, @MattyCrichton spoke to Luton Town commentator Simon Pitts @SimonStattoP who answered our questions regarding our upcoming League One opponents.
I guess we must start with the breaking news this week that your manager Nathan Jones has left to join Stoke City - what impact do you think this will have on the club?
Hopefully the impact is only short term, and that impact being the shock and disruption that it has caused at this time. Firstly, it was a surprise that it's happened when it has and secondly taking two key members of staff with him means that others are having to fill gaps during the recruitment process. It also means our CEO and board are even busier than expected, and at a time when two vital planning applications, for the new stadium and enabling project, take place in the next few weeks too.
Ex Sunderland player Mick Harford will be in charge for Saturday’s match, do you have a preferred candidate who you hope will be appointed manager?
At this stage I don't have a preferred candidate as such, but whoever comes in needs to continue to bring the attractive football and good times that we've experienced over the past few seasons, so no pressure! We've been playing some lovely attacking football and scoring goals, it's been a pleasure to watch the Hatters, and long may that continue. We've a great setup at the Club and for the right person it's a great opportunity, whether it's an experienced manager or like Nathan for someone taking their first managerial role.
You are currently second in the League One table and are unbeaten since mid-October - did you expect to so well this season having just been promoted from League Two?
Every fan has expectations going into the new season, and for me personally I try to be realistically optimistic. I had hoped that we would at least be challenging for play-offs as a minimum but having seen how we have been playing this season we are deservedly in the position that we are. There's a long way to go yet though and it's a very strong League. I just hope we can keep the momentum that has been built to maintain an automatic promotion place at the end of the season, that's when your place in the table actually matters.
Kazenga Lua-Lua has a failed spell at Sunderland last year under Chris Coleman, how has he done so far at Luton?
Kazenga has had very restricted game time, the equivalent of just over 4 full games in all competitions since joining us. He looks a good player though and his pace and skill on the ball have been game-changing at times. A very effective substitute that just hasn't had the opportunity to break into the side given the form we've been on. He scored the decisive injury time equaliser at Walsall recently.
Luton signed midfielder George Thorne on loan from Derby this week, are you expecting him to be thrown straight into the team against Sunderland?
George Thorne looks to be a very impressive loan signing and I'm looking forward to seeing him play. With Glen Rea out injured, potentially for the rest of the season, it was important we got cover in that defensive midfield position. Alan McCormack gives everything for us but like George has had injury issues, meaning it's unlikely he'll play weekend/midweek as will be required over the next month. A player of George's calibre was brought in to strengthen the squad, so I think if he starts on Saturday it'll be on merit rather than the necessity of being thrown in at the deep end so to speak.
Your striker Elliot Lee has been in great form this season, do you think he will be extra determined to score against Sunderland seen as his Dad Rob Lee is a Newcastle legend?
Elliot is our joint top scorer at present, and is eager to play, and score goals, against any opposition. Yes, the Sunderland/Newcastle link is an obvious one to discuss but given he's currently on his longest run in the League this season without scoring (6 appearances) I'm sure he's just looking to get his name back on the scoresheet on Saturday no matter who we were playing.
If you had to pick one or two players, who are danger men who could cause Sunderland problems during the match?
It's difficult to pick one or two danger men as they are all capable of putting in a match winning performance. To put this into perspective from 17 home games, in all competitions, this season the local newspaper reporter has given 15 different players the man of the match award! Whether it's solid defenders/goalkeepers, attacking midfielders or goal scoring forwards everyone has had a part to play in our current League position. You obviously look at goal scorers to change games and both James Collins and Elliot Lee (who plays behind the front two at the tip of a diamond midfield) are on 10 for the season. Danny Hylton is back in the team and he will be a handful for any defender, and if fit Harry Cornick's pace will be electric. You don't necessarily expect an individual player to stand out week in week out, but the team as a unit however generally do look good and hence the unbeaten run of late.
Is there a feeling amongst Luton fans that if you lose this top of the table clash it could derail your season?
My own personal opinion is that one defeat now shouldn't derail the season, as there's still 19 League games and therefore 57 points up for grabs after Saturday. We are fully expecting another tough game though in front of the biggest League attendance we've seen for some time. It should be a great atmosphere with a good number of Luton fans travelling too. We've been on a great run and despite the distractions of events this week I'm sure the players will be focused on the job in hand. Yes of course any defeat is disappointing and a setback but if we are to lose on Saturday there's still plenty of points to play for. It's going to be a very interesting few months ahead, on and off the pitch.
Lastly, if you had to give an honest opinion, what do you think the final score will be?
Haha the final score prediction question. I usually tend to steer away from giving an actual score to answer this question, so keeping with that trend I'll just say that I think it'll be a very hard fought and competitive match and I don't expect there will be much in the game and it could go either way. Both sides are more than capable, hence their current League positions. We've not failed to score in consecutive League matches this season so I'm hoping tomorrow isn't a first! Whatever the result at the final whistle let's hope our paths will cross again next season, but in the Championship!