Preston North End take on Luton Town on Wednesday night and you could hardly blame PNE fans for feeling envious of the Hatters.
Ryan Lowe heads into this game desperately needing a win.
Seven defeats in the last 10 have piled the pressure on the PNE boss and Saturday’s 3-0 hammering at rivals Burnley was a nightmare.
Home form has been dismal and for as much as Lowe thinks PNE are playing great football, fans just aren’t seeing it.
The last thing Lowe needs is a battle against fourth-placed Luton Town but here we are – it promises to be a pivotal night at Deepdale.
Luton are absolutely flying this season and are frankly showing PNE how it’s done.
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For all of North End’s perceived struggles against the clubs with parachute payments and bigger attendances, Luton aren’t letting those factors hold them back.
For context, PNE finished two points shy of the Championship playoffs in 2018, just as Luton were winning promotion from League Two.
Fast forward less than five years and Luton have breezed past North End in the Championship table, sitting nine points clear right now.
Luton also finished in the playoff places last season, so they’re on course for two playoff appearances in the years since PNE finished seventh.
Given that Luton still had to go up through League One even after that 2018 promotion, the way they have accelerated ahead of North End is hugely impressive.
Luton have the lowest average attendance in the Championship this season, around 6,000 per game below PNE, yet continue to push for promotion.
The Hatters are owned by fan-backed Luton Town Football Club 2020, who issued 50,000 shares to the Luton Town Supporters’ Trust.
This project hasn’t been about splashing the cash to pump Luton up the leagues but a cohesive club-wide plan with impressive recruitment throughout and great fan involvement.
Luton have been able to sell the likes of James Justin and Jack Stacey in recent years and, crucially, have reinvested the cash well.
Jordan Clark has been a bargain from PNE’s neighbours Accrington Stanley. Striker Elijah Adebayo has smashed 30 goals in 92 games for Luton since joining from Walsall for £250,000.
Even with the small attendances, Luton were still able to push the boat out for Barnsley attackers Cauley Woodrow and Carlton Morris.
They paid up for a wing back in Alfie Doughty having committed to playing with wing backs moving forward – something PNE haven’t truly done.
Experience has been added in the likes of Henri Lansbury and Luke Freeman, providing valuable support to talents like Allan Campbell and Adebayo.
Even when Nathan Jones left the club – twice – Luton have remained on this path and the strong relationship through chief executive Gary Sweet to recruitment guru Mick Harford through to management has been key for the Hatters.
Luton are a great example of what can be done on a budget and the way PNE have frankly wasted money in recent years means many North End fans are lacking in faith both on and off the pitch.
Faith and belief aren’t in short supply at Luton and PNE should take some kind of inspiration from the way the Hatters are operating.
PNE may well turn their form around and pull off a win on Wednesday, but that won’t change the bigger picture; Luton have accelerated past PNE on and off the pitch in recent years and North End’s stagnation since 2018 has allowed this to happen.