Charlton AthleticSport

Nathan Jones built a Luton legacy – now summer of transfer and squad construction awaits at Charlton Athletic


Construction work will commence at Charlton Athletic this summer with Nathan Jones admitting he loves nothing more than an extensive building project.

The Welshman has talked plenty in recent weeks about the need for a close-season of heavy graft to cut away the dead wood in the Addicks squad and bring in the quality additions that will turn the serially under-achieving South Londoners into promotion candidates.

The promise of something new, exciting and improved is exactly what Charlton fans have wanted to hear. It is now three successive campaigns that their club have come nowhere near to even mounting a play-off challenge.

And a 14-game unbeaten run in League One, ended by a 1-0 defeat at Wycombe Wanderers on the final day of the season, still was not enough to prevent the Addicks’ lowest finish since 1926.

The only way has to be up. And Global Football Partners, who own Charlton, showed their faith in Jones – whose body of work at Luton Town is hugely impressive – by making him boss at the start of February on a contract until 2028.

So many of the players brought into the Hatters excelled and played at far higher levels than when they first arrived.

If Jones can have the same success at Charlton then the potential – especially with the capacity of the Valley and fanbase – is big.
The 50-year-old, who had been out of work since his eight-match spell in charge of Southampton was ended in February 2023, seems to view the future for Charlton – a Premier League club for seven successive campaigns before relegation in 2007 – as bright.

Picture: Paul Edwards

“I always choose my clubs very carefully,” said Jones, who sat down with the South London Press at the Addicks’ training ground last Thursday. “I like building things and I want to be at places a long time…I’d like to be here for a long time.

“Ironically I left Luton twice after three years there – but for big, big projects. Stoke was a massive club, the biggest in the Championship. They had just come down, at the time, from the Premier League.

“Then I went into the Premier League, with Southampton, which not many managers in the Championship do. There aren’t many that have done that. I think three in recent years – which is myself, Graham Potter and Frank Lampard, who went back to Chelsea.

“What I was looking for when I was picking my next project was a club that makes sane decisions and where I have real scope to build something – to really go on – and somewhere where I can, I wouldn’t say rebuild my reputation, but go back to doing the work I’m best known for.

“My time so far at Charlton has given me all those things and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. My hunger for football never wanes. It hasn’t given me a new hunger – it’s given me the hunger I’ve always had. It has given me a platform to invest that hunger again.

“I’ve loved being back in work. I’ve loved the club and the rapport I’ve got with the fans – that is only starting, because they have only seen us win four times. Once that increases we can really start building a rapport and they will see a team they can be proud of and a manager who is exactly like them on every level.”

What is important is a connection between the manager and the fanbase.

Charlton have had that when their ex-players have been appointed – Chris Powell, Lee Bowyer and Johnnie Jackson.

Picture: Paul Edwards

Jones never played for the Addicks but did start his coaching career working with their U21 team before a coaching promotion arose at Brighton.

But another thing which has endeared him to the supporters is his passion.

The lack of animation from Michael Appleton, his predecessor, drew criticism and also helped ensure the Mancunian never gained approval.

Appleton, shortly before his sacking, described passion as “acting” and added that hardly any modern day coaches “are being themselves”.

Jones has definitely let himself go after victories at Charlton, occasionally letting loose a swear word or two when he is in the moment.

“Nothing I do is an act,” he said. “I am myself on the sideline and I have got criticised in the past for being that. I don’t change. I am authentic and I always have been. I’ve sometimes caused my own problems by being authentic.

“I did it as a player. I could show you pictures of me celebrating like a lunatic when we beat Nottingham Forest. Emotion from that time. Then, when I cross back over that white line into my office, I’m calm. I’ll have a drink with everyone.

“Everyone has their own opinion, Michael or anyone else can, but I’m very authentic. When I have a win I like to celebrate a win. And the reason I like to celebrate a win is I dedicate every part of my life to this football club and trying to be a winner. I always do that. I sacrifice so much, and people in my life have to sacrifice so much, because I want to win so much.

Picture: Paul Edwards

“So I’m not just going to clap and walk off and out into the car park. That isn’t me. I like to enjoy it. Trust me, I’m as big a Charlton fan as anyone now because my life depends on it.

“I’ve been into a club where I wasn’t wanted immediately – because I wasn’t maybe a big enough name, or whatever it was. But when I came here I did feel that there was happiness I was here. I felt I could have that rapport. I built a certain rapport with the football club when I was last here and that rapport never left me.”

Jones’ first summer at Luton, in 2016, saw him release 12 players and sign eight. The Hatters lost in the League Two play-offs semis but then went up as runner-up next time around.

So is it most satisfying to build a squad or see it execute the objective?

“Both,” said Jones. “Let’s take Luton, we knew clearly what we wanted to achieve. We had a plan – exactly the same as here. Tough decisions were made. We had to make difficult ones, evaluating people quickly.

“I had a conversation the other day about Luton fans weren’t happy I released players when I did that first year – but if you asked them now if that was the right decision then I’m not even sure they’d blink in terms of that.

“We have to be clear on what we want to do. We have to be clear on certain athletes, first and foremost, what we want. If you’re not that athlete then we can’t take you forward, because this is what we’re going to do.

“Then it is the human being and the footballer – all those things have to come together.

“We have to come out of this window categorically stronger than the January window. We came out of that one marginally stronger – but they signed nine and I generally don’t like doing that in January.

Charlton Athletic v Stevenage Borough – SkyBet League One, The Valley, 01 April 2024
Picture : Keith Gillard

“You tinker in January, but you build in the summer.

“Every single window from now on, if we are in the place we believe we are going to be in – then we will be stronger every single window.

“This one is exciting and it’s going to be a long one and a tough one, because we have to find players that can go into our 11 – not squad players. Once we do that then everyone becomes better and standards in training go up.”

Jones’ focus in that second summer window at Luton was on recruiting players that had experienced promotion.

“If they are serial promotion winners it means they are good footballers or extremely lucky – one of the two,” said the Charlton chief. “We brought in Danny Hylton, who had just been promoted with Oxford and he dropped back down – because he believed in the project that we were going to do. I didn’t let him out of my sight for 28 days and we managed to get him signed.

“When we missed out on promotion by losing in the play-offs we had an opportunity to really go after people. We signed Jack Stacey, who hadn’t been promoted anywhere but was a really good footballer.

“Then we brought in Luke Berry, who was the top midfield goalscorer in lower leagues consecutively, because we wanted goals.

“We signed players for certain positions and round pegs for round holes. We signed James Collins, who was a serial promotion winner and scored in the lower leagues.

“We promised him, one, that he would be in the Championship and, two, play for Ireland – which seemed a long way off at the time, but he ended up doing both.

“If we sign players we believe are the right ones for us, and they’ve had promotions on their CV, that can only help. It doesn’t mean we’ll only do that. We’ll sign the ones we think are best in the positions we need to fill.”

Luton Town manager Nathan Jones celebrates following the Sky Bet Championship match at the MKM Stadium, Kingston upon Hull. Picture date: Saturday March 19, 2022.

The change of title from head coach to manager when Jones arrived in SE7 is a nod to the control he wants over so many aspects of shaping Charlton’s future. Plans could only be firmed up once League One safety was secured.

“The recruitment process is constant,” said Jones. “I was out of work and all I did was watch games and players – get my education up. I’m in a decent position now to recruit well because, one, of my experience but, two, the 11 months I had out.

“When I left Stoke I didn’t have as long, three months, but within that I went and earmarked Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall and Rhys Norrington-Davies, Jordan Clark and Amari’i Bell  – players I wanted to bring in. They significantly improved Luton’s squad.

“That is the position I am in now.  We are in a position, through what we have at this football club – the owners, size of the backing of this club and my knowledge – to significantly improve this club.

“We have to make sure we win football games and are nowhere near the position we are in now. If we’re still 16th next season then I will not have done my job properly. I don’t think we can have that much bad luck.

“We want to build something so that in four, five or six years time we are back where we always wanted to be. We can look back and say: ‘That was a productive time’.

“At Luton we had six months of just building a really good side. We ended up finishing fourth and losing in the play-offs. That seemed like disaster – but it wasn’t. That extra year in League Two, for example, allowed us to build this side that was special – and then we went promotion, promotion. We didn’t hang around in League One, we went bang, bang. So you never know what is going to happen.

“What I’m saying is we will take this club forward.

“If people want to take the easy option then don’t come to Charlton – anymore. If you want to cruise or you want to have an easy life, or you want to just be okay, then do not come to Charlton. That’s it.”

Charlton Athletic v Derby County – SkyBet League One, The Valley, 03 February 2024
Picture : Keith Gillard

The interview with Jones takes place in a classroom used by academy players with motivational quotes adorning the walls.

Asked if there was one particular one that had ever been most pertinent to him, Jones said: “If you look at any of them then the themes are around hard work, standards and driving excellence. Some are catchier than others and some have buzzwords. We create an environment and culture here which is hard-working, respectful, professional and demands excellence.

“We want to be elite on every level.

“Now elite is not how much money you’ve got – elite is how your standards, culture and environment performs. That is what we want to do here. Players are setting those standards. Staff are setting those standards. The board are setting those standards.

“We are what we repeatedly do. If you have poor habits, we can’t have that.

“For too long this season, for whatever reason, the habits haven’t been good enough. They haven’t won enough games. They have drawn a lot of games. There is something missing – they have still drawn games under me. We have to find solutions to make us elite at this level.”

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Everyone at the South London Press thanks you for your continued support.

Former Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing:


If you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can make a donation which will allow us to continue to bring stories to you, both in print and online. Or please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.