Luton chief insists Town won't find themselves battling relegation should they fail to reach the Premier League this term

Hatters manager confident Town can challenge at the top end of the Championship once more

By Mike Simmonds
Saturday, 7th May 2022, 9:56 am
Hatters boss Nathan Jones
Hatters boss Nathan Jones

Town boss Nathan Jones is fully confident that even if the Hatters aren’t quite able to reach the promised land of the Premier League this season, then they are well set to become a regular amongst the sides battling to get out of the Championship at the right end in future years.

With one game to go, Luton are on the cusp of securing a place in the play-offs, victory over Reading at Kenilworth Road enough to do so, which would lead to three matches for a crack at a place at the top table of English football.

However, there will be three other sides vying for that seat, and should Town not make it there this term, Jones expects they will be in a position to challenge again next term, unlike some other sides who have gone close, but found it hard to replicate such successes.

A good case in point is Barnsley, who will finish rock bottom this term with just six wins to their name.

It’s a world away from the lofty heights achieved by the Tykes last season, when they secured fifth spot and only had their play-off dreams ended by a narrow 2-1 semi-final reverse against Swansea City.

Jones doesn’t for a second thing if Luton are to remain in the Championship for a fourth successive year, they will be in any danger of doing something similar, saying: “The good thing about us, there’s never any trapdoors.

“We’ve progressed year in, year out, we said this time last year, when we finished in the top half of the table, that we wanted progression.

“People said, ‘well, don’t progress too high, because then you’ve got to progress again’.

“We believe thoroughly in our progression and it’s not like, suddenly, we’ll have one good season and then fall off a cliff.

“With the greatest of respect and god’s will, I don’t believe that whatever happens in these remaining games of the season, that we’ll be like Barnsley next year and will be going down next year.

“We are building, no trapdoors, progressions every year and that’s been the key to everything.

“We don’t overspend, we don’t take massive loans, we develop our own players, build our own structures and that’s what we have.

“That’s the good thing, so whatever happens on Saturday, or whenever, the worst we can finish is eighth.

“Then, next season, we’d have to finish seventh, because that’s the way we are.”

On just what it would mean for Jones if Town do complete their first task and secure a place among the top six, joining Nottingham Forest, Huddersfield Town and one of Sheffield United, Middlesbrough and Millwall, he added: “Massive, because it’s a culmination of something we’ve planned for.

“The A-Team used to say, ‘I love it when a plan comes together’ and that’s what it is.

“This isn’t a massive surprise, where we are.

"Yes, top six, will surprise a lot, but we planned and, if everything came together, that’s where we can finish.

“But we’re top eight, regardless, whatever happens.

“And, it’s deservedly because if you look at every single number it backs up our position, we’re comfortably top six,

“So, it’s not like ‘they’ve fluked it’. No. The only thing we’re not top six on, is possession.

“Everything else, we’re top six - numbers, shots, chances created, goals, clean sheets, pressing stats, everything, chances conceded, we’re top six.

“The numbers back that up.

“It’s an evolution plan that we’ve had for a little while.

"It’s not like, suddenly, some meteoric thing has happened out of nowhere, this has been a long time in planning.

“I took over in 2016 and took that progression on, or my staff did, and that’s been a continuation, a lot of people have been involved in that.

“As a one-off season, it’s been a fantastic season, but a lot of work has gone into that prior, to put us in a position where we can challenge.

“It’s no surprise, we are where we should be and in god’s will, we’ll finish that off at the weekend.”

Town go into today’s game sitting on 72 points in the table, already 10 ahead of the tally they managed last term.

The boss revealed that before a ball was even kicked, getting to such a haul was the target that had been set out for his players, saying: “We said that, we had a presentation in July that we had to get to 72 points with one game to go, that’s what our goal was.

"That’s eight points every five games, and we’re bang on track, we’ve just got to win one more game.

“We’re very happy and it wasn’t just a prediction, it’s historic.

"Our analyst did a historic thing that if you want to get into the play-offs, these are the stats you need to get to – you need eight points per five games.

"Then you get to 72 points and it means you have one game, as sometimes 72 is enough, sometimes 73, 74, but historically 75 gets you in and that is all it was.

"It’s not a Mystic Meg or me getting a divine revelation from the lord, it was us statistically going with history and that is where we are.

"That was our goal setting, so we’re in a decent place.”

Jones was quick to point out to his players that they remained right on course following the heavy 7-0 hammering at the hands of Fulham on Monday night too, as defender Kal Naismith added: “No-one likes to lose, it’s gutting, but the manager was so positive.

"He told us all to pick ourselves up, he actually put something on the screen a plan that he’s had all year and it was pretty much bang on.

"So let’s go and carry it on and do the job on Saturday.”