Rutter heaps praise on Luton players for winning League One after Nathan Jones left for Stoke

Steve Rutter with former boss Nathan Jones, Joaquin Gomez and Jared Roberts-Smith, who all left the club in January
Steve Rutter with former boss Nathan Jones, Joaquin Gomez and Jared Roberts-Smith, who all left the club in January

Former Hatters assistant Steve Rutter heaped praise on the Town players for the way they reacted to manager Nathan Jones’ mid-season departure, by winning promotion to the Championship.

The former Town chief decided to leave Kenilworth Road for Stoke City in January, just days before a crunch trip to Sunderland.

Luton ended up drawing 1-1 at the Stadium of Light, a game they should have really won, before stretching their unbeaten run to a club record 29 Football League games.

It was enough to see off the challenge of Barnsley, Sunderland and Portsmouth for top spot, as Rutter said: They were immense.

“You always hear people say, ‘oh they’re a great group of players, there’s not a bad egg,’ but they literally policed themselves.

“If there were any issues at all they got resolved very quickly without any histrionics and their focus, the work day after day, week after week, was absolutely top class.

“I can only remember Mick (Harford) once saying the quality of the training wasn’t up to it and that was after the players had said to each other, ‘fellas we’ve let our standards drop.’

“We didn’t have to say anything, they said ‘we let our standards drop down,’ we said ‘yes you have, and we can’t afford it,’ and they said, ‘yes, it won’t happen again.’

“And that was it, one day and that was about four weeks until the end of the season.

“They were absolutely brilliant, people like Sheasy (James Shea) who played so many games having not played the season before, the two full backs who got all the credit as they got forward and created goals.

“The two centre backs, Sonny (Bradley) and Matty (Pearson), when you’re keeping a player like Alan Sheehan out and even Lloyd Jones, who I think has got potential, they can’t get a look in.

“Alex Baptiste comes in on loan, doesn’t kick a ball and he puts his hands up and says, ‘well how can you leave those two out?’

“Andrew Shinnie was just immense, Macca (Alan McCormack) when he came back in, you can go through the whole team and say you know what, nobody had a disappointing season.

“Normally you can look and say ‘he was disappointing, he didn’t do what we thought,’ there wasn’t anybody you can look at and say, ‘they under performed,’ because they didn’t.

“That’s very, very rare that you get that, and forget winning the league as everyone wins the league some years, having those sorts of things going on, centre backs not getting suspended, all that sort of stuff, was pretty unique, it really was.

“So total credit to them, it was great to be involved.

“It was a joy to get over the line, to finally get the job done and dusted.

“Next season is going to be difficult, but the way they’re set up, the organisation they’ve got behind the scenes, they’ll be as well run as anyone in that league.

"They’ll have less resources but they’ll be as well run as anyone in the Championship.”

Rutter did admit the shock change of manager just after Christmas had come as a surprise to everyone at the club, as he continued: “I certainly didn’t have any idea at all, then all of a sudden we saw it on social media.

“It’s different for different people though. Those people who have been inherently invested in Luton for year after year after year, they have a special affiliation with it.

“For people like me, it’s very much a professional relationship you have, you’re employed, you go and do a job.

“I can see from Gary’s (Sweet, chief executive) point of view that he was disappointed that Nathan left in the transfer window, at a difficult time.

“But I can also see from Nathan’s point of view, that he did a fantastic job for three years and he got an opportunity that for him, for nothing else, financially is probably life changing.

“From a professional point of view, you would probably have to say that given their financial resources, Stoke are slightly better equipped to have a good stab at the Championship than Luton, and that’s just the size of the club dictates that.

“I spoke to him and wished him well, I thought it would be difficult for him as he’s going in half way through the season, but it was a surprise to everybody.

“I think the club made a brilliant decision, whoever said ‘let’s put Mick in charge,’ as genuinely, he is Mr Luton.

“Everyone loves him and nobody wanted to let him down, that was the thing, none of the players, no-one wanted to do anything that would let Mick down.

“He just galvanised everybody, and I suppose if we felt a bit sorry for ourselves then a way of showing it was just putting in an extra shift.”

With Jones taking both first team coach Joaquin Gomez and head of sports science Jared Roberts-Smith with him to the Potters, when asked if the gaps in Town’s backroom staff had led to a burden on those who were left, Rutter added: “We brought in Inigo (Idiakez) from the academy, a really good lad, very relaxed and easy going, and everybody picked up extra stuff.

“Whereas before, certain things were the domain of Joaquin, things like set-plays, they had to be delegated around and we all picked up bits and shared the workload.

“The two S and C (strength and conditioning) lads, they’re not really experienced and then they’re suddenly thrown in charge of S and C.

“They were just brilliant, they took to it like ducks to water and just got on with it.

“People looked forward to coming into work, and obviously, that’s easier when you’re winning game after game after game, if you don’t want to go to work then, pack up and go home.

"So in that respect it was easy, and it just went on and on and on.

“The atmosphere around the place, the fact the club’s really well run, gives you the structure that you can go and operate, and people just got on with their jobs, with a smile on their faces."