It’s always reassuring when an English football club hires a British manager. Too readily in recent years, the owners of football clubs have looked overseas for a new coach or manager. I’m not talking about famous, proven coaches such as Pep Guardiola. More I am referring to never heard of coaches tempted from inferior leagues in Europe or beyond.
David Pleat, one time manager of Luton Town, once echoed my thoughts when he said: “I do not understand this obsession football club owners have with hiring foreign coaches. They seem to believe they are automatically better than British ones.”
Luton Town fans are, to quote one of my acquaintance, “gutted” at the departure of Nathan Jones. The manager who took Luton from League 2 to League 1, and within touching distance of the Championship, has departed for Stoke City. I think he’s as mad as a hatter to make that swap, writes Vernon Grant.
Yes, I get that he’ll be paid more by Stoke City. Yes, I see the argument regarding him working with better players, some of them who were only relegated from the Premier League last May. I understand ambition will have played a part in his decision. I still think it’s a bad one. He may prove me wrong.
Stoke City did have a reputation for sticking by managers come what may. That’s gone. No longer can Peter Coates be held up as a patient Chairman. His last two managers have lasted five and nine months respectively. Nathan Jones walks into a club awash with overpaid former Premier League players who have so far failed to make an impact in the Championship. Stoke City could still make the play offs and if Jones gets them promoted from their current 14th place position in the league, then he clearly is a coach with a magic touch. Stoke are eight points away from the final play off place.
“I have a very good knowledge of the Championship and that is why I felt very comfortable in taking this role on, even though I fully understand the challenges of being successful at this level. This is the next part of my journey and I absolutely believe that we can all enjoy a really successful future together.” Jones said.
Luton Town fans are dismayed, sad and some are angry at his departure. Long time supporter Graham Sharpe tweeted: “Our ‘wonderful’ manager, Mr Jones makes a cynical profitable, understandable, if disappointing, dive for the exit. (I) feel let down by him.”
With Luton Town acquiring planning approval for a new stadium, with them sitting second in the league and unbeaten in twelve games and – should they beat Sheffield Wednesday in a 3rd round replay – with a lucrative FA Cup tie at Chelsea in the offering; it seems to me that Jones has left a progressive club for one that is, currently at least, going nowhere. He may be just what the underachieving players at Stoke need. Perhaps he can give them a boot up the backside and drive them on to promotion. You can currently get odds as big as 22/1 for Stoke to go up. I’ll not be putting money on it.
As for Luton Town, the players will have to pick themselves up off the floor and the club must choose their next coach with great care. They must seek to hire someone with a similar outlook as Nathan Jones. To go from the style that has served them so well the past couple of years to a more route one operation under a less modern manager would be a mistake.
Luton travel to play fellow promotion candidates Sunderland this weekend prior to that FA Cup replay against Sheffield Wednesday. It will be interesting to see if Luton Town – for so long of late a safe bet for me and members of VG Tips – can continue to win games, delight their supporters and push on for promotion to the Championship where, unless Nathan Jones is a miracle worker, they would play Stoke City next season.
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