Memory Lane: Nathan Jones
Tonight’s meeting between a Brighton & Hove Albion under-21 side and Luton Town in the Checkatrade Trophy will be the first time the Seagulls have come up against Nathan Jones since the former player and coach left for the Hatters. The Welshman first arrived on the south coast from Southend United in 2000, as he joined up with manager Micky Adams and the rest of Albion’s squad at the Withdean Stadium. Jones tasted defeat on his opening three appearances for the Seagulls, but the winger bagged a brace against Torquay United on his fourth outing, as Albion sealed a 6-2 victory against the Gulls. Another three goals against Millwall, York City and Darlington took Jones’s tally to five goals throughout the season, as the Welshman helped the Seagulls secure the Division Three title ahead of Cardiff City and Chesterfield. Jones made 41 league appearances during his debut season at the Withdean Stadium, before another 39 league appearances the following campaign, as Albion won the league again and reached England’s second tier. Despite a number of spirited performances throughout the 2002/03 season, the Seagulls were unable to avoid the drop, following a 2-2 at Grimsby Town on the final day - but Jones did fire a memorable goal at Nottingham Forest in November. A superb solo effort from the Albion winger reduced the scoreline to 3-2, after Steve Sidwell had made it 3-1, but the hosts held on for all three points in an entertaining game at the City Ground. Mark McGhee replaced Steve Coppell as manager in October 2003, and the Scotsman was challenged with the task of helping the Seagulls return to the second tier at the first time of asking. Jones received two red cards for the Seagulls during the 2003/04 campaign, but the winger made 42 league appearances and helped Albion win the Division Two Play-Off Final against Bristol City at the Millennium Stadium. The Welshman’s final season as a player with the Seagulls was the 2004/05 Championship campaign which saw him make 20 appearances - his final outing in Albion colours came during a 1-1 draw against Leicester City at the Withdean Stadium. Jones departed for Yeovil Town and went on to spend seven years at Huish Park, where he also enjoyed his first coaching roles as player-assistant coach and first-team coach. Retirement from the game followed, and Jones opted for a move to Charlton Athletic in June 2012, where he undertook the role of the club’s under-21 professional development coach. With Oscar Garcia at the helm, Jones returned to Albion in July 2013 and took up the position of assistant head coach, before changing to first-team coach when Sami Hyypia replaced the Spaniard. Jones enjoyed two matches as caretaker manager after Hyypia left the club, and the Seagulls drew 2-2 against Reading, before a memorable 2-0 win against Fulham at Craven Cottage. Chris Hughton was then appointed as the club’s new manager, and Jones spent spells as assistant manager and first-team coach, which led into Luton Town’s approach for the Welshman in 2016. Jones guided the Hatters away from danger during his first season in charge of the League Two club, and the Welshman came close to securing promotion during his second campaign, as the Bedfordshire club lost to Blackpool in the play-off semi-finals. But the Hatters lost the fewest number of games during the 2017/18 season to finish second in the fourth tier of English football, and Jones’s side have made a positive start in League One this season, as they currently sit ninth in the table.