Luton boss Nathan Jones is ready to kick off the League One campaign with a bang after the opening fixtures were announced yesterday.
The Hatters begin the season at Portsmouth on Saturday, August 4, before entertaining hot favourites Sunderland a week later, who came down from the Championship last season.
On the two matches, Jones told the club's official website: "It’s a tough start but a really good, interesting one – there are some really good games to whet the appetite.
"We know it will be a difficult start, but it’s going to be a tough league throughout. We are under no illusions about that.
"I know the coaching staff at Portsmouth really well and we’ve had some rivalry. We’ve had similar pathways really in terms the problems off the pitch which meant that they were playing in a league that they didn’t want to play in.
“It was tough for them to get out of League Two because of the size of the club, and it was tough for us, so we’ve had similar sorts of pathways into League One. But now we are there we’ll be competing for the same goal.
“There is no easy way of going into a league, and Pompey away is as tough as it comes, so we are going to get a stern test early on – but so are Pompey.”
When speaking about Town's first home game against the Black Cats, Jones continued: "Without being disrespectful to anyone else in the league, that’s probably the biggest game you could have had for the first match at home.
"It’s a great test for us. We’ll test ourselves early to see where we are, and the first two games against sides that will be high up there and favourites to get promoted, so to test ourselves against them is brilliant.
“It’s the best way to do it because you get a really good gauge to see where we are, and see what we need to do – or we’ll find out that what we believe is true. It’s a great start.
“It’s one that you can really get excited about, but we’ve got six or seven weeks yet as we do all our prep work and make sure that the team is ready, and make sure we are ready mentally and physically – not just for the first few games, but for the whole season.
“They are great games and that’s why we wanted to get out of League Two. We’ve got these massive games coming up, and we want more of them.
“If we want to play against these sides, then we’ve got to hit them head on – but Pompey will be looking at us and Sunderland will be looking at us thinking that they’ve got a tough start as well.
“Portsmouth and Sunderland are as big a clubs as there are in the league, so to start with them is a real tough ask, but it’s one we’re relishing, one we’re looking forward to and one we’ll be ready for.
“Sunderland have got Charlton first, and then us away. It’s a tough start for them as well. It’ll be a real, real competition for all of these sides. There are no easy games and we’ve got to make sure that we hit the ground running and we’re not playing catch-up.”
Luton then visit West Bromwich Albion in the Carabao Cup, with the Baggies recently relegated from the Premier League, making it a hat-trick of former top-flight clubs they will be coming up against during August.
Jones said: "As far as two-third of that opening trio of games goes, it would have been a Premier League fixture list just two seasons ago, so it shows that we’ve come a good distance, but these are the games we wanted.
“Without being disrespectful to anyone, if we wanted to go to the same places and start off with Yeovil and Barnet again, we wouldn’t have got promoted. The two league games are fantastic games and we arrive in the division with an absolute bang, so we are going to look forward to it.
Hatters have been dealt a rough hand on Boxing Day though, with a trip to Scunthorpe, as Jones added: "That’s the only thing if I’m honest – I don’t know who does these fixtures or how they are done, but unless we were drawn against John O’Groats, I don’t see that we could get much further away!
“Then we’ve looked at Plymouth away on a Saturday followed by Bradford away on the Tuesday night. It’s a predominantly northern league anyway, so we knew we’d have some journeys, but we’ll prepare the right way and everything revolves around our preparation, so it’s fine.
“I think it’s the wives who are more preoccupied with the fact that it’s a big journey away at Christmas because that means people will be away for the festive period, but we’ll look forward to it as we do all the games.”