Opposition View: Stoke City vs Luton Town
Rather fittingly it is a game at Stoke City that comes next for Luton Town, with the immediate future of Nathan Jones taking centre stage at present.
Ahead of tonight's clash at the Bet 365 Stadium, ORH spoke to Stoke fan Ben Rowley of The YYY-Files to help preview the game from the other side of the fence.
Tell us about your Stoke supporting history!
My first game was a 1-0 loss to Birmingham City in the Premier League. That should have been that, but the atmosphere got me hooked. I went to a handful of cup games (including a 5-0 win over Bolton in an FA Cup semi final), then league games, then getting my first season ticket in 2014. Today, I’m still a season ticket holder, attend a handful of away games each year, and sit on the Supporters Council in a bid to make Stoke City’s match day experience the best it can be. In these tough(ish) times for Stoke, it’s my fellow supporters that keep me going.
How has the season been so far for the Potters?
Near enough a catastrophe. I’ve witnessed nine games this season (eight at home) and I’ve seen us win just the once. Michael O’Neill was given a chance to make the most of his newly assembled squad, which backfired as we endured a slow start. Results haven’t improved under Alex Neil, and neither have the performances. Whilst the endeavour and control in games is there, we are pathetic in both boxes and it makes us very easy to beat. The atmosphere during home games has transitioned from one of anger to apathy, and I think it’ll take quite the turnaround for the passion to return to ST4.
A Luton connection in Lewis Baker - How has he started the campaign?
He’s our top goalscorer, so on the face of it you’d have to say he’s our top boy. His experience and leadership is valuable, especially amongst a rather young squad. Lately though, he’s been caught napping in midfield and it’s been hurting us on the counter-attack. He performed well in a stable midfield partnership with Joe Allen last season; he’s not had the benefit of having a consistent pairing this time around. He set extremely high standards last season, and I’m hoping players coming back from injury will allow him to perform back to his best.
It proved to be a rather busy summer - What have you made of the summer arrivals?
Liam McCarron has gone on loan to our local rivals. Aden Flint has been a disaster. Dwight Gayle and Liam Delap have one goal between them. Dujon Sterling and Harry Clarke always seem to have an injury between them. Gavin Kilkenny hasn’t played for a good couple of months. Will Smallbone has had one or two good games in a mostly anonymous campaign. Josh Laurent has even hampered by injury, though has impressed when he’s been in the side. It’s Tariqe Fosu who takes all the plaudits for me. He’s mostly playing as a winger under Alex Neil, which suits his energy, trickery and eye for goal much more than at wingback. He’s been our most creative outlet in recent weeks, and he’s most likely to pick a hole in Luton’s defence on Tuesday night.
What have you made of Luton's start to the season?
After a poor start, Luton look to be getting back to the level that they reached last season. You made some smart signings in the Summer, including Alfie Doughty, who I thought was unlucky not to get a chance at Stoke. You guys personify the things a lot of teams want to be: hard to beat, more than the sum of your parts, and performing well without breaking the bank. With the news breaking of Nathan Jones potentially departing for Southampton, I can’t help but feel that a very vital cog will be missing from the Luton machine. Sometimes some things are just meant to be together: we found that out when Nathan joined us for that brief spell. Jones needs you and you need Jones, although I’d be strangely pleased to be proven wrong on both counts.
Stoke have an appalling home record, whilst Luton have one of the best away records. If Harry Souttar manages to make the starting XI, Stoke are in with a chance of picking something up from this game. Assuming that he doesn’t make it, I’m going for a 3-0 Luton win. It would be fitting for Nathan Jones to thump the Club he left for in his last game in charge of Luton before he heads off once again to work his magic in the Premier League. It would signify how much of a dumpster fire Stoke City have been, and how far they have to go before their ambitions of Premier League football can be realised.
Featured image: Copyright of Gareth Owen/LTFC