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GARY SWEET ON PROMOTION, MICK HARFORD, GRAEME JONES AND NATHAN JONES

3 May 2019

Hatters CEO Gary Sweet has said there is an 'unbelievable excitement inside me' after the Hatters won promotion to the Sky Bet Championship, but is also solely focused on the work now needed to get the Town ready for the second tier.

A victory for Peterborough United at Portsmouth and a win for Fleetwood Town against Sunderland on Tuesday night meant the Hatters' total of 91 points this campaign would prove to be enough to secure promotion after a fantastic season.

Sweet was delighted with the news and is looking forward to life in the Championship.

He said: "It's been fantastic. I feel honoured just to be in this role, especially honoured given what everyone has achieved, it's phenomenal. Personally, as a fan from a nipper all the way through, that never leaves you.

"There's this unbelievable excitement inside me as a supporter, but at the end of the day, we have got to crack on now and deal with the serious business of moving into the Championship and there's a lot of hard work to do. So my feet are on the ground, people are asking if I am actually happy! But I am just focused now on next season."

When asked about the Town's aspirations at the beginning of this campaign, Gary felt that avoiding relegation would have been acceptable, but he and the board knew they were more than capable of pushing a lot further up the table.

"I think when you get promoted up to the next level, you're always happy with that final place that guarantees [survival], it's a consolidation period. So, for me fifth from bottom would have been acceptable.

"What we knew though, is we had recruited, with Mick in his previous and his future role, we had recruited some great players in League Two that got us promoted and we recruited with the intent that they would be League One players challenging for the Championship. So it was no surprise at all that once we got going this season we went on a run, no surprise at all. Secretly at the start of the season we felt we could give the play-offs a push, but we kept that quite quiet.

"Mick loves this club and loves being a part of it and he will do anything for us. He would walk over hot coals for us and we love him for that. This is my opportunity to big him up now, isn't it! There isn't a man who has been at this football club who has so much dedication for the cause and we are so lucky to have him. He is, absolutely [going to be recognised by supporters on Saturday], and I will join in on that. We're just looking forward to it."

The club announced yesterday morning that former West Bromwich Albion and Everton assistant manager Graeme Jones will be taking over the reins as manager from Mick Harford at the end of this season, with Sweet incredibly pleased with his appointment.

Gary explained: "We knew Graeme from a distance going back some time. He's had an illustrious career as an assistant manager, he's got an excellent pedigree. If you look at him, strictly speaking it's 1st June when he takes over, but if you look at it, we've probably not had a manager ever that has got the kind of pedigree that Graeme has had, or got.

"He has effectively managed and coached World Cup players on that stage and were arguably the best team in the world at that time. Through the Premier League and the Championship, actually what we quite like about him is he has played Non-League football all the way through at the lower levels. So actually he is really grounded, he is connected with the kind of culture we have got, so when we met him, you can see he is a very honest, honourable man and we liked that, for obvious reasons, that's what we are, we like to think of ourselves like that anyway.

"So from a character point of view I think he will fit in instantly and has done – we have been working with him for a long time now. I think in terms of his ability and his footballing brain, he has got his own style and I think that's why we are really so lucky to have tempted him into management and I am amazed that he hasn't done it before.

"Graeme has got his own mind, he has got his own ideas and philosophy on how to play, those ideas are very similar to the way we want to entertain as a club. They won't be too far away from the type of football we are playing at the moment, so it wont need a huge amount of personnel change within the squad, only improvement where we can get that and likewise with staff and coaches.

"We want to be a stable club – stability means we keep as many people for as long as you can, as long as they can contribute in the right way. So we had that discussion and we think that the people here can also contribute next season. Of course, there will be one or two people that he will want to bring in, but going up to the Championship we would have wanted to bolster the staff anyway, so it actually works perfectly.

"I think from a character perspective he's perfect. You might say that he's never managed before, so is that a risk? I don't think so. Nathan Jones was a similar risk and that paid off very, very well. I think where we are, we are a football club that has to be bold, it has to do things differently to be able to compete. If we do what everyone else does, then we will only compete as far as our budget allows and that will probably mean we are bottom of the league."

Having left in January for Stoke City, Nathan Jones had let the club to promotion from Sky Bet League Two and the club was in second spot in League One the day he left.

Whilst disappointed with the manner of his departure, Sweet praised the Welshman for all of his work at the club during his three years here.

"The success we have achieved this season, a lot of it is down to Nathan Jones, to start that and for Mick to finish it. As a club, as a support base, we absolutely didn't agree with the way that it happened and the way that I think he conducted himself at the time, but we have to give him a big round of applause and a pat on the back for everything that he has done prior to that and leading up to January, because without that, Mick wouldn't have been taking over with that momentum and we wouldn't have crossed the line."

Asked whether Nathan had been in touch since promotion was sealed, Sweet replied: "Yes he has, he congratulated us, which was nice of him."


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