As the squad return back to training this week after a well-deserved break, the Hatters are now in a position to announce the first phase of Graeme Jones’ backroom staff restructure in preparation for the 2019-20 Sky Bet Championship season.
Whilst at this stage the set-up is not quite complete, with more appointments to come, the result of these changes will show an expansion of the Club’s coaching and player support staff, which includes three former Hatters personnel returning to Kenilworth Road.
The first of those is the appointment of Gary Brabin as one of two assistant managers. The second assistant will be announced in due course, when the Club is able. Not only has 48-year-old Brabin worked previously at Kenilworth Road as assistant manager and as manager, taking the Hatters to the play-off final in 2011, more notably he and Graeme struck a long-standing relationship when they both were team-mates at Doncaster Rovers together some 25 years ago. Since leaving the Hatters, Brabin has served under Jones on the coaching staff at Premier League Everton as well as serving as manager for Southport and Tranmere Rovers, and as assistant in the same division as the Hatters for the past two seasons at Port Vale and Blackpool.
Additionally, as part of his core coaching staff, Graeme will be working with Inigo Idiakez, who continues in the coaching role he so successfully adopted when called upon by Mick Harford midway through last season. The 45-year-old Spaniard starts his first full season as first team coach for the Hatters, continuing a valuable Spanish connection for Graeme after his long-standing partnership with Roberto Martinez.
Another Spanish influence arrives to fill a new role within the camp, with the introduction of Oscar Brau as first team therapist. Predominantly, Oscar is a renowned masseur who has worked with some of the world’s leading players at club and international level, as well as tennis stars such as Rafa Nadal. The 50-year-old Catalonian was part of the Swansea, Wigan and Everton staff when Graeme served as assistant and, independently, he has also worked for Galatasaray and Steaua Bucharest, as well as the Andorran and Romanian national sides.
The Club’s current kitman and masseur, Darren Cook, will be promoted within the organisation as assistant therapist, aiding Oscar while supervising an assistant kitman, yet to be announced. Darren has ably and loyally served the Club for almost ten years in a dual-function role under five previous managers, including Brabin.
We also offer a warm welcome to former England international Kevin Reeves, who has agreed to join as chief scout reporting to Mick Harford, who has reverted to his preferred role as chief recruitment officer. At 61 years old, Kevin has vast experience of top-level football throughout Europe and worked with Graeme at Swansea, Wigan and Everton. For the last two years he has been part of Championship club QPR’s scouting network.
Inigo’s progression from the academy sees Dan Walder assume the role of professional development phase lead coach on a permanent basis. Dan’s promotion to this role sees the welcome return to the Club of Paul Benson, our Conference-winning striker, as Dan’s assistant working with the Under-18s and 16s on a daily basis. Paul – who scored 25 goals in 85 appearances in a Town shirt – has been working in the academy on a part-time basis for the past two seasons, coaching the Under-13s while still playing in the Southern League at the age of 39 for Bedford Town.
The third man returning to the club is Adrian Forbes, who arrives back in Bedfordshire as head of academy coaching and professional player development. Adrian was a popular part of the 2001-02 Third Division promotion-winning side after signing from Norwich City, and it is from the Premier League new-boys that he once more comes to Kenilworth Road, having spent the past seven years working in the Canaries’ academy. The 40-year-old, who netted 20 times in 79 games for the Hatters, will also oversee the development players who have stepped up from youth football.
Of this first part of his restructure, an enthused Graeme Jones said: “I’m thrilled to have so many good people around me, supporting us in the next phase in our Club’s exciting progression. It’s fantastic to have such a good mix of capable, reliable staff from those that already existed at The Brache working alongside some of my most capable and reliable former colleagues who, together, will provide trust and a new level of skill to support the squad.”
On his first assistant’s appointment, Graeme said: “I’ve enjoyed working with Gary for such a long time now and despite that tough exterior, I know him almost better than anyone as a reliable, intelligent, streetwise football man. Knowing his history with Luton was an advantage, especially with the feedback I got from Gary Sweet and the board, as he has remained friends with people at the club throughout his time away and has always been on hand to help Mick and other previous managers with anything he could. In my first managerial role I need someone alongside me who I can trust, both as a person and with their knowledge of the game, and having someone who is so fond of our Club makes Gary the right man.”
On working with Inigo, Graeme said: “My football education has been based around working with a Spaniard for 12 years, so Ini continuing in his coaching role will be so valuable to me, as it is a philosophy that I believe in coupled with a sound understanding of the British game.
“Oscar is a very experience, highly specialist sports therapist who is used to working with the biggest names in the game at Premier League level. Having worked with Oscar over five seasons, I know he has a unique style of treatment which will bring huge individual benefits to our players, improving recovery times, and I’m delighted to give Darren the opportunity to learn from him.”
Further announcements on the backroom staff will follow as vacancies are filled in the coming days, as the build-up to the club’s first season in the second tier since 2006-07 continues.