The English Football League returns this evening as newly promoted Luton Town play host to Middlesbrough at Kenilworth Road in the Sky Bet Championship.
It promises to be an intriguing match-up between two teams who have new managers embarking on their first season as first-team managers, with Graeme Jones steering the wheel at Luton and Jonathan Woodgate taking the reigns at Middlesbrough.
Jones will be hoping to emulate the success of Nathan Jones and Mick Harford last season, as they helped the Hatters romp to the League One title, meanwhile Woodgate and his assistant manager Robbie Keane will be looking to right the wrongs of the previous regime under Tony Pulis.
It’s a game that has plenty of interesting narratives running alongside it, and we managed to exclusively catch up with ex-Charlton manager Chris Powell and now EFL on Quest pundit, to get his take on tonight’s season opener.
Speaking to FLW’s Chief Editor Sam Rourke, Powell said: “It’s quite an interesting opener because you’ve got two teams that are in different stages, Luton with a new manager but have got the momentum of being promoted, whereas Middlesbrough have been knocking on that door, they’ve lost in play-off finals, lost in play-off semi-finals, finished seventh last year.
“Middlesbrough have a new, unproven management team with Woodgate and Keane so it’s interesting that they go to Luton on the first day, it’s a tough place to go, it’ll be rocking for sure.o
On paper, it looks like a match that could go either way, but Powell thinks the Hatters may just have the advantage: “I think Luton might just win it, with the whole atmosphere, though Boro still have some top class players, in my eyes Middlesbrough shouldn’t be where they are, but they have to get themselves out of it.
It’s fair to say Boro are somewhat of an unknown quantity this season under the stewardship of Woodgate and Keane, but Powell hopes that the board and Boro fans will be patient: “Steve Gibson and his board may have looked at what they’ve had previously in Karanka who got them up, Monk and then they went tried and tested with Tony Pulis.
“I think now they will have to show patience, this is a young manager who make take to it straight away or who may need time to adjust to his new position, because it does take time being a new first time manager.”