The Hatters have struggled since promotion this season to the Premier League, but domestic cup competitions are always opportunities to build momentum and strive for silverware.
But who will win in today’s match? Only time will ultimately tell.
Ahead of Sunday’s game, we spoke to Kevin Harper, freelancer, podcaster, and Luton Town Supporter Trust Media Officer:
RBM: Straight off, with Luton Town struggling in their first return to the top of English football in some thirty years, what is the feeling like around the club and supporters - even as the year has been difficult thus far?
It has been no more difficult than anyone expected it to be. If anything, we have been more competitive than expected so the feeling around the club and supporters is extremely positive.
We were more hopeful of staying up rather expecting to do it so I think if you had offered us the position of one point from safety with a game in hand deep into January we would have taken it. We’re just loving the Premier League experience and the fact that we are competitive at the same time is making it even more exciting.
RBM: For those of our readers who do not know football history so thoroughly, please tell us about the history of this team, and what last year’s promotion meant to the side?
10 years ago Luton were trying to make our way out of the National League having gone through all sorts of financial trouble which forced us out of the Football League. Step by step we have improved every season since then to the point that five years later we were embarking on Championship football. That was the level most people thought was our ceiling but then Rob Edwards came along and took us to the Promised Land.
Luton haven’t been in the top flight since 1992 so for most match going fans this is their first taste of watching Luton taking on the elite every week which was huge but the biggest thing about the promotion is that it means we have the funds for our new ground which is going to bring stability to the club and ensure its long-term future. Whatever happens from here on in, nothing will be more important than that.
RBM: Now, with that done and dusted, tell us about this particular team, players, boss and all; what did this team do well to get here, and where are they at their best on the pitch when they’re at their best?
We’re already a different team to the one which got promoted. Back in the Championship we were very direct into two physical strikers but now we are able to keep possession and transition up the pitch with shorter passes. Our strengths are still set pieces (as we showed in the league game) and getting the ball out wide and into the box for the attackers to attack but when you have quality like Ross Barkley in the team then you are able to play in many different ways. Barkley is the best player in this team but the likes of Alfie Doughty, Andros Townsend and Albert Sambi Lokonga all play big parts while Gabe Osho and Teden Mengi are having excellent seasons in defence. When Barkley is on it, as he has been in pretty much every game for us, then we are a match for anyone as we’ve shown by giving Liverpool, Arsenal and Man City a scare this season already.
RBM: What are the weaknesses that have been divined over the first months of the long slog of a Premier League campaign?
I think the weaknesses we did have in the main have been ironed out. We were a bit naive defensively at the start of the season but from the third game in we have been competitive in nearly every game we have played and we are a much better team now than when we started out in this league. Our weaknesses are definitely not as obvious these days.
RBM: Are there any winter window prospects to help the side before the window closes?
We always tend to come out of transfer windows stronger than when we went into it and I’ve no reason to believe this one will be any different. We tend to do our business quietly and out of the spotlight so I’m sure one or two gems are being lined up to come in before the window closes.
RBM: Can this side remain up, what will it take to do so? Additionally, is that the expectation for the rest of the season?
Absolutely it can. If we continue to improve at the rate we have done so far then we can definitely stay up. If we stay up home results will be the key and four of the top five have already been to Kenilworth Road so we have lesser teams to play at home who we can beat. If we get wins in the games we have every chance in then there is absolutely no reason why we can’t stay in the division despite the opinion of the outside world. No Luton fan expects us to stay up. We hope we do but nobody truly expects it. The only expectation is that everyone gives it 100% in every game and give us the best chance and we know that is guaranteed to happen so whether we’re good enough or not we’ll be fine with it.
RBM: How do you expect Luton Town to set up this Saturday, and who do you think could cause Everton the most problems in the affair?
Same as we did in the league game only we have more quality in our ranks now. We’ll look to press high up and win the ball back and get it into the box for the attackers to go after and we’ll look to make the most of set plays. The day is all set up for Ross Barkley to do his thing isn’t it and remind everyone inside the ground just how good he is. His quality and the delightful left foot of Alfie Doughty are weapons we can use in the game.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for this FA Cup tie?
Our thanks to Kevin for his time.