Hatters first-team coach and former Rams midfielder Inigo Idiakez is looking forward to returning to Pride Park this afternoon as the Hatters take on Derby County.
The 45-year-old spent two years playing at Derby from 2004 to 2006 and returned there as a first-team coach in 2016 for a couple of months under Nigel Pearson.
Idiakez looks back on his time with Derby very fondly, saying: “I had a really good time when I played there. The first year was incredible, we went to the play-offs, but we lost against Preston and I got injured.
“As a first team coach there it didn’t really work to be honest, we were there for a couple of months and it was a bit disappointing but it’s a different club now. When I was there, it was a really close family and Simon Hunt was one of the scouts who signed all the players, we were a really good team.”
During his first season with County – in which they finished fourth in the Championship – Idiakez was named Supporters Player of the Season.
“I loved the club when I was there, and I wish them all the best. I have a fantastic relationship with the fans, and I remember every corner, free-kick, every time I took something, they were singing my name, so I wish them all the best but we’re going to try and win there.”
Though the two years with Derby were very successful, Idiakez was somewhat surprised the move happened in the first place, after he thought he scuppered his chances of a move to England.
His brother phoned him whilst he was at Real Vallecano and told him of Derby’s interest, but they wanted him to play a trial game to check his fitness and then sign him after.
On that trial game, Idiakez said: “I played a game and did really, really bad in the trial. Then after the game, they were wanting me to sign the contract still and I thought, I did really bad, why do they want me to sign?”
The 45-year-old also touched on the quality Derby had in their ranks at the time, particularly the youth prospects coming through.
When speaking on the team, the Spaniard explained: “I remember Tom Huddlestone playing as a centre-back. We played one game in pre-season, me and him in midfield, but it didn’t work so George (Burley) decided to play Thomas at centre-back and with the quality he had, he was incredible.
The praise for the ex-Tottenham man didn’t stop there: “I played with two really good young players and one was Tom Huddlestone and another one was Xabi Alonso, so I can compare them both at the same level at that time when they were 18-years-old.
“We can watch clips of Tom Huddlestone now and he’s exactly the same player, but now he’s just older.”
Inigo Idiakez isn’t the only current Hatter returning to Pride Park for Saturday’s game, Jacob Butterfield, who joined Town from Derby this summer, will also head back to Derbyshire.
On the midfielder, Idiakez added: “He was there when I was a coach and to be honest he was really good with us, we know the quality he’s got, so when they asked me about Jacob, it was a yes to come to Luton because of his quality and the kind of person he is.
“In training you can see that he’s always giving 100 per cent, he can play different positions, he’s clever and has quality from set-pieces. He’s been a really good player for us and we’re really happy with him.”
Over 2,500 Hatters fans will be at Pride Park tomorrow for the game and don’t forget, if you’re an international supporter, you can stream the game live on iFollow Hatters and tune into Simon Pitts’ full match commentary as well.