Hatters boss looks forward to Plymouth and Villa tests
Nathan Jones says he will embrace his team’s “tough start” to the Sky Bet League Two season – and he told lutontown.co.uk how he is already looking forward to a famous cup night under the Kenilworth Road lights when Championship giants Aston Villa visit for the first home game.
The release of the fixtures yesterday presented Jones’ boys with an opening day trip to Devon to face last season’s beaten play-off finalists Plymouth Argyle, with the EFL Cup draw then throwing up a home date with the highest-ranked club in the competition at the first round stage.
After that come home league dates with Yeovil Town – the club where Jones spent seven years as a player, coach and assistant-manager between 2005 and 2012 – on Saturday August 13th and Newport County the following Tuesday.
“It’s a tough start, no doubt about it,” said the Town manager. “Plymouth did very well last year and they’ll be looking for a similar sort of season.
“They’ve been in the play-offs for the past two seasons, so they’ll be hopeful of going one better this time. They be recruiting well and the players they’ve retained will be determined to impress.
“It’s nice to start with a big game down there, and then follow it with two good home league games in quick succession.
“Yeovil is a big game for me on a personal level, of course, because of my affiliation with the club. I know the people down there and have many friends at Huish Park.
“But Newport is equally important. There are no easy matches in League Two and we’ve got to play every club at some point, so we might as well start with a tough set of fixtures.”
The 43-year-old has been busy planning for his first full campaign as a manager, after leaving his role as first-team coach at Championship club Brighton & Hove Albion to take the Town reins in mid-January.
Jones’ squad return to training on Friday for individual fitness tests, before kicking off pre-season in earnest next Monday ahead of a week-long training camp in Hungary in early July.
Buoyed by the sight of the fixture list in his inbox on Wednesday morning, the Welshman went on: “There are certain matches and dates you look for first; your old clubs, the opening day, the Christmas and New Year fixtures and the game you’ll finish on.
“It’s an exciting time for anyone involved in football, but especially for us at Luton with all that is going on behind the scenes – and then that is heightened by the cup draw coming in the immediate aftermath of finding out the fixtures.
“In Aston Villa we’ve got the biggest club in the competition at this stage, so it’s a fantastic fixture for the football club.
“It’ll be a big game for them too, with new management and a strong squad looking to bounce back straight away from relegation. They will be a tough outfit for us to face.
“This time last year they were a Premier League side looking to do well at that level, so it’ll be a real test for us and a big night for the club.
“We’ll hope for a big crowd getting right behind us to help produce one of those great cup occasions at Kenilworth Road.”