Jones frustrated not to play over Christmas but concedes Covid outbreak left Luton 'decimated'

Town chief relieved to get back to action with FA Cup tie

By Mike Simmonds
Friday, 7th January 2022, 5:01 pm
Updated Friday, 7th January 2022, 5:02 pm
Luton were without a game over the Christmas period
Luton were without a game over the Christmas period

Although frustrated by a Christmas of inactivity, Luton chief Nathan Jones admitted his side had little option but to cancel games after being left ‘decimated’ by the recent Covid outbreak at Kenilworth Road.

Following a 1-1 draw with Fulham on December 11, the Hatters had their match at Reading called off as the Royals didn't have enough players available because of the virus and other injuries.

A spate of Covid cases within the Town camp meant Luton postponed their Boxing Day encounter against Bristol City on Christmas Day, while their fixtures at Swansea City and Coventry City didn't go ahead either.

It left skipper Sonny Bradley declaring he was ‘very, very bored’ without football during the festivities, as on the situation, Jones said: “It has been crazy because we were doing absolutely everything, we cancelled the Christmas party and were being really sensible.

"We were having little outbreaks because of the way society is but we were keeping it under control and then it was a little outbreak which really decimated us.

"Because we had to call the Bristol City game off, then with the Swansea game already being off it meant the Coventry match had to go as well because of the isolations and the knock-on effect.

"It’s really, really though and disappointing because for me, the Christmas period is always one of the best times of the year.

"I know it is for fans as well so we were really disappointed the Reading game was off, really disappointed about the Bristol City game too

"It has been too long without a game, we’ve trained well and had in-house games and as good prep as we possibly can.

"Then we obviously have the Harrogate game now that comes at a good time really.

“It is what it is, society has eradicated flu and now we’ve got this variant so lets hope we come through it in good shape.”

Although Luton had limited numbers available to them during their Covid outbreak, not everyone who was absent from the training ground was suffering too badly, as Jones continued: “We’ve had some people off that have just been close contacts with no symptoms.

"Some have had Covid with zero symptoms, it’s just that as we test every day, it’s shown up, but they don’t feel any different than they would on a normal day.

"That’s just the way of the world at the minute, four games cancelled is not ideal as everyone’s just been a little bit de-rhythmed if you like and now we’re glad to have this FA Cup as it can get some minutes into peoples legs.

"We’ve got another game on Tuesday as well if we need to use that, and then it’s into Bournemouth and into the five league games.

"We'll hopefully will gather a bit of momentum along the way as well, but it’s the same for everyone.

"It’s a tough period, but post lockdown and through Covid times it's been very strange anyway, so everyone’s had to adjust.”

The disruption to the schedule has led to some managers calling for a winter break in the future to avoid such problems happening again and when offering his views on the subject, Jones said: “If it’s structured then it’s not a bad thing but this has been too long a lay-off really.

"It has hampered our momentum and not just that, other teams have been able to go some points so it has meant we’ve slipped down a few places, albeit with near enough four games in hand.

"But I don’t like playing catch-up, I’d rather get points on the board and be all at one.

“It was disappointing but there was nothing we could do with the way the world is going.

"We came back and played nine games in a five week period after lockdown initially so we’re well equipped to do it.”

Town take their first steps back on to a pitch this Sunday when they host League Two Harrogate Town in the FA Cup third round at Kenilworth Road.

Jones did concede he was happy to be beginning in a cup clash rather than go straight back into the Championship campaign, adding: “No disrespect to anyone, our primary concern is the Championship.

"For us to go back into the Championship, yes you know what you are going to get, but Harrogate, they’ve missed a few games but they actually played in midweek so they’re a game ahead.

"It’s a nicer game to have and again with the greatest respect, not because we consider it will be any easier, but it’s a different competition.

"The adrenaline the competition generates will bring us through, but yes I would prefer to start with the Harrogate game rather than the Bournemouth game because of the importance of the two competitions.”