The Hatters welcome Sunderland to Kenilworth Road tomorrow for the first home game of the Sky Bet League One campaign.
A sell-out crowd of more than 10,000 will be packed in for the Town’s first home fixture in English football’s third tier for a decade, with the Black Cats taking their full allocation of just over 1,000.
Manager Nathan Jones will have Danny Hylton, top scorer for the past two seasons having hit 50 goals in 90 appearances for the club, available for selection for the first time this season after he missed the opening day defeat at Portsmouth through suspension.
The Hatters turned in an excellent performance at Fratton Park, but a combination of the woodwork and some stout Pompey defending meant they came back from the south coast with nothing after conceding a first-half goal to Jamal Lowe.
The Welshman will also be boosted by the transfer window closing silently on Thursday teatime with sought-after defender Jack Stacey – one of many Town players to attract interest from higher clubs this summer – still in the building and ready to kick on following last season’s promotion as runners-up in League Two.
Sunderland, who are embarking on their first campaign at this level since the late Eighties and bookies’ favourites for the title under new manager Jack Ross, will be looking to build on their opening day home win over Charlton Athletic.
They trailed to an Addicks penalty, but came back to earn a 2-1 victory in front of the live Sky TV cameras with an equaliser from Josh Maja before a 96th-minute goal from substitute Lynden Gooch secured the points right at the death.
THE GAFFER SAYS:
On the reaction to the Portsmouth defeat: “It’s been a normal week. We debriefed and earmarked certain things we could have done better. We were unlucky, but if we’d done the good things that we normally do, then I genuinely believe we’d have won the game. The goal wasn’t a particularly good goal for us to give away with the slips, but we have to move on from that. We had enough chances and enough of the play, we showed a real bravery and desire to do well away from home at a difficult place, so if I’m honest, I was very happy with 90 per cent of the performance but we have to make sure that we win.”
On Danny Hylton being available: “He’s chomping at the bit every day. He’s a game player, he’s a match player, Danny, so it’s good to have him back in the squad and at our disposal.”
On facing Sunderland: “It will be a good atmosphere, obviously with our fans first and foremost, but then Sunderland will bring a few as well so it’ll be a big football game. But these are not just one-off occasions now, these are what we have to start getting used to and start getting used to quickly because we don’t just want to stop here, we want all the big sides to be coming to Kenilworth Road. To do that we have to make sure that we perform very well at this level. Let’s make sure we enjoy it but we only enjoy it really if we get something out of the game and we’d like to win.”
On their new manager Jack Ross: “He’s earned his opportunity, that’s the thing. It would be easy for Sunderland to go and get a name, or someone that is tried and trusted, but he’s a young manager who’s had promotions with St Mirren and has deserved an opportunity. I don’t want him to take any kind of opportunity this season because obviously we want to do well! But I am glad that people like that are getting them because ultimately I am one as well – young and up and coming. We are not as experienced as other people but the only way we are going to get that is by continuing the job and getting opportunities. He’s done fantastically well and it seems like a decent appointment.”
On Sunderland’s squad: “They’ve got a massive squad, some people that were there in the Premier League. So they are in a transitional time, but they’ve signed well – people like Charlie Wyke, Luke O’Nien and Chris Maguire. They are all experienced at the level, so it’s not like they’ve gone and bought ridiculously expensive players. They’ve tried to do it right. They’ve tried to cut their cloth accordingly, albeit with a healthy budget behind them, so they’ll be a threat. They will be a big side, they are a good side, and they’ll be there or thereabouts. I would like to finish above Sunderland because if we do that, I think we’ll have a hell of a chance of getting out of the division.”
YOU CAN NOW WATCH NATHAN JONES' PRE-MATCH PRESS CONFERENCE ON IFOLLOW HATTERS FREEVIEW BY CLICKING HERE
Sunderland were a Premier League side for ten seasons, but have suffered successive relegations under the managership of David Moyes, Simon Grayson and Chris Coleman. Former Eastleigh owner Stewart Donald took over from Ellis Short in the boardroom this summer and immediately appointed 42-year-old Ross, who has impressed north of the border.
The Black Cats play at the 49,085-capacity Stadium of Light, with 31,075 attending last week’s season opener against Charlton. The 21-year-old ground has hosted England internationals as recently as 2016, when Roy Hodgson’s squad played their final warm-up match ahead of the European Championships against Australia.
WHEN AND WHERE?
Kick-off is at 3pm at Kenilworth Road on Saturday 11th August.
Tomorrow’s match is sold out. The LTFC ticket office advise fans to take extra care that they arrive at the game with their correct matchday ticket or their 2018-19 season ticket.
Failure to do so will involve additional checks being undertaken and it is very likely that duplicate tickets will not be printed and access to the ground subsequently delayed or refused.
Sunderland supporters have taken up their full allocation of just over 1,000 and we wish everyone a safe journey to Bedfordshire. All the information required to make the most of your visit to Kenilworth Road can be found in our Away Supporters’ Guide.
Despite the EFL changing rules to make the publication of a matchday programme voluntary this season, the Hatters will continue to publish This Is Our Town - still 76 pages and still only £3!
This week's issue features captain Alan Sheehan on the new-look cover, with columns from the Irish defender, manager Nathan Jones and chairman David Wilkinson inside.
As well as welcoming our visitors from the Stadium of Light with 11 pages of info on the Black Cats, we have Hatters midfielder Luke Gambin's seven-page light-hearted guide to his Town team-mates - including this season's team photo on the centre spread.
We've also got chief recruitment officer Mick Harford - a Sunderland fan, former player and Luton Town legend - selecting his all-time best XI of players he played with in his career, as well as midfielder Luke Berry being the first to answer questions on his likes and dislikes in life in our new feature 'Hat's Life!'
Club historian Roger Wash looks back at past matches with our visitors, while physio Simon Parsell delivers his first legendary one-liners of the season in his Trick Or Treatment column, and iFollow Hatters commentator Simon Pitts pens the Hold The Back Page article.
Make sure you get your copy in the club shop or around the stadium tomorrow for £3 - or take out a programme subscription costing just £118, with cup match programmes also included in the price.
If you would like to subscribe, simply contact the ticket office on 01582 416976 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
MAN IN THE MIDDLE?
Taking charge of tomorrow's match is Charles Breakspear, who last refereed the Hatters when we came from 2-0 down to draw at Coventry City in March. Last week he oversaw another 2-2 draw when he took the whistle at the League Two clash between Stevenage and Tranmere.
Our last meeting with Sunderland came 11 years ago in August 2007, a Carling Cup second round tie just a few months after the side then managed by Roy Keane had won promotion to the top-flight with a 5-0 win at Kenilworth Road.
The Hatters were relegated to League One that season, but made light of the two-division difference that had emerged between the clubs to win 3-0 at home with an opener from David Bell and a brace from Paul Furlong delighting the crowd of 4,401.
Overall, the clubs have met 57 times with Sunderland holding the upper hand, having won 32 of those games. The Hatters have 14 victories with the other 11 finishing all-square.
If you’re driving to the game tomorrow, don't forget you can take advantage of the car parking now available at Power Court. Make sure you get your permit now by clicking here.
FOLLOW THE ACTION
The main blow-by-blow account of the action from Kenilworth Road will be provided via the Match Centre on the club website, which you can access by clicking here. (*Please note that the club's Live Text will appear only by accessing through an internet browser, users of the Luton Town FC app will receive updates from Opta...the EFL Digital team assure us they are working on a fix to get club updates onto the app)
The main moments from the game will appear on the Hatters' social media feeds:
And of course Simon Pitts will be on hand to provide commentary for iFollow Hatters which you can subscribe to by clicking here.
(Please note that this is audio commentary only for domestic subscribers, but supporters based overseas can watch a live stream which now features Simon’s club commentary as part of their subscription, or by buying a match pass for £5!)