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Nathan Jones: Taking Luton up would be ‘possibly the greatest story in football’

Nathan Jones wants to end Luton’s 30-year exile from the top flight (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
Nathan Jones wants to end Luton’s 30-year exile from the top flight (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Luton boss Nathan Jones believes guiding the club to the Premier League would rank as “possibly the greatest story in football”.

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.

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.

“John Still (former Luton boss) 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.

“Everything has come together but to do that it’s more than one person, it’s more than five people, it’s more than 10 people, it’s thousands – and that’s what we’ve got at this football club, everyone pulling together.

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

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.

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

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.

“If you start thinking about frightening numbers and playing against Kevin De Bruyne and all of the things like that then you’ll drive yourselves potty.”

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.

“All four teams go in there in decent form and I don’t think anyone is favourite as such.”