BIG MATCH PREVIEW: My past makes me appreciate my Town present says Andy Drury ahead of Luton Town return

TWO years ago, Andy Drury was combining work as a hod-carrier with playing for non-league Luton Town wondering if his dream of breaking into professional football had passed him by.

Today the midfielder’s meteoric rise will see him return to Kenilworth Road as an integral part of Paul Jewell’s Championship side.

The 28-year-old believes his time in the building trade prepared him perfectly for the pitfalls faced in football – having struggled initially at Ipswich before being farmed out on loan to Crawley Town.

Indeed, had the League Two side been willing to up their reported �150,000 bid, Drury might well have been plying his trade elsewhere.

Last season’s most improved player at Portman Road is fully aware of the journey he has made and clearly intends to take full advantage from here on in.

Drury said: “It has been tough, not being in the team and going out on loan. I had to work hard to get to where I am now. But I will keep working hard and hopefully keep the shirt for the season.

“Having other jobs in the past means you work as hard as you can when that happens. You appreciate it a bit more than you might do. That said, all the players work hard at this club as far as I am concerned.”

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Drury was a virtual ever-present in the second half of the season and while he is expected to start the curtain raiser against Blackburn Rovers on August 18, competition is tougher than ever in the centre of the park following the arrival of loanee Massimo Luongo from Spurs.

But Drury maintained: “There has been competition in the midfield since I signed here so it is something I am used to.

“You always need a challenge for your place and hopefully I can do enough in pre-season to get the shirt for the first game of the season. Massimo did well against Cambridge.

“We played a diamond and he sat in the hole, got on the ball and kept it moving for us.”

While results remain secondary to match fitness and injury-free performances, the Blues will look to keep their unbeaten pre-season run going at Blue Square Premier side Luton (3pm ko).

Lee Martin is the most notable absentee in Paul Jewell’s strong-looking, 20-man squad which includes Cheick Kourouma, whose contract situation remains up in the air, and Massimo Luongo – fresh from their first appearances in a Town shirt. Martin suffered a minor reoccurence of his thigh strain after the win at Cambridge on Wednesday.

Luton boss Paul Buckle is hoping field his marquee summer signing Jon Shaw for the first time after the striker missed all of the Hatters’ unbeaten four friendlies with a hernia and then calf problem.

Fellow new signing Danny Spiller (Achilles) and Garry Richards (ankle) are other concerns with Luton starting their new season in a fortnight – seven days before Town.

Luton assistant boss Alan Neilson said: “They are looking to bring their starting eleven down as they are working towards their first game of the season.

“It’s a real good test. They’ve beaten Cambridge with Chopra scoring two goals which I saw on Sky. They’re a good side and have got good players.

“Pre-season has gone really, really well for us. We planned for this week to be a hard week.”

On his return to Kenilworth Road, Drury added: “I was only there for six months but I had a good relationship with the fans. I got on well with the people and it was a nice place and hopefully it will be a chance to catch up with a few of them.”

Town squad: Ainsley, Bullard, Carson, Chambers, Chopra, Cresswell, Delaney, Drury, Edwards, Ellington, Emmanuel-Thomas, Hyam, Kourouma, Lawrence, Lee-Barrett, Loach, Luongo, Scotland, Stevenson, Whight.