Jones: Promotion to the Premier League for Luton would be 'possibly the greatest story in football'

Hatters chief on what reaching the top flight could mean

By Mike Simmonds
Friday, 13th May 2022, 10:45 am
Hatters boss Nathan Jones
Hatters boss Nathan Jones

Luton boss Nathan Jones insists that should his side reach the Premier League this season then it could well be the ‘greatest story in football.’

The Hatters are just three games away from writing such a magnificent chapter in their history, facing Huddersfield Town in the Championship play-off first leg this evening, the Terriers themselves winning promotion to the top flight in 2017 when Town were preparing for their fourth season in League Two.

However, eight years prior to that, Luton were forced to ply their trade in the Conference, relegated out of the Football League following a 30-point deduction from the FA, taking on the likes of Altrincham, Histon and Ebbsfleet on a weekly basis.

Fast forward to the current day and Town supporters could instead be welcoming Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal to Kenilworth Road once more next term, which for Jones would represent a truly outstanding and potentially unrivalled achievement in the game.

He said: “It’s the journey we have been on.

"All you have to do is look back, John Still did a fantastic job of getting them the club out of the Conference, 2020 have really added stability, the fanbase has always been there, we’ve taken that on and evolved the football club to where it is now.

"Along the way there has been ups and downs, a bit of turmoil, people have come to the fore, all these things have happened and it has been a real good journey, it has been a good recent history and it’s a fantastic football club.

"If you listen to one of my first interviews I ever did for example, I know we spoke to the media and what we were trying to achieve, what we wanted to do.

"We wanted to play a certain way, developing players and everything has come together.

"To do that is more than one person, it’s more than five people, it’s more than 10, it’s thousands and that is what we’ve got at this football club, everyone pulling together.

"It’s a wonderful story and if it was to be achieved, possibly the greatest story in football.”

When asked just how the Hatters have managed to get from the Conference to the verge of the top flight in such a short space of time, Jones continued: “First of all was the 30-point deduction, we got relegated from the Football League and were in turmoil.

"Then a group of fans (2020 Development) that had the club at heart and were driven, were good businessmen and very shrewd, took the club on and had an ambition to take it back where it belonged.

"Now Luton were in the top division, it spent a lot of time in the Championship and then probably had quite a sharp fall from grace in terms of a lot of things.

“Good people are now involved though, they’ve been very shrewd in terms of it took a little bit of time to get out of the Conference, but appointed the right guy who got them out of the Conference.

"Then someone else came in and continued that evolution process, another person helped to continue it and we’re now in the position we are because of good processes, good people right throughout the club.

"It’s not just a good manager, or a good CEO (Gary Sweet), we’ve had good people right throughout the club and that’s what makes it great.

"We haven’t done it by spending a load of money, because contrary to what anyone says, when we were in League Two for example, we were probably top six, top eight budget.

"In League One, probably top 12 budget, now, there’s probably six, seven, eight teams in League One with a bigger budget than us.

"So we’ve been through processes right throughout the football club and not just processes on the pitch, off the pitch.

"Recruitment, recruitment of humans, of people, the culture, the environment, people buying into it, sacrificing, going through the mill at times, recovering from knocks, recovering from disappointments and going again.

"Then we’ve one end goal in sight, nothing veers from that, and we strive, work hard, and try to achieve, so its been a wonderful, wonderful story.”

Jones was also eager to pay tribute to the club’s supporters, who saw their side go from winning the Littlewoods Cup Final in 1988 and being a regular fixture in the top flight up until 1992, missing out on the first season of the Premier League, to having to stomach a slide towards non-league and five years in the Conference, plus a year of not being able to watch their side due to Covid-19 as well.

He said: “I think the people drive Luton on.

"The history is fantastic, the fanbase has remained loyal throughout, through a pandemic through relegation to the Conference, through points deductions, through play-off losses, through a manager leaving, whatever it was, the fanbase has stayed loyal.

“Then, right throughout, we’ve had real good continuity from top to bottom.

"We’ve recruited very well and it’s a fantastic place to be.

“I would imagine the club is the envy of a lot around the Football League because, without going into debt and spending a load of money, they’ve managed to win football matches, climb the leagues, produce players, invest in young players, develop young players, and united a football club and fanbase.

“That has to be one of the greatest football stories ever.”

Although Jones has been the one to get the plaudits this term for the way he has turned Luton into promotion contenders in just a third season back at this level, named Championship Manager of the Season at the recent EFL awards night, he knows full well it wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of his staff and more importantly, his players, adding: “I’m very proud, I feel very privileged, first of all, to manage the football club.

"To be given two opportunities to do that, at a place that I call home, at a place that I really did feel at home, I have enough autonomy to be able to do good work and that’s amazing.

"But I’ve learnt a lot through my journey and I’m in a better place than I was two, three or four years ago, to take Luton forward.

“I’m very, very proud of the work that we’ve done, yes, I get a lot of credit because I’m the manager and I’m not trying to be coy or play it down.

"We’ve had to do wonderful work, but it’s the work of a lot of people to get to this point.

“When a lot of people do really good work, then an individual accolade comes about, for example, like I’ve achieved this year.

“I did similar work at Stoke but with categorically different results, so it’s not all me.

“It’s a learning curve but every manager will tell you the same, I don’t think you’re a proper manager until you’ve been sacked.

“I think Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola might say different, but they’re a different level, or, Alex Ferguson, for example, but you have to learn from that.

"Us mere mortals have to learn and your career will then depend on how much you learn, how quickly you learn and can you implement it into your next project.

"Praise the lord, I’ve been able to do that.”