Preston North End's clash with Luton brings old pals Alex Neil and Graeme Jones together

Preston North End manager Alex Neil will be in opposition with his former team-mate Graeme Jones when Luton Town visit Deepdale on Saturday.

Friday, 13th December 2019, 11:45 am
Luton Town manager Graeme Jones

The pair played together at Hamilton Academical, with both taking a career path into coaching and management.

After a number of years working as No.2 to Roberto Martinez, Jones has gone it alone at Luton.

He took the Hatters job in May, his job to try and establish the Bedfordshire club in the Championship.

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Luton striker James Collins celebrates with team-mates after scoring

It’s been a rapid rise back up the leagues for Luton.

After four seasons in the National League, they were promoted back to the Football League in 2014.

The last two campaigns have seen Luton win back-to-back promotions from League Two through to the Championship.

Neil said: “Graeme is a great lad and it will be good to see him again.

“You look at some of the teams he’s been involved with and his is a great CV.

“He worked at Everton in the Premier League, did well at Swansea and Wigan.

“Graeme has worked with some of the best players in the world with the Belgium team.

“Last season he went to West Bromich Albion with Darren Moore.

“He got to the stage where he wanted to be his own man and Luton afforded him that opportunity.

“Graeme will want to put his own stamp on them.

“As a player he was a beast of a striker. To be fair, he’s probably in better shape now than when he played!

“He used to carry the extra weight to fling himself about.”

The Hatters’ results have been a mixed bag this season.

Of their last nine games, they’ve won only two and lost seven – one of the defeats being a 7-0 loss at Brentford.

They beat Charlton and Wigan at home in that run, while their stand-out result of the campaign so far was a 3-0 win over Bristol City.

James Collins leads their scoring charts with six goals, while strike partner Harry Cornick has netted five.

In the summer they used the Bosman market to bring in Championship experience in the shape of Martin Cranie (Sheffield United), Callum McManaman (Wigan) and Ryan Tunnicliffe (Millwall).

They paid £1.3m for keeper Simon Slugan from Croatian side Rijeka but it is James Shea who is currently is possession of the gloves.

Neil said: “The first year is this division was always going to be tough.

“Luton have had constant success over a period of time.

“They’ve come up to this league where they will be one of the smaller clubs in terms of stature and resources.

“Teams have done it in the past and survived, and Luton will be hoping to do that.

“I watched their game at Sheffield Wednesday earlier in the season and they dictated the first half.

“The other night they lost at Stoke but there was nothing in the game until the first goal.

“Luton will come and play, they’ll be expansive and want to open the pitch up. We are going to have to play well.”