The worse possible news struck for Luton Town supporters after Southampton boss Ralph Hassenhutl was sacked with Nathan Jones immediately touted as his successor.
It’s unsurprising given Jones’ obvious coaching abilities and his impressive record at Kenilworth Road in recent years, although some will no doubt question whether he can make the step up.
The 49-year-old has worked wonders at the club in not only helping them rise from League Two, but also being the beating heart of a structure that has allowed them to become one of the best-run clubs in the country.
It’s a crushing blow for Luton who looked like they could be heading for a promotion push, and they still might, but losing Jones would be a big blow to those lofty ambitions.
For the 49-year-old Welshman, it would be a huge step up to a club with a much larger infrastructure, coaching team, squad and finances.
One would argue he already made that step and failed with Stoke City, but using that spell to discredit Jones is pointless.
Several managers have failed there in recent years, which lends to issues outside of solely the dugout.
It’s also discrediting the exceptional work that he’s done at Luton and the incredible progress that has been achieved year on year.
Not only that, but his ability to take on young players and improve them is evidenced throughout his managerial career and must not be understated.
Going back to his Yeovil coaching days, the likes of Ryan Mason, Andros Townsend, Asmir Begovic and Luke Ayling all passed through the door in Somerset under Jones’ coaching guidance and all became better players for it.
That inevitably leaves a big hole that Luton need to fill, which will no doubt leave supporters worried and concerned for what the future holds.
They’re stepping into an unknown which was already uncomfortable due to Graeme Jones’ short tenure sandwiched in between his namesake’s two spells as manager.
But a club run as well as Luton will have a contingency plan – or at least you’d hope so – as the success of the former Brighton and Charlton coach will have garnered admirers for an extended period of time.
So it begs the question, should they shop elsewhere or go with internal continuity?
Jones will be a hard act to follow so in this instance, internal continuity might be the way forward.
Luton have a clear identity and club philosophy and for their success to continue, they will need a Head Coach who carries that on. It’s worked at clubs before when done correctly.
Plymouth Argyle are thriving under Steven Schumacher who took over after Ryan Lowe departed for Preston. Thomas Frank is another one who succeeded from within when Dean Smith left for Aston Villa.
Turning to a trusted individual makes sense, so why not try Chris Cohen?
Should the former Nottingham Forest player decide to remain at Kenilworth Road, being given the opportunity in the hotseat might be a wise decision.
On the face of it, having worked under Jones, Cohen would most likely ensure there isn’t too much change in the short term and he’s a recognisable face to the players.
He’s highly respected by Jones and has worked under him closely for the last two years so he’ll know what makes this team tick.
Going deeper, he has plenty of coaching experience having started coaching when he turned 30. He worked with the under-23s at Nottingham Forest in that time with several players going on to make their senior debuts.
In addition, he will have the support of the existing structure that proved a huge success under Jones with the likes of Mick Harford and Paul Hart.
What about a slightly different option then?
My alternative pick is Neil Critchley.
Critchley enjoyed plenty of success at Blackpool before making the controversial move to Aston Villa to become Steven Gerrard’s assistant.
It was a strange decision given the success and progress the Tangerines achieved under his stewardship, finishing 16th and 23 points above the bottom three in his sole season in the Championship.
The 44-year-old regularly utilised a 4-4-2 during his reign at Bloomfield Road but the values of his team were similar to that of Jones’.
A Critchley outfit had to be supremely fit as they looked to utilise a high press – a system that was evidenced on a number of occasions to great success in both the third and second tier.
Not only that, but parallels can be drawn between the pair through their record of developing players as well.
The likes of Josh Bowler, Marvin Ekpiteta and Ryan Wintle all thrived under Critchley, with several more putting the building blocks in place for success this season, such as Jerry Yates and Kenneth Dougall.
After his four-month stint in the Midlands came to an abrupt end with Gerrard’s sacking, Critchley needs to revive his career as a manager and there isn’t a better place to do it than at Luton Town.
And now let’s look at the ambitious appointment?
When ticking a box, Valerian Ismael and Luton Town seem to fit nicely.
Pure passion on the touchline.
It would seem incredibly ambitious to go for a manager like Ismael but considering his stock might have dropped slightly, it would be worth a look.
Obviously, Besiktas didn’t work out, nor did it at West Brom – similarly to Jones at Stoke – but the job at the Hawthorns (alike the position in the Potteries) has become a bit of a poison chalice.
And the Frenchman’s success at Barnsley cannot be ignored.
To take a team who were close to the bottom of the table and turn them into play-off contenders is miraculous – even more so when you consider Barnsley’s financial weight compared to others and downfall following his exit.
Not only that, but he would be reunited with Cauley Woodrow and Carlton Morris – two forwards who both thrived under Ismael’s tutelage at Oakwell.
As mentioned, Ismael is at a point where his next role needs to be chosen carefully and Luton Town are in a position to take a risk, just like they did with Jones all those years ago.
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