Jones insists Luton won't do a Barnsley and battle relegation after reaching Championship play-offs

Luton chief targets further improvement next term

By Mike Simmonds
Wednesday, 25th May 2022, 10:28 am
Hatters boss Nathan Jones
Hatters boss Nathan Jones

Hatters boss Nathan Jones insists his side won’t find themselves following in the footsteps of Barnsley and getting sucked into a relegation battle next season, 12 months on from reaching the top six.

The Tykes were the surprise package of the 2020-21 campaign, as a year after staying up on the final day, like Luton, they finished fifth in the table, beaten 2-1 on aggregate in the play-offs by Swansea.

This term though has been something of a disaster, changing manager in the summer and then again in November, as they finished bottom of the pile, with just six wins to their name all season.

Outside of the Kenilworth Road dressing room, the Hatters might well have been considered the underdogs to reach the play-offs this term, but that they did, ending up sixth, going out 2-1 to Huddersfield Town.

However, any chances of them finding themselves battling to stay up next year is something Jones can’t see happening, as he said: “The Barnsley reference was because Barnsley got in the play-offs last year and have got relegated this year.

“With the greatest of respect, that’s not going to happen to us.

"We want to be better next year, we want to evolve again next year, not go categorically backwards.

“Whatever that was, maybe because Barnsley lost a manager that changed drastically their formation or style of play, I don’t know.

"That’s not going to happen at this football club.”

Since Jones has been in charge at Kenilworth Road, the club have consistently improved every year, although that will be tough to do next term, having finished on 75 points this time.

To be in such a position where that has been possible gives Jones, who took over for his first spell back in January 2016, a huge sense of satisfaction.

He added: “We’ve evolved every year that we’ve been here.

"When we got to the play-off semi-final in League Two, we set a goal of automatic promotion the next year, because it was logical.

“If you finish fourth, get to the play-offs and narrowly miss out and think, right, if we do good work, continue that and develop and recruit better, then you should achieve more the next year, and we did that.

“Because we had two years in League Two, we believed we’d assembled a squad and then signed two big characters in Matty Pearson and Sonny Bradley and we believed we had enough in the building to go again, and we did that.

“The first year (in the Championship) was about consolidating, which we did.

"Then it was about establishing, evolving slightly more and recruiting differently. We did.

“Then we thought, if we could get this summer right, the players saw what came in and thought, ‘we can’.

“We push boundaries with them, ask them to be bold and set bold targets, because we believe that.

“There’s no point us saying, ‘we’re going to win the league by 10 points’, because, ultimately, if you’re never in touch, or never above Fulham, who are a fantastic football side, then it becomes unrealistic.

“We said, ‘eight points every five games takes you to this and then we have one game where, if you win it, historically you get in the play-offs’.

“Realistic but bold targets, so, we believed it from day one.

"Then we implemented it, then we achieved it.

“It’s really satisfying.”