Can reappointed Luton Town boss Nathan Jones save the Hatters from the drop?
Former Luton Town manager Nathan Jones made his return to Kenilworth Road last month, replacing the sacked Graham Jones at the helm. Jones left the Hatters for fellow English Championship outfit Stoke City – who sacked the former Brighton coach in November, after winning a mere six out of 38 matches - 16 months ago.
The Welsh gaffer guided Luton – who are one of the favourites to be relegated, according to the latest English Football League Championship odds - to promotion from League Two in 2017-18, before swapping Kenilworth Road for the Bet365 Stadium in January 2019 – leaving the Hatters second in the League One table, and subsequently passing the gauntlet onto Mick Harford - who has also been reappointed as Jones’ assistant manager – to secure promotion to England’s second tier.
"I love the club and I wholeheartedly regret how those events came about because I could've handled that so much better,” Jones told BBC Three Counties Radio when he was reappointed at the of last month.
Luton fans might have argued that the Championship season grinding to a halt back in March came at the wrong time for the Hatters. Aside from a crushing 3-1 defeat on the road to fellow relegation contenders Charlton Athletic, which was their only defeat in six outings, Luton beat Sheffield Wednesday at home, before following up with a win on the road at Middlesbrough. Following the defeat at Charlton, the Hatters bounced back with a victory against play-off hopefuls Brentford, before successive draws against Stoke and Wigan.
The season got back under way with Luton second-bottom and six points from safety, however Jones has got off to a flying start - considering their tough opposition! Jones’ side are now just three points adrift from 21st place having picked up a point in their first game back against play-off hopefuls Preston North End, before beating fellow top six contenders Swansea City in their next outing. The Hatters followed up their impressive start with a crucial point on the road to table-toppers Leeds United.
The season resuming behind closed doors may have also massively played into Jones’ favour, as it keeps the Luton fans – who he admitted he ‘portrayed’ – off his back, and gives him time to earn back their trust without the pressure of them being there – especially if the Hatters have a dip in form!
Of course, the most important thing to consider when asking whether or not Jones can keep the Hatters up, is their remaining fixtures. The Welshman still has a huge six games in which he can try and cut that two point deficit and claw Luton out of the relegation zone.
Jones’ second spell at Kenilworth Road will continue at home against 16th placed Reading – who are yet to win since the season got back underway – before a double-header against fellow relegation threatened sides Barnsley and Huddersfield – two wins here could really turn the tides in their favour.
Their second last game of the season against 22nd-placed Hull City – which is wedged between a trip to Queens Park Rangers and Blackburn Rovers - could to the season decider for the Hatters.
Whilst the odds aren’t in Luton’s favour, if they can continue to pick up points like they have done in their last six game, and they can take advantage of the home ties against the teams in the bottom half, there’s no reason why Jones can’t guide them to safety.
---*all stats correct at time of writing