Hatters chief feels like he was made the 'scapegoat' for Baggies exit

Luton chief Graeme JonesLuton chief Graeme Jones
Luton chief Graeme Jones | jpimedia
Town boss sacked as number two at the Hawthorns in March 2019

Hatters boss Graeme Jones believes he has been made the 'scapegoat’ for his and Darren Moore’s departure from West Bromwich Albion last season.

The Luton chief was number two to Moore at the Hawthorns when the pair were sacked in March 2019 despite the Baggies being fourth in the Championship.

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Prior to their exits, Jones had been approached over the Hatters vacancy, accepting to take the role at the end of the season, but he didn't think that should be used as the main reason behind their dismissals.

Speaking about his first return to the club, Jones said: “I’m looking forward to it, it’s a wonderful football club and I mean wonderful.

“One per cent of me was disappointed there if I’m being honest, I know what happened, to me and Darren.

“The rest, 99 per cent was magnificent, I loved the club, and I mean that, really, really settled and looking forward to seeing some familiar faces.

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“I think I ended up being the scapegoat for us leaving, because I’d agreed to come to Luton, but Darren Moore knew all along, my conscience is absolutely clear.

“Me and Darren are closer than ever. Sometimes you have to go through tough times to find out if people are being honest and straightforward, absolutely we have been.

“Darren even came to my mother in law’s funeral last Friday, that’s how strong the relationship is.

“So we’ve survived that for the better, with integrity, not everybody can say that, but that’s for me to know.”

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Since they left, former Croatian boss Slaven Bilic has come in and steered the Baggies to a top two spot, as they look firm favourites to win promotion to the Premier League this term.

However, Jones felt that some of the credit should go to the work done beforehand, as he continued: “There’s some wonderful people there, but they are where they are in the league because of Darren Moore as well, it’s not just Slaven Bilic.

“I have total respect for Slaven, but Darren turned that football club, that was a losing football club in the Premier, into a winning football club and when we left, we were fourth in the Championship.

“Darren Moore deserves as much credit as anybody for where they are now in the league.”

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After building up a formidable 12-point advantage at the summit before Christmas, Albion have started to hit the skids, going seven league games without a win, dropping to second in the table.

They now only have a two point lead over third-placed Nottingham Forest as well, but Jones said: “There’s big responsibilities, it’s a huge football club, absolutely huge.

“It’s not easy particularly playing at home, because expectations there, normally you have to break a side down.

“But they’ve got an incredible manager in Slaven Bilic, I’ve come up against him a lot when I was assistant, I’ve managed against him now, tactically he’s really, really bright.

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“He’s got some excellent footballers and we’ll have to be at our best as we were on Tuesday in order to get something.”

Bilic has added Sheffield United’s Callum Robinson and Hull City’s Kamil Grosicki in the transfer window, although Jones is well aware of a number of the side that his Town players will face tomorrow.

He added: “He’s signed really well Slaven, some good players.

“Obviously the boys that are there, I look forward to seeing Jake Livermore and Gareth Barry and Hal Robson-Kanu and Kieran (Gibbs) and Kyle Bartley.

“Hopefully they'll be on the losing team, I'll shake hands with them at the end of the game, but good people, good professionals. good players.

"We'll have to be at our best and I'm sure we will be.”