Perhaps the story that is going under the radar this year is the rise of Nathan Jones‘ Luton Town. The Hatters currently occupy 11th place in the Championship and have continued to prove their doubters wrong all season.
With a guaranteed finish in the top 14 secured, the 2020/21 campaign marks the sixth successive year that Luton have improved their position on the Football League pyramid. Adding more glory to their recent achievements, The Hatters were plying their trade in the Conference just seven years ago, but those days seem like a distant memory after three impressive promotions.
Jones has been integral to the Bedfordshire club’s success since his re-appointment in May of last year, and whilst some struggle to forgive his move to Stoke City in 2019, he is striving to win back each individual’s heart. The heroics of last year’s great escape, coupled with establishing Luton as a competitive second-tier club, has revitalised the Welshman’s career after a torrid time with the Potters. Jones has since emerged as one of the most exciting managers in the Championship and being ambitious as he is, he will hoping to do even better next year.
Nathan Jones’ Luton Town: Defying Expectations and Setting the Bar High
A Miraculous 12 Months for All Involved at Luton Town
Luton spent the majority of last season in the relegation zone and when football resumed in June, they sat six points adrift of Championship safety. However, a run of 16 points from their nine remaining games pushed The Hatters into a 19th-placed finish.
Despite the confidence Jones has instilled back into his Luton side, the ultimate objective for the 2020/21 campaign was to survive once more. Luton, who operate on one of the lowest budgets in the division, were tipped for another relegation scrap – an expectation that the majority of fans held too.
In the early stages of the season, there was a lack of consistency in performances, with poor defeats being followed by excellent wins and vice versa. It remained clear throughout that Jones’ high pressing and front foot ideology was slowly creeping in, but a small handful of poor, lifeless performances unhinged some of the brilliant work done by the 47-year-old.
With Championship football for next season now secure, it seems that the performance levels are at an all-time high. The Hatters have picked up ten points out of a possible 12 and they are more than justifying a top-half finish – should they make that a reality in the coming weeks.
Recruitment Has Transformed Nathan Jones’ Luton Town
The Hatters operate on a fraction of a budget compared to the majority of their Championship counterparts, placing more emphasis on smart recruitment.
This philosophy, combined with the excellent work from the club’s scouting network, helped Nathan Jones to bring in two summer signings who have both been a vital component to Luton’s progression this season. Jordan Clark and Tom Lockyer both joined Luton on a free transfer ahead of the 2020/21 campaign from Accrington Stanley and Charlton Athletic respectively. Although, the latter has been injured since February, his start to life in Luton colours has been sensational. Clark, who created more opportunities than any other League One player last season, has translated his attacking threat into the division above, whilst also proving to be a versatile asset to the squad.
The Hatters brought in Wigan Athletic’s Kal Naismith and Walsall’s Elijah Adebayo in January – another two individuals who have seamlessly adapted to Championship football and are players who are cementing their place in Jones’ plans for next season.
Jones has also navigated the loan market expertly. The Welshman had been a long-time admirer of Leicester City’s Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall and secured the signing in summer. The 22-year-old has been an exceptional addition to the Welshman’s squad and Luton will be hopeful of striking another deal with Leicester, should he not be part of Brendan Rodgers’ plans for next year.
Luton Demonstrating They Have the Talent to Match the Desire
Desire, work ethic, and the rub of the green was certainly what earned Luton another season in the Championship, but this time around, they have shown that they compete against the top sides in the division this season.
The Hatters have seen a lot more possession this season and positive, attacking football has been brought back to Kenilworth Road, despite being 13 goals shy of last season’s figure.
More importantly, Luton have conceded 34 fewer goals than last season’s 82. Addressing the leaky defence was deemed the biggest task of the 2020/21 campaign and Jones has passed that test with flying colours.
As well as the new additions that have propelled Luton to this new level, the rest of the squad have upped a gear too. Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu and Simon Sluga have particularly shone this year and it is expected that both will be attracting higher-level interest.
Mpanzu joined Luton in 2013 whilst the club was a non-league outfit. Fast-forward eight years, and he is an integral part of a Championship squad and he will be hopeful of reaching the Premier League with them.