Nathan Jones claims he betrayed his relationship with Luton Town fans when he left for Stoke City in belief “it was a good opportunity to be a Premier League club quite quickly”.
Jones is back at Luton today, replacing his own successor Graeme Jones almost seven months after ending a torrid time in the Potteries. Instead of challenging for the Premier League, Stoke were slipping too dangerously to League One when he got the sack.
He had only joined in January 2019, leaving a Luton side he had guided from the bottom half of League Two to the cusp of promotion to the Championship.
The reaction was furious in Bedfordshire, where he had been worshipped, and police were even called in to investigate death threats.
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The response to his return this morning has been decidedly mixed – and he is setting about trying to regain trust.
“That’s totally understandable,” he said at his unveiling press conference.
“What I will say is before we had the opportunity to move, we were on a real good trajectory, we had a long-term goal and I veered from that.
“We had a number of opportunities to leave if we wanted to and it wasn’t a case of we wanted to leave in any way. It was, at the time, we felt an opportunity that was a good opportunity to be a Premier League club quite quickly, but as it turned out, that wasn’t the case.
“But I love the club and I wholeheartedly regret how those events came about, because I could have handled them so much better.
“I loved working for the club and then suddenly – three or four days of real madness, because it was a whirlwind and something I’ve learned a lot from and something I couldn’t envisage happening – detracted from the long term goal that we always had at the football club, regardless of whether it was the right or wrong decision.
“What I’m really remorseful about and what I regret wholeheartedly was the manner of the exit, because I understand that was bound to cause the animosity that it did.
“I’m very grateful for being given the opportunity to manage this club again.
“We’ve had to build relationships back up a while ago for normality, and then this came about, so I’m very grateful for the club to have given me the opportunity to manage again.
“I had a fantastic relationship with the fans and I betrayed that. I went against everything they had given me, but I had to earn that, let’s not forget, I wasn’t embraced immediately.
“I had to earn that, and that’s exactly what I’m going to have to do again and that’s exactly what I intend to do.”