Hatters boss Nathan Jones heaped praise on his own players, the 4,500 travelling Town fans, Notts County’s supporters, manager Kevin Nolan and the Nottingham club as a whole after today’s season finale at Meadow Lane.
After an entertaining 0-0 draw, the Welshman said: “Our performance today was a credit to the football club, and how we go about our structure. I’m amazed we didn’t score because normally we are lethal when we have that many chances, have that much possession, playing with that much quality. But we weren’t today, so credit to Notts County for how they defended.
“I’m proud of my team today. What a wonderful achievement, what a wonderful performance – and even when we were down to ten men, we were superb. To be fair, a touch of class, our fans were just on it. I’m so proud of our club, and a touch of class from Notts County as well."
Magpies boss Kevin Nolan and his assistant Richard Thomas personally delivered a couple of crates of beer and bottles of champagne to the visiting dressing room after the game to congratulate the Hatters on winning promotion.
“Kevin Nolan has a bit of class about him," said Jones. "He’s had a great career and he understands the game – he speaks normal. That rubbed off on his football club, because they’ve shown a touch of class today.
“They’ve cheered a good Luton side off, and they’ve got an opportunity to get promoted themselves. Our fans were wonderful, but a touch of class from Notts County today in terms of how they’ve handled everything – and the same with Kev, just wonderful.”
Jones was delighted that his side played a major part in a terrific encounter that should have brought about more reward, despite having Danny Hylton sent off just before the hour.
“It was a wonderful game,” said the Town chief. “Notts County had slightly more at risk, and let’s not say that they didn’t play their part in this game, because a point for them guaranteed home advantage in the second leg, which some consider an advantage.
“It was a great game and even with ten men, we had opportunities. It was a great occasion backed up by both sets of fans on a lovely day, in a great historic stadium. A wonderful, wonderful day, and a credit to the league.
“I’m proud of my players because they’ve trained like that. I actually pulled them in training yesterday and said ‘That’s why you’ve been promoted’, because yesterday’s training session was competitive as any one at Christmas, as any one in August or December, any time.
“It was so competitive, and that’s a credit to the environment, the culture and a credit to the individual’s motivation to keep doing well. It would have been so easy in a festival atmosphere to come here and let up, but we didn’t. It was as professional a performance as we could have put on and I’m so proud of them.”
Big decisions will be made on some of the players’ futures in the coming days, but contract talk can wait for Jones, who said: “We’ll enjoy tonight and tomorrow, because the players have earned it. We’ve got our end of season dinner on Wednesday, and then we have to start planning moving forward. That’s the nature of the business, the clinical edge of football, and we have to do that.
“But it’s wonderful to be able to do it with the relative tranquillity of knowing we are going up, because it was a different kind of feeling time last year, or slightly later as it was. We’ll make the right decisions and then God willing, we can move the club forward.”
His final word went to the fans who have travelled in their number all season, with 4,495 in unbelievable voice as the manager stood with his squad and staff in front of the Jimmy Sirrel Stand celebrating a fantastic season with them at the end.
“Just wonderful, and they’ve given us everything,” he said. “They’ve got a side that gives them everything, then they respond and give it back. But they were outstanding and this division is going to miss our fans, for millions of reasons, but it’s going to miss our fans because we’ve been a breath of fresh air the way we travel.
“They stayed behind to a man, I don’t think one single person left the stadium, and that just sums our football club up. Magnificent. I’m a very proud man today of our football club and the way we go about our business.”