Luton Town: Premier League promotion could be 'greatest story in football', says Nathan Jones

Luton Town boss Nathan Jones has worked wonders at Kenilworth Road.
Nathan Jones thinks promotion for Luton Town would cap "possibly the greatest story in football". Credit: PA

Promotion to the Premier League for Luton Town would rank as "possibly the greatest story in football", boss Nathan Jones believes.

The Hatters were relegated from the top flight just before it was rebranded in 1992 and fell out of the Football League in 2009 after being docked 30 points for financial issues.

Jones is three games away from completing a remarkable comeback as he prepares for a two-legged Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final with Huddersfield Town.

His side host the Terriers at a sold-out Kenilworth Road on Friday evening before travelling to West Yorkshire for the return match on Monday.

Luton Town players, from left, Kal Naismith, Robert Snodgrass, Danny Hylton and Harry Cornick celebrate together. Credit: PA

“[Former boss] John Still did a fantastic job of getting the club out of the National League – we’ve taken that on and evolved the football club to where it is now,” said Jones, who is in his second spell as Town manager.

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

He said it had been a team effort involving "thousands" of people connected to the club, with "everyone pulling together".

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

Luton Town's Admiral Muskwe in action against Reading earlier this month. Credit: PA
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Managers always say it's important not to get too low or too high in football. But it can't have been easy for Luton Town supporters to stay positive while watching their club slide from the Championship in 2006 to the National League within three years.

A Wembley win in the final of the Football League Trophy softened the blow in 2009. Almost 40,000 were there to watch the victory over Scunthorpe United, but many have never forgotten the 30 points deduction (20 imposed by the Football League & 10 by the Football Association) which ended any hope of Football League survival.

Those same Hatters followers must have struggled to contain their excitement after three promotions in six seasons.

Now, two years after staying in the Championship on the final day of the 2019-20 season, Luton are just three games away from completing their rise from National League to Premier League.

The presence of club legend Mick Harford throughout most of that period cannot be understated. In charge at Wembley, he also took over the reins to lead them to promotion in 2019 after Nathan Jones' departure to join Stoke. He remains as Jones' assistant following his return to Kenilworth Road, as they try to cap off an amazing journey.

Jones was initially appointed by Luton in January 2016 after Still was sacked with the club in the bottom half of the fourth tier.

The Welshman led the club out of League Two in 2018 and had them on course for promotion to the Championship when he left to take over at Stoke City.

After an unsuccessful spell with the Potters, he returned to Bedfordshire two years ago.

Kevin de Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Joao Cancelo could play at Kenilworth Road if Luton make their way through the play-offs. Credit: PA

The 48-year-old has urged his players not to become distracted by the prize on offer and the prospect of playing against Premier League stars such as Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne.

“They’re not daft, they know the magnitude of getting into the Premier League,” Jones said. “They watch Match of the Day, they do fantasy football – they do all of these things.

“Suddenly they can go from picking the team to being in one of them, so of course they know the magnitude of it.

“But that’s not for us to worry about, or the money and the finances. For us, it’s about winning the game."

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Luton drew 0-0 when they hosted Huddersfield in the regular season before being beaten 2-0 at the John Smith’s Stadium just last month.

With Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United also vying for a spot in the top flight, Jones believes there is greater expectation on their more high-profile rivals.

He hopes a passionate capacity crowd at Kenilworth Road can help his team take a major step towards Wembley.

“It’s the biggest game the Kenny has seen for a hell of a long time, so everyone who comes I imagine will be raucous, will be right up for it,” he said.

“That’s what the players are going to be and we want to create that atmosphere.

“There are tough games to come, starting tomorrow night, but you’ve got to be in it to win it."

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