Nathan Jones is currently the manager for Luton Town. This isn’t his first job as manager although he was assistant under Sami Hypia at Brighton before he came to the hatters. During the half term break, I had the chance to interview him.
What’s your earliest footballing memory?
My earliest footballing memory is playing for my local team at my local pitch, just having fun playing football with all my mates really.
Who has been the most influential person in your career so far?
My parents have been very influential in terms of the support they’ve given me and everything they’ve done for me. My dad took me everywhere when I was a young player, following me all over the country and he always very supportive. I’m a Christian as well so God is very important to me, and he has blessed me throughout my career.
I can see you’re a very passionate manager. What motivates you to keep managing with the same enthusiasm?
I think one thing is the fear of not doing it, not being able to be a footballer or a manager. I’m very ambitious in what I want to do, I want to achieve lots of things and I want to be the best manager I can be. The biggest thing for me is the fear of not being successful.
What do you look for in a player that you and the club are looking at signing?
We look for a number of things. Firstly, can they be a Luton player? Being a Luton player means they have to be mobile, they have a good ability and they have a good character. Secondly, we see if they fit into what we want to do, our style of play, and finally, we see if they can handle playing for Luton Town.
How much time do you spend studying the opposition before a match?
Lots of time. We watch the five previous games of our opposition, then we analyse them and get it down to a seven-minute presentation for the players to see. Of course, we know something about the opposition from playing them before, but we specifically watch the five previous games.
Do you have any pre-match superstitions?
I wouldn’t say I have superstitions, but I have lots of routines. I drive into a match the same way and I try never to eat our chef’s sandwiches before a game!! I do try and keep routines, especially if we’re winning, but it all goes out the window as soon as the players step onto the pitch.
How does your team talk differ if you’re losing compared to if you’re winning?
I think they differ all the time. It’s not always a rant or a rave, sometimes the players just need structural guidance, or sometimes they have played well and have just been unlucky. It’s all about evaluating where we are, how we’ve played and what we need to improve or continue if we’re playing well. The theme always is to try and score the next goal, whether we’re winning 3-0 or losing 1-0. The opposition might come out of the changing room and be right at it so we always look to be positive and get the next goal.
How would you try and motivate a player in poor form?
Form is temporary but quality is permanent. We would try and reiterate the fact that he’s a good player and that’s why he’s here, and maybe change something in training to develop him. But it’s just about getting confidence back.
How do you relax away from football?
I run and drink red wine…just a little! It’s very hard, especially now because there’s lots of games, so to be honest, I don’t really relax!
How big of a part do the supporters play in lifting the team?
Massive! They play a huge part in setting the tone of a stadium. It’s a two-fold thing because if we’re playing well and we’re on the front foot, then that automatically gets the crowd going, but that’s not always possible. Sometimes the players need a lift so if the crowd can get behind them and be really vocal, that can fill the players with adrenaline which enables them to give that three per cent extra. When we go away to a team with a big crowd like Portsmouth, we say silence the crowd, get the crowd on the home team’s back and make them feel edgy. Then that makes you feel like you have a moral advantage. The mood and tone of a crowd is very important.
If, and hopefully when, the club get their new stadium, how influential will it be?
It’ll be massive really. Hopefully we can progress sufficiently before we move into the new stadium, and if we do that it will give us a new home, a state of the art home, it’ll help us attract players and it’ll help enable us to have bigger crowds. Also, it will help us compete in the Championship, which is where we hope to be when we move into our new stadium.
You’ve successfully brought quite a few youth players through in your time at Luton so far, how do you establish the balance between youth and experience in the first team?
It’s difficult. Firstly you have to identify the young players and see that they’re ready and then when you feel they’re ready for an opportunity you have to be brave enough to give it to them. Then you have to gauge it as you go along because with young players form will fluctuate so it’s important you don’t keep them in too long and it hurts they’re confidence. Also you need to have enough experience around them that helps them because experience really helps a young player. So it’s about finding the balance between giving young players the opportunity and giving them a rest.
If you could’ve played alongside one player of your choice in your career who would it have been?
Chris Waddle. I was, and still am, a Tottenham fan and I would’ve loved to play with Chris Waddle because he was my favourite player.
This season, would you rather achieve automatic promotion or a Wembley cup final victory?
Automatic promotion, quite an easy question that. Although we would like to do both!!!
Massive thanks to Nathan for participating in the interview and Stuart Hammonds for arranging it.