Jones not settling for mid-table security as he looks to mount promotion challenge

Hatters boss Nathan Jones
Hatters boss Nathan Jones

Luton boss Nathan Jones won’t be settling for mid-table obscurity this season as he leads his side into their first League One campaign for a decade.

The Hatters begin at Portsmouth on Saturday and are one of the favourites with the bookies to challenge for promotion this term, which is something Jones believes is possible after going up from League Two last season.

He said: “We can’t second guess anything, but we want to put a challenge in.

“We believe we’re equipped to do well at this level, we believe we have one, the club, two the players, three the structure and we do good work.

“We want to get better this year, so we’re just going to see where it takes us, as we’re not coming here to be content with mid-table security.

“That may pan out to be the case, but that’s not our aim.

“Last year there was a real pressure on us to get promoted, there was, but we put that on ourselves as we felt we’d had a year to really develop in that league, then we improved significantly, then we were a good side last year.

“We still feel we’re a good side, it will be a sterner challenge week in week out now, but we believe we’re equipped for that, so lets see where we are, but we’re very confident and very ambitious.”

Despite making just four signings so far this summer, with Andrew Shinnie, Sonny Bradley, Matty Pearson and Jorge Grant coming in, Jones believes he already had the majority of the squad in place to be able to cope in their new surroundings.

He continued: "We did a lot of our recruitment for League One a year earlier.

"It was a gamble, we bought a lot of good footballers, energetic, high energy footballers that could handle the ball and handle the level above.

"Now without being disrespectful to anybody, League Two is a difficult place to go, to be fluent and to play, especially when you come to the turn of the year with the pitches and so on, so it was a real gamble to do it the way we did

"But we did, so we feel that we’re in a good place and what we didn’t want to do then was think okay, we need to strengthen with eight or nine because we didn’t.

"We did it the year before, so what we’ve done, is we moved five or six on and then we were able to replace those with three that we felt significantly improved the squad and that’s the pleasing thing."

When asked who believes will be the main threats to Town’s aims of pushing for the Championship, Jones said: “Pretty much every opposition we play.

“We don’t know how this season is going to pan out, Sunderland are a big pull in this league with a huge budget, but they’re going through certain transitions, so you don’t know.

“Portsmouth are a very good club, Scunthorpe narrowly missed out last year, they’ll be strong again, you’ve got Charlton who are a massive club at this level, Peterborough with a manager who’s used to being at the top end and have bought 14, 15 players, so it’s a real tough test to come in.

“There’s a lot of good sides here, Barnsley have come down, who to be honest with you, I felt in the Championship they had top League One players and probably didn’t find their feet quick enough in the Championship.

“There’ll be some real stern tests here, it’ll be a good league, a competitive league, but realistically every league in England is competitive.”

It’s Jones’ first go at managing in the third tier of English football as well and is some he was clearly relishing getting his teeth into.

He added: “Very much so. We said when we came here, I had to learn a new league in terms of League Two, we challenged ourselves there and I thought we acquitted ourselves very well and were a real good club in that division.

“We want to move up and I want to challenge myself even higher, but the next step for us is to challenge ourselves in League One.

“It’s a wonderful challenge for us, we believe we’re putting things in place that needs testing, so we’re going to get that.

“There’s no sterner test than Portsmouth, then Sunderland and even Peterborough, who have strengthened, so we know we’re going to come up against different people, we know we’re going to come up against slightly better sides, so we’ve had to step up a level, but hopefully we can handle the levels as we move along.”