James Rowe interviewed Luton Town manager Nathan Jones. They spoke about the challenges of managing Luton Town, playing abroad in Spain for Badajoz, and his playing career in England with Southend United, Brighton & Hove Albion and Yeovil Town.
What do you believe are the objectives for Luton Town this season?
We believe that we are equipped to do very well in League One this season. We have a certain calibre of player here at Luton Town and we must quickly adjust to the level.
We are not in League One just to consolidate and be an OK team. We have been planning for this level for a long time and we want to make sure that we make an impact. Only time will tell how well we do.
I would like to ask you about your playing career. You played for Badajoz in Spain. As a British footballer who has played abroad, how do you look back on your time in Spain?
I look back on my time in Spain very fondly. I had a wonderful time at Numancia and Badajoz, and we got promoted in my second season there.
The life experience was tremendous and it taught me a lot as a player about football, and particularly the style of Spanish football and a different way of training and preparing for matches.
I worked under a very good Spanish manager, Antonio Gomez, who was very structured, regimented and disciplined.
This impressed me because I was very young at the time, and it was a really successful time for me. I am delighted to have experienced playing abroad.
You also spent time at Southend United in England. How do you look back on your time at the club?
Southend United was a really good learning curve for me and I enjoyed my time playing under Alvin Martin, in what was his first managerial post.
My time at Southend United was very productive, in particular my first season. I also won player of the year in my third season due to being a forward thinking, attacking full-back, providing assists.
We had a good squad with many good players. I believe that I played some of my best football at the club. It was an excellent time for me.
You had a long spell at Brighton & Hove Albion. How do you look back on your time there?
My time at Brighton was probably my most successful as a player, winning three promotions and playing two of my five seasons in the Championship, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
I also learned a lot working under different managers. Mickey Adams brought me to the club and I learned a lot about how to construct a team from him. His teams always had a lot of high energy.
I loved living in the city of Brighton, and it is a city I call home. I would recommend anybody to visit Brighton.
I look back on my time at the club with real fondness, and later on in my career they also brought me back to the club as assistant-manager to then manager Oscar Garcia.
Could you say who are the players that you have played alongside that have stood out for you during your playing career?
A few players stand out for me when I was in Spain. I actually played with Tito Vilanova, God rest his soul, at Badajoz, and Tito was very studious, quiet and a solid player.
People know of him through working with Pep Guardiola and going on to become Barcelona manager himself.
I also played with players such as Mitchell Thomas and Gary Waddock at Luton. At Brighton, the standout player that I played alongside would have to be Bobby Zamora. He went on to have a fantastic career.
I also played with my best friend at Brighton, goalkeeper Ben Roberts, who used to play for Middlesbrough and Charlton Athletic.
At Yeovil I played with Chris Cohen, who was a great player and barring injuries, I am sure he would have gone on to play Premier League football.
I also played with Neville Southall at Southend which, being a Welshman, was fantastic.
You played as a left-back and left midfielder – who are the best opponents that you faced in your career?
One of the opponents that gave me a tough time was Junior Bent of Bristol City, when I played for Brighton. He was a very quick right-sided winger.
Also the current Stoke City manager, Gary Rowett, when we played Derby County. He was a particularly tough player to play against. I enjoyed playing against him because it was a real test.
I had some real battles with Scott Murray, who is now Bristol City’s kit man. He was a very good player for them, too.
Millwall manager Neil Harris also sticks out for me, and current Wycombe Wanderers manager Gareth Ainsworth, who was a difficult opponent to come up against as he would never give you a minute’s peace. We were competitive against one another in our playing career, and that remains the same now that we are also managing against one another.
Also, my boyhood hero was Chris Waddle and I only ever got to play against him once, during his first match as player manager of Burnley. It was not a massively tough match, but it is a match that I will remember forever.
Finally, Nathan, could you tell me who were the managers that you have played under that have influenced your career the most in terms of advice and encouragement?
I would say that the manager I took the most from would be Steve Coppell. He was ahead of his time in terms of preparation.
I learned a lot from Mickey Adams about how to set a team out. I have also been fortunate to work with current England manager Gareth Southgate when he was in charge of the England Under-21s, and learning how he handles different situations and how he gets his message across to his players in a very calm way.
I currently work with an experienced manager here at Luton Town in Paul Hart, who is my assistant. I lean heavily on Paul and take his ideas on board.