Nathan Jones: Luton Town's manager on keeping his faith

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Luton Town's Welsh boss Nathan Jones on his faith and ambitions of coaching his country.

Every now and again, Nathan Jones has to compete with the noise of jet engines as he lays out instructions to Luton Town's players.

With the city's airport next to the Hatters' impressive new training facilities, the regular flights filling the air above may be seen by some as a distraction.

But it seems appropriate for a club who've come a long way since relegation out of the Football League in 2009, winning promotion into League One and with designs on climbing higher.

And it is fitting for a manager who has regularly looked to the heavens on his eye-catching journey to League Two promotion. Not in exasperation, but for inspiration.

"I have a philosophy of the way I do things that is deep-rooted within me," says the 44-year-old. "It stems from my upbringing, my Christian faith, and my beliefs in football - all of those values I put into management."

It has led to Luton storming to promotion, scoring more goals than the likes of Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Liverpool along the way. Only Manchester City have bettered their tally of 94 - and not even Pep Guardiola's men managed to score seven on three separate occasions.

Despite being beaten to the title by Accrington Stanley on the penultimate weekend, Jones has described his side as the best in the division.

"I think we're a wonderful side to watch," he adds. "A lot of people say varied things about us, good and bad, but I know what I see."

During a playing career that took in Football League spells at Southend, Yeovil and Brighton, Jones accepted early that he was more likely to make the highest level as a coach.

Nathan Jones
Nathan Jones ended his playing career in 2012 after spending seven seasons with Yeovil

"Not many people will remember me as a footballer, but as a manager I believe in what I do and I know I'm a far better coach than I ever was a player," he says.

"I believe the work I do, tactical awareness I have, the way we train, I don't think there's many doing better work than we do.

"That's a bold thing to say, arrogant maybe, but we change lives here, we develop people and work so hard, we know what we have to do. I 100% want to work at the highest level and I won't stop. I'll either do it or die trying."

There is intensity to Jones and his demands for the best that suggest it's not empty words. As the planes leave their contrails, Jones halts training with his already-promoted players as he's not happy with their body language.

They restart, sharper, and Jones acknowledges the improvement. "Wonderful," he shouts, one of his repeated words.

Yet he is not afraid to claim that some of his and his side's success has been, as he puts it, "God's will".

Born in Blaenrhondda - "a Welsh mining community with a post office, a pub and six chapels" - Jones was brought up in the Christian faith and embraced it.

He says it helped him avoid the "very common and widespread pitfalls" of professional football and all that goes with it, even if he admits to getting some stick for being so openly devout.

"I let God guide my life because He's done a wonderful job for me," Jones says. "Too many things have happened to me in my career for it not to be God's will."

Nathan Jones
Nathan Jones was voted League Two manager of the month in October and November this season

Despite being a homesick 21-year-old struggling to break through at Luton, Jones took up an offer to go and play in Spain's second tier with Badajoz.

He spent two years abroad, becoming a fluent Spanish speaker "because I had to be".

Years later, Jones was appointed Brighton assistant manager to Oscar Garcia, as much to do with his language skills as his coaching ability. "That was done with God's help," he says.

Jones admits to being consumed by his job - watching back games in the middle of the night - but always finds time to pray and to study the Bible, helped by an obsessive personality that demands routine.

"It's brilliant to have God on your side," he says.

"The Scriptures have helped me and I find strength every day for the pressures of the job which as a footballer are high just to maintain standards, but nothing prepares you as a manager - not if you want to be successful.

"I've learned to be still and know He is God."

But Jones and Luton are not content to stand still. The club believe they have recruited players able to attack League One from the off next year and there are plans for a new stadium, one Jones says they will need to compete in the Championship.

The former Cardiff City scholar has been linked with several jobs higher up the ladder, but while he says he is in a hurry to be successful he wants no shortcuts.

"I really do believe we're building something special here," he says. "If you put the hard yards in, you get to where you want to be with the knowledge and the know-how. So we're prepared."

Overlooked internationally as a player, Jones admits managing his country would be the "pinnacle" but adds: "You never know the pathway you'll take.

"With God's will I will retire happy and successful and look back and think I took the right paths."

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