Earlier today we caught up with Hatters boss Nathan Jones from the pre-season training camp in Kranjska Gora, north-west Slovenia, and before we got on to all things Luton ahead of tomorrow’s match against Croatian top-flight club HNK Rijeka, we felt it was worth getting his take on England’s run to the World Cup semi-final.
Jones and his staff settled for a more sedate environment of the Hotel Kompas’ bar to watch last night’s match, while the players tuned in on the big screen in their own TV room that we’ve seen on social media in recent days – usually with Instagram story clips of Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu being sent to find his laptop charger as the battery runs down just as Love Island gets interesting (if that’s possible!)
With our manager having been invited to work as part of Gareth Southgate’s staff three years ago, when the likes of Jordan Pickford, Jack Butland, John Stones and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were preparing for the Under-21 Euros in Prague – and having coached Jesse Lingard at Brighton – who better to comment?
This is what he had to say…
“It’s so hard if you’re on any kind of social media not to know what’s going on with the World Cup fever back home, and credit to Gareth because not just getting to the semi-final, but uniting the nation and getting the British media to be positive about the team is probably his biggest achievement, because that just doesn’t happen usually.
“There’s been a different feel around the World Cup campaign for England, and while I don’t think any of their performances have been absolutely scintillating, there’s been a control and a structure to how they’ve done stuff, and that’s a credit to Gareth and his staff.
“They’ve got to a World Cup semi-final, united a nation and lifted people – and with a real young group as well. If you look at the average age of that group, they’ve got many more World Cups and European Championships to improve.
“The future is bright, especially with people like Jesse Lingard. We had him on loan at Brighton for half-a-season and he was a wonderful young talent. He was energetic and bubbly – reminds me a bit of Pelly-Ruddock off the pitch in what he brings to an environment, if you look at any videos. He’s always joking and things like that, but there’s a seriousness to his game so don’t get fooled by that.
“It’s the same with Pelly. Pelly is massive for our environment with how he is. He’s always happy, always bubbly, he lifts players and gives so much to our environment in terms of morale. We hope that Pelly has the impact on us like Jesse has had on Man United and England.”
The Welshman also worked with third-choice goalkeeper Nick Pope when he was Charlton Athletic Under-21 manager, and he added: “It’s great that these lads have been out on loan in the EFL. We tried to take Harry Kane at Yeovil, but he went to Leyton Orient instead.
“A few of them had gone out. Harry Maguire came through at Sheffield United and had a big rise, having played in the EFL. People like Kieran Tripper too. To see them play in the EFL, and then get to a World Cup semi-final, is very very good. They are brave, humble characters who all wanted to get out and gain experience.
“He’s not played but I had Nick Pope in my U21 group at Charlton and we got him from Bury Town. Ben Roberts, who is now Brighton’s goalkeeping coach, did wonderful work with him at Charlton, and he went out to places like Aldershot and York.
“Then he moved on and now he’s one of the top British goalkeepers. Not one of your usual England ones who come up through the U20s and U21s – he’s had to do it the hard way. It’s brilliant, and that’s the type of squad that Gareth has got, it’s a close-knit group and God willing, Gareth will stay there for years and with his coaching staff will be able to build something, because that’s a great platform to go off. It’s his first tournament and he gets to a semi-final, that’s not a bad start.
“He’s got players with him who he knew from the Under-21s, like John Stones, Pickford, Butland, Loftus-Cheek – young, brave people who trust him, and they’ve given him everything. It’s proved to be a wonderful decision and that’s credit to him.”