He’s been gone too long. It has been 16 months. Now, Nathan Jones is back at Luton Town. The Welshman, who turns 47 today, has signed what the club describes as a “long-term contract”. The timing of his departure from the Hatters in January came amidst an unbeaten run of thirteen games, with a FA Cup third-round replay against Sheffield Wednesday being his final game in charge.
What Can Nathan Jones Bring to Luton on His Return?
With his chest pumping after his first game in charge of Stoke City, something which sparked a passion between himself and the fans at Luton, made Jones look two-faced and described by many as a “snake”, it’s safe to say he’s not been the most popular person of late. But can all be forgiven? Speaking to Luton Today Jones reflects on his departure:
“I love the club. I wholeheartedly regret how those events came about. It was a whirlwind and something I have learned from. I got distracted from the long term goal we had at the football club”
What Jones Brings
Despite several additions last summer, Jones knows a lot of the playing squad that he left in 2019. Key players of the League One winning team such as Andrew Shinnie and Elliott Lee, who’s father Rob was publically critical of Graeme Jones’ treatment of his son, who have been subject to limited playing time this season, could potentially be re-invigorated by the news of the Welshman’s arrival. With 75 appearances between them last season, compared with just 15 so far this term. The impact on those two players alone shows the style change fans can look forward to going back to.
Nathan Jones used to favour a 3-5-2 with switching wing-backs. With last summer seeing the unfortunate but expected departures of James Justin and Jack Stacey to Leicester City and Bournemouth respectively, the club was approaching a new era. With now dispanded head-coach Graeme Jones appointed in June, he was inheriting a side fresh from playing swashbuckling football.
Ninety goals scored, ninety-four points obtained. This was no fluke season. This was a well-drilled side fresh to League One for the first time in a decade. Nobody expected a promotion push, merely a respectable adjustment to life back in the third-tier after finishing second in League Two.
Possibly driven by a small collapse that saw the fourth-tier title slip from their grasps into Accrington Stanley‘s, the side kept recruitment small, signs of a manager confident in what he has at his disposal, knowing a few additions can really lift the potential. Graeme saw things different.
New to the managerial life, he sought to garner experience. Martin Cranie, Callum McManaman, Ryan Tunnicliffe and Jacob Butterfield arrived with 926 appearances between them, it looked like the philosophy was clear: experience prevails.
The club has prided itself on bringing through players. Notably Matthew Upson, Curtis Davies, Matthew Taylor and Jack Wilshere. The approach never seemed to sit easily with the Luton faithful. Kids allow patience. Experienced pros bring expectation. Sure, the club couldn’t expect more than a challenge to avoid relegation, but the occasional meek effort in defeats to Reading, Hull City and more notoriously Brentford, where the Hatters conceded seven and found themselves 5-0 by half-time.
Defensive woes have plagued Town up until recently when they enjoyed a six-game unbeaten spell. CEO Gary Sweet said he wasn’t looking at any applications for the vacancy, perhaps because his mind was already made up. Putting aside their differences. Sweet says the re-appointment of Jones makes perfect sense, as he knows the club inside out. Accepting he will have to win back the fans’ love and trust, he admitted he had to do it before. The best way to go about it this time? Use the final nine games of the season to propel the club to safety.
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