Luton Town boss Graeme Jones knows how difficult managing the transition from the Premier League to the Championship can be, having done so as assistant to Darren Moore at West Bromwich Albion last season, but even he admitted to being “surprised” at how Huddersfield Town have begun the season.
The Terriers have their biggest decision of the year to make in the coming weeks. Do they give the manager role to rookie Mark Hudson, the former captain who has stood in since Jan Siewert’s sacking and has made no secret of his desire for the job, or look elsewhere for the next appointment, and if so to whom?
A first-round EFL Cup exit and the upcoming international break mean that this is their only game in the space of 22 days, giving them plenty of time to make the considered choice which will determine whether they spend the season battling relegation, or if this poor start can eventually be looked back on as a mere blip.
After two defeats in two matches, Hudson’s chances of being in consideration surely rest upon claiming his first points – and ideally the club’s first win in six months. His comments after their Reading loss last weekend, questioning the fitness of the squad in the aftermath of the Siewert regime, suggest there are more deep-rooted problems at the John Smith’s Stadium, and he will have his work cut out to get his players up to speed to take on an eager Luton side.
The Hatters delivered a complete performance last weekend at Barnsley to pick up their first Championship win in 12 years, combining strength in defence with a ruthless streak up top to tear their opponents apart in the first half. Throw in an under-the-radar 3-0 stroll at Cardiff City in the EFL Cup in midweek, and they will be more than confident of overpowering another struggling side.
Luton made no fewer than 10 changes to their starting line-up in the EFL Cup win, so the side that defeated Barnsley can expect to return fresh. Left-back Dan Potts was back on the bench in Cardiff after being sidelined for the previous two games.
Centre-back Martin Cranie has been ruled out of this clash against his former side, with the ligament damage suffered in their recent defeat at Sheffield Wednesday keeping him out until the international break.
Fraizer Campbell is pushing for more game time for Huddersfield after two brief substitute appearances as the striker builds his fitness. Goalkeeper Kamil Grabara and defender Terence Kongolo are being checked on after a collision in the Reading defeat but are expected to feature at Kenilworth Road.
What the managers have said
Huddersfield’s poor start to the season has come as a surprise to Jones but he says his Luton side still need to be wary of their quality.
"Three months ago they were facing all the big boys," he said. "Obviously, the manager’s changed, which gives a club impetus. There is a huge fallout when a team gets relegated from the Premier League.
"There is a lot of politics to deal with, a lot of finance to deal with, and I think (their situation) has been a little bit of a result of that.
"There is no doubt they possess the quality to hurt anybody at any given time. We need to be aware of that."
Hudson says he is enjoying his role as caretaker manager, but is focused on the trip to Bedfordshire rather than his own future.
"I am thoroughly enjoying doing what I am doing," he said. "I love this and I will continue to give everything I've got in this role - that's just me as a person.
"My focus is on Luton and to go from there. We have a big game this weekend and my main focus is to get the team right going into that - then we will see after that."