Jones warns Luton players to underestimate Stoke at their peril

Luton chief Graeme Jones has warned his side to underestimate Stoke City at their peril when the Hatters head to the bet 365 Stadium tonight.

Tuesday, 10th December 2019, 9:26 am
Updated Tuesday, 10th December 2019, 9:27 am
Stoke boss Michael O'Neill
Stoke boss Michael O'Neill

Town’s opponents are currently second bottom of the Championship table, with just four wins to their name all term.

They have changed manager recently too, ex-Luton chief Nathan Jones sacked last month, with Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill taking charge.

Although he started with successive victories, the Potters have now lost three in a row, as they are already four points adrift of safety and six behind the Hatters.

However, Jones said: “We underestimate them at our peril, because individually they can turn up and hurt you.

“You look about Jack Butland’s at the World Cup 18 months ago, and James McLean’s a proven international for the Republic of Ireland.

"Sam Vokes went there for big money, Joe Allen I know really well, we gave him his debut as a 16-year-old at Swansea, an ex-Liverpool player, these boys are not mugs.

"Tom Ince, I’ve followed his career closely, he’s got really good individual ability. Stephen Ward, Premier League, Bruno Martins Indi, I watched him train and play for Porto when I was at Everton.

"So these are household names we’re playing against, so again it's another measurement, but I’m more interested in what we do.

“The boys know all about Stoke as we’ve had a meeting and I’ve got absolute respect for Michael and Stoke City Football Club, but I'm interested in us.

"The game's not about who we’re playing, it’s about us performing and if we perform we’ll get a positive result, I’m absolutely certain about it.

"It’s a little bit us v us again, I want standards high and want us to be ourselves, the way we played at the weekend under difficult circumstances.

"That’s where I’ll be measuring our performance."

Jones is a good acquaintance of his opposite number, who led Northern Ireland to the second round of the Euro 2016 Championships, after being team-mates in their early playing days.

He continued: “I consider Michael O’Neill a friend, someone I played with at Wigan and St Johnstone, somebody I really respect, somebody’s company I really, really love and I hope I enjoy his company after a positive result for Luton Town.

“I could tell you some fun things about Mick, he's probably one of the most humorous guys I’ve met in football.

"People don’t see that side of his character, but an incredibly intelligent, tough character.

"I've got nothing but respect for him, I'm really looking forward to seeing him, as it’s always good to see Michael O’Neill."

O'Neill has been in international management since 2011 with Northern Ireland, as prior to that he was in charge of Brechin City and Shamrock Rovers.

Although he has inherited a Stoke side who are fighting relegation, Jones is confident he can turn things around at the bet 365 Stadium.

He added: "I wouldn’t underestimate that character at all, as I know Mick and Mick’s a fighter, and a really, really intelligent boy.

"So I hope it’s after tomorrow, but he’ll find a way.

“He’s used to being the underdog because Northern Ireland were.

"He’s used to competing against better international teams than the players he had and he’s used to getting football results.

"So where Stoke are in the league, it’s December the ninth now and they are down the bottom and they’re in trouble.

"They need to fight to get out of their position and for me they’ve got a perfect man for that who understands that."