Jake is final piece of Jones' Hatters jigsaw
Hatters boss Nathan Jones believes the signing of Crystal Palace starlet Jake Gray has helped him complete the Luton Town puzzle in preparation for the big Sky Bet League Two kick-off at Plymouth on Saturday.
Jones was delighted to announce the 20-year-old attacking midfielder as his eighth signing of the summer in time for Gray to take his place in yesterday’s official team photo.
The man who spent two-thirds of last term on loan in the Town’s division with Hartlepool followed Alan Sheehan, Danny Hylton, Johnny Mullins, Christian Walton, Glen Rea, Jordan Cook and Isaac Vassell through the Kenilworth Road entrance during the close season.
Jones was keen to thank the Hatters board of directors for backing him in his business since May – and also for helping secure the long-term future of the likes of midfielder Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu and last season’s top scorer Jack Marriott by offering new contracts.
“We've got every one of the signings that we wanted and we’ve kept hold of all the players we wanted to keep with us, so I’d like to thank the board and Gary Sweet, who have backed me,” Jones told lutontown.co.uk.
“They've been magnificent and have shown ambition by helping us recruit well.
“Mick Harford has travelled the length and breadth of the country over the past six months identifying players, we’ve given them a set of targets and to be fair to Gary and the board, we’ve gone out and got every one of those targets.”
With veteran goalkeeper Mark Tyler having departed before the end of last season for Peterborough, a top-class number one was crucial and picking up England Under-21 keeper Walton on a season-long loan from his old club Brighton was massive for Jones.
Hatters fans got to know what central defender Sheehan and holding midfielder Rea were about during their loan spells last season, and they have now signed permanently.
Adding promotion-winning experience from League Two was also of importance, and in centre-half Mullins and striker Hylton, Jones picked up two of the main protagonists in Oxford United’s successful campaign last term.
Cook rejected a new deal at League One Walsall to similarly drop a division to buy into the project his former coach at Charlton outlined to him.
While ex-Plymouth striker Isaac Vassell was snapped up on a free with a hunger to prove himself in the professional game again after a successful couple of years in Non-League with Truro City while working on a building site.
Gray’s addition completes the picture for Jones – quite literally on the pristine pitch at Kenilworth Road yesterday afternoon – and the manager added: “I’m really pleased with the squad. We’ve recruited a lot of variation. We’ve got a lot of difference in our squad.
“We feel every one of the signings has a value to the team, to the club and to the supporters. We really feel we’ve added value to the squad, and we’re really pleased to have that.
“We’ve done almost all of our business really early. Jake is the last piece of the jigsaw. It’s a good one and we are pleased to have him.
“We identified him as having ability and he ticks all the boxes in our recruitment policy. He’s come from the Premier League, but the added bonus is that he’s gone out and done really well at Hartlepool last year in this division.
“He’s a young player we were really interested in, he fitted the criteria of what we needed for an attacking midfield player and we are just delighted to have him. We thank Palace for their efforts in getting the deal done.”
Gray will wear the number seven shirt this season, leaving Jones’ squad list looking like this:
1. Christian Walton
2. Stephen O'Donnell
3. Dan Potts
4. Jonathan Smith
5. Johnny Mullins
6. Scott Cuthbert
7. Jake Gray
8. Cameron McGeehan
9. Danny Hylton
10. Jordan Cook
11. Danny Green
12. Craig Mackail-Smith
14. Jack Marriott
16. Glen Rea
17. Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu
18. Zane Banton
19. Olly Lee
20. Isaac Vassell
23. Josh McQuoid
27. Tyreeq Bakinson
31. Craig King
36. James Justin
37. Frankie Musonda
38. Alex Atkinson
39. Akin Famewo
42. Liam Gooch
44. Alan Sheehan