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10 January 2019

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Hatters chief executive Gary Sweet has explained the process he has gone through this week in dealing with Stoke City’s approach for Nathan Jones.

Gary - who has been recovering from surgery he underwent on Sunday - addressed the local media this lunchtime at The Brache alongside Mick Harford, who will be interim manager for the trip to Sunderland on Saturday.

He said: “We’ve been through this a few times so we are well versed in this now. We were contacted by SC to enquire about Nathan’s availability and whether they could gain access to him.

“So after a conversation with Nathan, in which he expressed interest to do so, and Stoke’s commitment to pay compensation clauses that were in contracts, I gave that permission with the board’s approval and matters went ahead as we all know.

“It was done properly by Stoke, so we have no complaints. From our point of view, Nathan has done exceptionally well. We’ve climbed the pyramid significantly since his arrival. It wasn’t a surprise – not really, I don’t think it’s a surprise to anybody.

“It’s a real disappointment, and I think the disappointment for us was not necessarily the fact that we’ve got to change football managers, because that’s not a surprise. We were always going to look at that. He’s been here three years and that was actually the 15th longest serving manager in the 92, which tells you it’s probably about time!

“The disappointment is the timing. It came literally two hours after what was the most important news of this week, which was actually that the planning officer has recommended approval for Power Court. I was just digging my way through that report – which I still haven’t finished – in my bed, because I had surgery on Sunday. That was also the thing that was a little bit of a disappointment, because I’m a little bit incapacitated.

“So from that point of view, it was a real disappointment, I think it’s a little bit unethical taking another manager in the January window, because now we have to go and do the same, perhaps, and that creates a lot of disruption in not just one, but maybe two camps, and the last thing we need at the moment is that disruption.”

Gary said he understands the decision Nathan took to move to the Championship club, who have spent the past decade in the Premier League before relegation last season.

“I do get it,” he said. “Not that I know the details, but he’s been offered a lot more money than we could afford to give him, which is right, because they are in a different league. I wouldn’t say he’s taken the decision on ambitious grounds, but he’s accelerated the ambition.

“I firmly believe that we certainly will be every bit as big as Stoke, once Power Court finally gets built. But Nathan had the opportunity to accelerate that development and I don’t blame him for making that decision.

“I’m not saying it’s the right decision at all, but I can also understand why supporters felt aggrieved about it and principally that’s because he’s a passionate manager who wears his heart on his sleeve and who was quite animated with supporters.

“He truly showed that emotional side and what he called the love for Luton Town Football Club, and supporters believed it. I’m not saying that he didn’t mean it at the time, because I’m sure he did, but supporters believed that and there is very little loyalty in football, unfortunately, as we know.

“You will get it from people like myself and our board, because we are Luton – we are madly in love with our football club and our town, and we will never go. But you don’t get managers like that.

“We’ve got a man sitting next to me here who’s as close as you’ll get…who might be a Mackem, but he’s a Luton man. This is as close as we can get to a manager who’s going to manage our team for the temporary period, who is going to be so loyal and faithful to the football club, and then there is us.”

Gary went onto explain about Nathan taking the two members of staff, first-team coach Joaquin Gomez and head of sports science Jared Roberts-Smith, who both joined the club in the summer of 2016 having worked with Nathan at Brighton and Charlton respectively.

“They departed last night, which leaves us with a little bit of a gap, which has been filled this morning,” said Gary. “We have people to fill those spaces. Again, it’s disappointing timewise. We asked them to give us more time with the two individuals who could have added quite a bit of value to our upcoming fixtures, which was declined – they wanted to move on.

“Again, I sort of understand because once you’ve made a decision in your own mind, that you want to make the next step in your career, then you want to do it as soon as possible.

“But here we are, we have the majority of the staff still in place and we are very lucky in that we have got some excellent young conditioning coaches and football coaches here that can step into those shoes until we find the manager who may well identify people to take more permanent steps in filling those spaces permanently.”

Asked whether there is a concern that Nathan would be returning to sign members of the playing squad, Gary insisted that won’t be the case.

“We had the agreement that that won’t be the case, so that’s broadly it now. I wish them the best. The two of them have been excellent servants to Luton the last two-and-a-half, three years. They are very, very good at their jobs, and again, it wasn’t just Nathan who took us from 86th to 46th in the pyramid.

"It’s those two, and everyone else here too. They played a part, so I’d like to thank all three of them on record for their service at Luton Town and as of today, let Mick carry on the reins as we focus on bringing a new team in and plough on to the future.”

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