New Hatters boss Graeme Jones has given his reaction to the Town landing an opening night home game against Middlesbrough to kick-off the English domestic league season.
Jones, 49, began coaching in the academy at Boro for four years, learning his trade before going on to coach at Scottish club Hamilton Academical for six months before joining former team-mate Roberto Martinez at Swansea, Wigan, Everton and Belgium.
Speaking to lutontown.co.uk after hearing about the opening game, the Town boss said: “I started my coaching career there in 2003. I was there for four years and have really fond memories of the club.
“I had a fantastic education from Dave Parnaby and Stan Nixon, who were the academy manager and assistant, and it was at a particularly good time for the club. That first season they won the FA Youth Cup and I’ll always be grateful for that education.
“My wife Debbie is from the area as well, from Stockton-on-Tees, so I think we’ll be having lots of requests for tickets! But the most important thing for us is it’s a home game under the floodlights at Kenilworth Road.”
With Graeme in his first game as Town manager and Jonathan Woodgate in the Boro technical area as gaffer for the first time, having stepped up from his coaching role this summer, it seemed the ideal choice for Sky Sports, with the game brought forward to Friday 2nd August for live broadcast.
“I think Frank Lampard got the same fixture last season, with his Derby up against Paul Clement at Reading,” said Jones. “I know Paul had managed previously, but I expected something like that, if I’m honest.
“There was always going to be some twist in the tale. But it’s a good one, it’s a former club and with Debbie’s whole family being Middlesbrough supporters, we’ll just have to upset the applecart, won’t we?”
With Boro narrowly missing out on the play-offs last season, and having been a Premier League club for many years, it’s as big a game as possible for the Town to kick-off the campaign, with Cardiff away and West Brom, Jones’ former club, following in the next two league games.
“That’s the definition of being in the Championship,” said Jones. “You could pick me another 20 clubs where there’s be a story to tell. You just have to take every game on its own merit and make sure you’re prepared for it.
“The difficulty will be knowing exactly how Jonathan is going to play, because he’s inherited a group from Tony Pulis and Tony had a clear identity. You knew what was coming.
“Whether Jonathan goes with that, or changes it, we’ll have to wait and see. But I don’t think you can ask for any more than a home game on the opening day of the season.”
And the new boss is looking forward to his first experience of a night game at the Kenny, adding: “I’m told it can be electric at Kenilworth Road under the lights. I haven’t experienced it myself, but we had a late kick-off against Oxford and I was there, so I could feel the atmosphere.
“First game of the season, live on Sky, Friday night – it’s all very, very exciting and I’m sure that’s what the Luton Town supporters were looking for when we were promoted to the Championship.”