Wednesday night the rumors became rampant on Twitter that Nathan Jones was returning to Luton Town, despite walking out on them in January 2019 to take over at Stoke City. By Thursday morning it was confirmed with the club releasing a zoom press call announcing the start of his second stint in charge. To say the reception was mixed would be an understatement, so I decided to reach out to a few fans for a reaction. Some I knew better than others but all gave their time graciously and this is what they had to say.
Graham has been a fan for 31 years and a current season ticket holder. He was one of the first people I interacted with on Twitter back in my podcast days and was actually on the first episode with me as I tried to figure things out. His son attends games with him and has been a mascot for the team on a few occasions including the FA Cup win over Norwich in 2013. While he trusts Gary Sweet and the 2020 board, something that was unanimous with the fans I spoke to, he said he would refrain from applauding or chanting Nathan Jones name, but would 100% applaud the players if they were to somehow stay up, something he doesn’t feel will happen.
Nick Verney has been a fan for 45 years and is a current season ticket holder. He believes it will be hard for Luton to stay up but have the best chance with Nathan Jones in charge and would have no problem cheering him onto the pitch next season should he do so. He also believes he won’t be the only one as fans will get behind the manager quicker if Luton stays up.
Callum, a fan since 2009 and that famous Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final at Wembley, agrees with Graham that survival is a big ask given the fixtures and the recent layoff. If Nathan Jones did keep us up he would definitely cheer him onto the pitch first day of next season and believes the majority of fans would too. He would chime in with a ‘Nathan Jones Barmy Army’ chant should one start but believes it would be up to the majority whether that is ever sung at Kenilworth Road again.
Paul has been supporting the Hatters since 1980 and has held a season ticket since 1981. He also doesn’t believe Jones can keep the Hatters up but admits “the new manager bounce may help.” As far as applauding him onto the pitch first day of next season should Luton survive Paul is very blunt about the man who has returned for a second stint in charge. “He is never a man I’ve warmed to. Good coach, but it’s impossible to like a self-obsessed egomaniac like him.” As for forgive and forget Paul believes there is “Nothing to forgive” before going on to say “His departure was distasteful but football is a cut-throat business. He merely left one job for a better paid one.” Like all the interviewee’s Paul trusts the board and adds “The important thing currently is the club survive through the financial crisis rather than who the manager is.”
Nick Pirie lives in Portsmouth and makes the 5-hour return trip a number of times a year to watch the team. Given this isn’t nearly as often as he vacation’s abroad but still. He also provided the voice of the Luton Town Public Relations department during the Luton Town International podcast by refusing to ever criticize the team and has been referred to on more than one occasion as a ‘happy clapper’.
While Nick believes it should be a case of forgive but not forget he would still not applaud Jones onto the pitch should he keep Luton in the Championship, something he believes there is a chance of. “I’m not expecting him to keep us up but there’s a chance he can. We were going in that direction already.” He also pointed out that “People applaud the team onto the pitch, not the manager.” He would, however, join in a Nathan Jones Barmy Army chant at the end of the game should other fans start one. That’s the Nick I know! Hanging on other people’s coattails.
My other former podcast buddy Alex was less impressed telling me “I think we can win games with him playing teams with nothing to play for, that would be the same with any manager capable of motivating players.” Alex has been supporting Luton for 30 years and admitted “I will never applaud him (Nathan Jones) again. I just can’t forgive. Not after all the shit he said/did when it was on. He blabs about how his Christian faith is important to him, (and it is for me too) and then he pulls a judas stunt like that!?!”
Despite this, he still backs the board “100%. I just disagree with them on this situation and do not believe their arguments for selecting him as our manager are valid. He is still an untested manager that has never managed in a relegation battle, and you saw his performance with Stoke on this level.”
Lastly, I spoke to former player and Luton legend in the eyes of many fans, Marvin Johnson. Currently residing in Virginia coaching FCV 04 United girls team Marvin thinks survival is unlikely telling us “It’s going to be a tough job now to avoid the drop. I believe Nathan will be determined to win the fans trust back and keeping Luton up will add weight to healing the wound. I’d say no to staying up, but I’d be very happy if they did.”
As for applauding Nathan if survival was achieved Marvin was rightly cautious. “I think we have to be careful about making it about Nathan Jones,” he said. “Any given day at the start of a new season I would applaud the players, staff, and my fellow supporters because we will only move forward together as one.”
In regards to the chant, Marvin believes that it will be down to performances. “Some supporters will get behind him and some will have reservations. If the team is performing and doing well they will still sing the barmy army song.”
As for forgive and forget!?! Marvin sticks by his opinion that anyone offered a higher paying job in any walk of life would take it. “I’ve always said would any Luton supporter in Nathan’s position who got an opportunity within their profession to work at a higher level, financially better off, turn down that opportunity!?! I’m guessing most would jump. The manner in how things unfolded is probably not the way Nathan would have liked. Let’s not forget that Luton did get some compensation from Stoke I believe and got promotion as Champions that season, so not all doom and gloom. With the success, the club had last season I would say yes forget and move on.”
Like all fans mentioned Marvin trusts that “2020 has the best interests of the club at heart. They didn’t go stupid with the success on the field last season. Everyone knows that the budget each club provides for their championship teams Luton is always going to be in a relegation fight! It’s the correct way in my opinion and it’s about building stability. If they can survive this season I think the goal should be to become a comfortable mid-table Championship team in the next four seasons.”
A comfortable mid-table Championship team sounds like the dream right now after listening to Gary Sweet speak about the financial implications of not staying up during Thursday’s press conference. I, personally, enjoyed the way Nathan Jones has the team play before his exit and while survival is a long shot if anyone can achieve it, it just might be him. Either way, if it’s good enough for Gary Sweet it’s good enough for me. #IBelieveInGarySweet