It has been a manic introduction to the managerial side of the game for Nathan Jones. In just over four years of management, he has experienced each step of the English Football League and has been at the forefront of associated drama.
Luton Town themselves have been on an upward trajectory since their promotion back to the Football League in 2014. Fans of the Hatters will be more than content with where the club is. After the decade and a half that the club have been through, this success would have been unimaginable.
When club legend, and so-called ‘saviour’, John Still was sacked in January 2016, a young but highly ambitious Nathan Jones stepped into his first managerial role.
Nathan Jones: The Continued Strive to Win Over Luton Fans
Jones Appointment Brought About Optimism
The initial consensus was very positive about Jones’ arrival. He brought an active and energetic stance to management – a polar opposite style to his predecessor.
Jones steered the Hatters clear of relegation in the 2015/16 campaign and had the summer to construct his own team. Key signings included Glen Rea and Danny Hylton – who are both still a part of Jones’ current side – and goalkeeper Christian Walton, now of Blackburn Rovers.
Luton narrowly missed out on the automatic spots that season and instead made the play-offs. However, the Hatters lost out to eventual winners Blackpool, when a 95th-minute own-goal, earned the Tangerines a spot at Wembley.
Hatters Developed a Taste for Success
Sadly for Luton fans, play-off heartbreak was nothing new to the club. But, the club reacted brilliantly. The 2017/18 campaign saw the Hatters finish second and were subsequently promoted. Emphatic wins against Yeovil, Cambridge and Stevenage helped the Hatters finish the year as the league’s top goal-scorers, with Danny Hylton and new-signing James Collins both recording 20 goals each.
Amazingly, the 2018/19 season would get even better for the newly-promoted side. Despite, having the likes of Portsmouth, Sunderland and Charlton Athletic in the league, Luton blew the division away and eventually won the league. It was a campaign started by Nathan Jones, but with his departure to Stoke, it was carried on by club legend Mick Harford.
Nathan Jones’ Departure to the Championship
With Luton flying high in League One, the Championship came calling for Nathan Jones. Stoke City offered the Welshman a lucrative offer that proved to be too tempting. When news broke of his departure, Luton fans were left disheartened, with some reacting angrily. Jones always spoke so passionately about the club and how he envisioned Luton’s future, which is why some fans took the news particularly bad.
The 47-year-old guided the Hatters into second place before January, in a very competitive and congested League One. The responsibility then fell to Mick Harford, who kept everything as close to Nathan Jones’ tactics as he could. Luton then enjoyed an even more successful second-half to the season and ran out as eventual winners. The significance of Luton’s promotion was that Stoke City would be visiting Kenilworth Road in the 2019/20 campaign.
Jones Gets the Boot Before Luton Visit
For Luton fans, Stoke City was the first game that everybody looked for when the fixtures came out. However, Stoke endured a poor start to the season that resulted in the sacking of Jones in early November – a month before the Hatters were supposed to visit.
Despite Stoke’s terrible start, it was Luton who found themselves in the relegation zone when the season was put on hold. Graeme Jones, who Luton employed ahead of the Championship campaign, left the club by mutual consent during the early stages of the pandemic.
Jones for Jones
As one Jones departed, another Jones returned. The Hatters turned to Nathan Jones in a time of need, and the Welshman wanted a shot at redemption. Luton’s decision to re-hire the 47-year-old did not go down well with a selection of Town fans, who still viewed Jones as a villain and a traitor. But, the board approved and he had a job to do. The former Brighton man was eager to challenge himself, albeit the job was made easier with no fans allowed in the stadium, taking the edge off (slightly).
16 points from the remaining nine games meant that the Hatters completed the great escape. A 3-2 victory at home to Blackburn ensured survival for Bedfordshire-based club. Under Nathan Jones, Town became a very difficult side to breakdown and their use of the subs bench proved pivotal.
Three wins from the opening four games has guided the Hatters into fifth place this campaign. Luton now go into the international break brimming with confidence, and would probably have preferred to have kept going.
The Only Way is Up
Nathan Jones’ bravery to step back in at Luton Town has brought positivity back to his club and to his name. Although, a few stubborn fans still have hard feelings towards the Welshman.
However, with the way the club continue to progress, those ill-feelings are likely to diminish. For the Hatters, the main aim is building upon last season’s 19th placed finish. And, if one thing is for certain, the club have the right man at the forefront.