Matthew Crichton: If you said to Luton fans in August that you’d be 7 points off automatic promotion come March despite changing managers, I imagine fans would have snapped your hand off?
Ian Robertson: Yes of course, Nathan Jones leaving was an injection of trepidation and we’d been here before with Nathan leaving during a good season, that was in League One and with the greatest of respect it’s a whole lot different to the Championship and so the fanbase knew this was a decision that we had to get right.
We knew of Rob Edwards, he’d been on the recruitments team radar for some time, even before he went to Watford and was on our shortlist when we were prepping for the future apparently, so we knew he matched a lot of our criteria when looking for a manager and played a similar formation and pressing style when he was at Forest Green Rovers.
However even though it looked like a perfect match, I don’t think we saw the transition going as smoothly as it has, he’s really lifted us.
MC: So let’s head back to November when Nathan Jones left (again), how did fans view his decision and how do you view it now knowing he only lasted 3 months?
IR: I can’t speak for everyone obviously, but I think it was one we expected at some point, he’s an ambitious man and he had form for leaving mid-season.
I think it was fairly clear early on that he wasn’t a popular appointment with the Southampton fans, nor the media - some defended him and his record and some couldn’t care less what happened to him apart from the supposed survival clause in his contract that would have seen a little bit of money come our way.
He’ll be a big success again, he just needs to pick the right club.
MC: The man who replaced him, Rob Edwards, started the season in charge of Watford and has solidified Luton in the playoffs since late January - what has he changed that has been so effective?
IR: He’s not made wholesale changes, but the quality of football has increased, we’d become a little bit boring and defensive in our game plan. With Rob though, he’s allowed them more freedom to take risks, which gives us a little more creative spark than we had previously.
The biggest change has probably been in our pressing game, we were already great at pressing but we go even harder now and have started to see chances being created through winning second balls higher up and with a linked press, as soon as one player goes they all do in three waves. It’s really effective.
MC: Luton are often heavily praised for their results on the pitch given how little is spent off it, what do you think your success to go from a National League club back to being a very successful EFL club comes down to?
IR: Our owners, John Still and Nathan Jones.
It’s a consortium fan-owned football club, one that puts our future ahead of everything we do and their motto is ‘No Trap Doors’ so we live within our means and do things differently to other clubs, in the main though we plan ahead very wisely and stick to the plan.
We have fire in the belly from what we perceived as harsh treatment from the EFL and FA, with that brought unity and a mentality to never give up, that’s felt in all different fractions of the football club.
MC: Moving onto the players, we can’t discuss Luton without talking Carlton Morris, a man who has scored 4 in his last 5 games - what makes him so prolific?
IR: He’s strong, can play with both feet, is decent in the air, has great hold-up play and has superb anticipation of the play ahead which is evident in his goals and his assists as he always seems one step ahead of the defender in the play.
He’s so much more than goals for us though, he’s so aggressive and front-footed, his endeavour and work rate to win the ball back is really important to how we play, and the same with Elijah.
MC: Luton signed duo Cody Dramah and Marvelous Nakamba on loan in January from the Premier League, how have those two performed so far?
IR: Both have done well from the off, but also both have grown with their performances too.
Cody Drameh was a replacement for the departure of James Bree, someone that was top of the chances created charts in the Championship before he departed for Southampton, but Cody has come in and has created more chances (14) than any other Championship defender since his Luton debut at the end of January. He’s flourished since Rob Edwards has given him a bit of freedom to take risks.
Marv, he’s an outstanding player at this level in terms of his reading of the game, he’s like a magnet for the ball and his reliability to intercept and play the right pass has given the forward line and midfielders confidence when they are in the press and he’s been true to his name.
MC: Aside from the above-mentioned players, which Luton players do you expect will cause Sunderland problems?
IR: The whole defensive line, in the last eleven games we’ve only conceded two goals from open play and we’re a tight unit at the back, even when we’ve had injuries we’ve managed to keep clean sheets - only Millwall have breached that back line from open play in that time.
MC: Luke O’Nien came incredibly to signing for Luton before joining Sunderland back in 2018, do you look back at that in hindsight as one you wished the club had gotten over the line given his success on Wearside?
IR: I like Luke, he’s flourished at Sunderland and I think that was the right move for him, everyone loves a bit of shithousery in their team and he gives you that, something we’ve missed since Danny Hylton left.
That said I don’t think I take him over anyone we have currently in that position.
MC: Which eleven players do you think Edwards will select and how do you think he will set up tactically?
IR: (3-1-4-2) Horvath, Osho, Lockyer, Bell, Nakamba, Drameh, Campbell, Berry, Doughty, Adebayo, Morris.
You’re a very technical team, so I think we’ll revert to type with a high physical press, slight feeling Morris might not be involved as one more yellow and he’ll be out for the Watford game, slight knock for Amari’i Bell too but I think he’ll be fine.
MC: Sunderland are without a win in our last four meetings with Luton - what is your prediction for the final score?
IR: Sunderland 0-1 Luton Town. Elijah Adebayo to score!