3 fresh changes Rob Edwards may look to implement at Luton Town
Luton Town have appointed the former Forest Green Manager Rob Edwards, who won League 2 Manager of the Season last year for his promotion into League 1 as Champions.
Here, we take a dive into what we could see from Rob Edwards now that he is Luton Town Manager...
Giving youth a chance
Expected to join the Hatters with Rob Edwards is assistant coach Richie Kyle. Edwards met Kyle during his playing days for Blackpool, at this time Kyle was the U-18s Head Coach, and Edwards states that he learnt a lot from Richie while joining in with the U-18 training sessions. During Kyle’s position at Blackpool six youth team players made their competitive debuts across League One and the Championship. Kyle also worked with Edwards, both at Forest Green and across the England Youth Groups. Having a coach on board that has a strong grounding in youth football and development, indicates that they will be looking to our development squad to see who might be in the frame for stepping into the first team picture. All Hatters are very aware of Nathan Jones’ inclination to not bring youth team players into the first XI, with the exception of James Justin (which thrust upon him with the long term injury to Dan Potts), preferring to buy in young-ish talent to develop, such as Harry Cornick, Luke Berry and Jack Stacey. However, with the exception of Justin, no youth team players have stepped into the first XI, although we have recently seen development team captain Casey Pettit regularly in match day squads, as well as Zack Nelson. These players may get a chance to impress with a new manager in the building. Although, with Luton Town currently so close to the playoffs, there may be a compromise between instant results to retain forward momentum, over blooding the youth.
More of the ball
During the press conference unveiling Rob Edwards, Gary Sweet discussed how we have utilised analytics in order to select candidates for interview. One particular statistic highlighted by Sweet was that Edwards’ Forest Green side averaged 52 percent possession across their League 2 Championship winning season. However, the stats for our League 2 promotion campaign can’t be found online, a qualitative assessment suggests that our team that season also saw a lot of the ball. It was only from the beginning of the 2021/22 season, where Nathan Jones took the pragmatic route of direct football, ceasing possession and secondary pressing high up the pitch, mainly because it was a highly effective tactic which led us to 6th in the table last season. Sweet also mentioned that Edwards last two teams were top three for crosses into the box. This will offer some consistency for Hatters, as we are currently ranked second (behind Sheffield United (5.9)) for accurate crosses (5.8) per game. With regards to formation, we are likely to see the same 3-5-2 we have become accustomed to. However, as per how Rob Edwards’ Forest Green played, instead of seeing a player occupy the defensive midfield position, such as Lansbury, forming a 3-1-4-2, we may see a 3-4-1-2, with a no defensive midfielder, but instead a “10” presser with two intelligent midfielders, plugging gaps, controlling and dictating play from the middle of the park. We have to wait until our first game back to see whether Edwards implements his tried and tested Forest Green style, or whether he chooses a more pragmatic style due to the stiff competition within the Championship.
Another Former Hatter potentially joining the ranks
Luton Town are well known for bringing back former players into non-playing roles at the club. Currently Paul Benson, Alex Lawless, Adrian Forbes and Alan McCormack all occupy roles in the Hatters Academy, as well as Alan Sheehan joining the first team coaching staff last season, before leaving with Nathan Jones for Southampton. A possible addition to the first team coaching staff alongside Richie Kyle, could be former Hatter, youth team product and flying right back Kevin Foley who was coaching at Forest Green during Rob Edwards’ tenure as boss. When speaking to Oh When the Town Podcast, it was discussed whether he would follow Rob Edwards’ to his last role at Vicarage Road as during the summer it appeared Edwards’ was to be backed through “hell and high water”, however, Foley wouldn’t have time to even consider joining the staff, with Edwards exited after managing 11 games. We will find out Rob Edwards back room team at some point next week, according to official sources.