Jones insists his Luton players are well aware just what it would mean for Town to reach the Premier League

Hatters boss will draw on his own play-off experience

By Mike Simmonds
Friday, 13th May 2022, 4:19 pm
Cameron Jerome is one of the most experienced heads in the Town dressing room
Cameron Jerome is one of the most experienced heads in the Town dressing room

Luton boss Nathan Jones insists his players are more than aware just how big a game the Championship play-off semi-finals are to the club.

The Hatters go up against Huddersfield Town at Kenilworth Road this evening in the first of two matches to decide who gets through the Wembley to face Sheffield United and Nottingham Forest in the final.

The winners of what has been dubbed the ‘richest game in football’, would pocket over £130m by winning promotion to the Premier League, with CEO Gary Sweet recently stating that going up would solve all the problems surrounding the cost of building a new ground at Power Court in ‘one fell swoop’.

Although Jones knows the players will be aware of this, it’s not something they are honing in on, saying: “They are not dumb, they are intelligent players.

“They know the magnitude of getting into the Premier League because they watch Match of the Day, they do Fantasy Football, they do all of these things, and suddenly they go from picking the team to being one of them.

“Of course they know the magnitude of it but that is not for us to worry about, money and finance, for us it’s about winning a home game, and then readdressing to go away to Huddersfield and to try to replicate that.

“That is the only focus, if you start thinking about frightening numbers, you could be playing against Kevin De Bruyne, then you will drive yourself potty.

“Ours are sensible enough and all we have to do is make sure we’re focused tomorrow night first and foremost, and then we will readdress the situation.

Town’s squad is laced with experienced too, midfielder Robert Snodgrass having won the play-off final with Hull City back in 2016, while Cameron Jerome scored for Norwich when they beat Middlesbrough a year earlier, and Henri Lansbury on the bench as West Ham defeated Blackpool 2-1 back in 2012.

Jones will use that knowledge in the build-up to the game, saying: “We have, but it’s more inadvertently.

"They do the cajoling, they do the shepherding for us, that’s what why brought them in.

"We’ve got good experience there with Lansbury, with Snodgrass, with Cameron Jerome, but you’ve also go to remember that this is a squad who have had promotions anyway.

"Kal Naismith has had promotions, Luke Berry’s had promotions, Pelly-Ruddock’s had promotions, Pelly-Ruddock is on his fourth promotion campaign, he’s been right through the leagues, so there’s experience of big games.

"Yes the magnitude of this, the end goal is bigger than anything in football, but we’ve been used to big games.

"This football club has been used to big games and this is just another one, it’s just a very difficult one.”

For Jones himself it is the his fifth time in a play-off campaign, having gone through every emotion possible previously.

He won the League One play-off final when a player at Brighton, before losing in the final for Yeovil, and suffering a cruel semi-final defeat with the last kick against Blackpool at Kenilworth Road as Luton boss in May 2017.

Add in another when out in Spain, and he will use all those experiences to shape how he is around the squad, saying: “Of course you do, you rely on stuff.

"As a player I think about what I wanted from my manager and from my coaching staff leading up to play-offs, and then I look at how I can then affect that and my demeanour, what I do.

"It’s a big week, but we’ve got good staff here, experienced staff.

"Chris Cohen’s been promoted, he’s been in promotion, play-off games, so has Alan Sheehan, we’ve got Mick (Harford) here, Paul Hart.

"We’ve got good experience right throughout, so it’s not like we’re novices here.”

On what his message will be to the players ahead of kick-off, he added: “We have to continue what we’ve done all season.

"If the best version of us turns up, we’re very difficult to play against, very difficult to beat, but so are Huddersfield.

"It is a tough game, it’s going to be two tough games because both of them were really tough games.

"The margins were really small in both games, they won two-nil (at the John Smith’s Stadium) but with all intents and purposes, we had some really good chances.

"We missed a penalty at a crucial point and then they scored late after we were chasing the game.

"Tight, tight games and I don’t think these two are going to be any different.”