Town invest for promotion bid as they wait on Jolley and close on centre-half

Money is still available for Town boss Paul Buckle to sign the ‘right’ players this January transfer window according to managing director Gary Sweet, writes Mark Wood.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 2nd January 2013, 5:00 pm

With automatic promotion still a very real possibility Luton’s board are prepared to invest in that chance as they dare to make it a reality.

Having held discussions with AFC Wimbledon wide man Christian Jolley, Town are waiting on a decision from the 24-year-old winger who has impressed on loan at Blue Square Bet Premier title rivals Newport.

The Hatters also appear to be close to agreeing a deal for a centre-half, with Buckle having admitted he had been impressed with Grimsby’s on-loan defender Nathan Pond at Friday’s press conference.

Sweet said: “For the right one there are (funds) and it’s pure investment. We’re not borrowing money from anybody or anything like this.

“It’s pure investment and it’s investment in the probability of our success this season.

“We would never go as far as to risk the very structural fabric of the football club.

“The fact that we have signed a midfielder and winger and it is public knowledge that we are interested in Christian doesn’t mean we feel the defence doesn’t need improvement. We know who we want but we just may have to be patient for a week or two before we secure him.

“We will stretch it as far as we can, we will invest as much money as we possibly dare into the team to make sure we maximise that probability of success for winning the league and not necessarily winning a play-off.

“We met Christian and insisted that he also met other clubs who were interested in him and who were serious.

“We also gave him a warts and all introduction to what it’s like for new players at Luton Town and the challenges they’d have to face, as we have all new players.

“Playing and performing at Luton is an entirely different prospect to playing for a Forest Green or a Newport because of the additional pressures players have to face.

“The decision is entirely in his court now but he is able to take it eyes wide open.

“If he decides to come to Luton it’ll be the right choice for him and us. If he decides not to come to Luton it’ll also be the right choice for him and the club.”

Portsmouth are also said to be interested in Jolley, but Buckle was philosophical over his capture.

He said: “That would be great for him. I suppose he’d want to play at the highest level he possibly can.

“We’ve spoken with the lad, we’ve had a chat with him. If he doesn’t come to Luton he’s not the right player for us.

“The challenge is the biggest thing and this is what I put to Jolley yesterday. Don’t come if you’re not up for a challenge because we’ve got a massive challenge ahead here.

“It’s one now our players are getting used to and looking forward to.”

And the signing of winger Scott Neilson hasn’t dampened Town’s interest, with Buckle saying: “I think if you look at the squad it leaves room for another one. I think it does leave room for another wide man and Jolley is someone that is more than capable of improving us.

“And is more than capable of pushing us where we want to go. So no that doesn’t take away from us being interested in him.”

Buckle also expressed an interest in Grimsby loan men Ross Hannah and Pond who helped to transform the Mariners’ fortunes alongside recent signing Scott Neilson while on loan.

Bradford City striker Hannah, 26, has scored nine times in 14 appearances while on loan at the Mariners who are closing in on a permanent deal for him, while Fleetwood Town centre-half Pond, 27, has also been mightily impressive netting four in 24 games.

Buckle said: I think you saw the results change for Grimsby when he (Neilson) went there along with people like Pond who they took.

“Their results really did pick up when Pond went there and Neilson and even the boy Hannah.

“So it’s important. It’s important at any level to get the right players on loan.

“Sometimes it can be a gamble, but if you do your homework it can work. We feel that he’s right to come in and improve us.

“Hannah I actually had before, I took him with me whilst at Torquay.

“I had him down, we just couldn’t agree a fee at the time.

“I like Hannah, but I think we are OK in the centre forward position.

“I think they’ve (Fleetwood) taken Nathan back. We liked Pond from before, but I understand he’s going back to Fleetwood.”

And Buckle is keen to get his wheeling and dealing done early, saying: “I want to stick to that. I think just by virtue of having those two players (Neilson and Jonathan Smith) now shows our intent.

“We’ve been organised. We’ve followed a few players over the last few months and hopefully you’ll see maybe one or two come to fruition.

“Gary’s working hard on that side of it with me and we’ll try and improve the squad if we can.

“It won’t be a silly number. There’s no need for a lot of change, but it needs tweaking here and there, there’s no doubt about it.

“What I’ve said is I won’t have players sitting in the stands or that have got no chance of playing.

“If it has crept in, players will move on that needs to happen, it needs to evolve, we have to keep improving and from when I came to the club I think we’ve done that.

“I think we’ve improved, we’ve improved our league position and we want to keep going forward. The key is to keep going forward with it.”

With Town very much in the mix at the top, that has only strengthened the board’s resolve to help Buckle, especially with so many league and cup games coming up.

Sweet said: “It adds to the desire and it adds to the hunger and it adds to the excitement. We feel excited about the position we’re in.

“It’s a fantastic position, we are not far away from the leaders and arguably there’s a few managers they always said they never want to be top at the turn of the year.

“There are psychological effects that can have. We look at it and we look at the run of games we’ve got and we’re winning in the cups and that gives us confidence.

“It’s a positive thing, it’s not a negative things. It’s another reason why we’re bringing in two or three players is because we need that squad, we need a good quality squad.

“Because we are going to have a number of games now, we’ve got eight in January and probably another one to stack in on top of it.

“So we are going to need a little depth. But when you start talking about who will be the middle two, Smith, (Alex) Lawless or (Arnaud) Mendy, it’s got to be two of them, you’ve got a good bench as well.

“You’ve got a good player sitting on the bench who can come into central midfield for a Tuesday or a Saturday.

“That’s what we need and we need a little bit of strength in one or two other areas to be able to say we’re done and that’s a complete squad, and a squad that can take on two games a week if necessary for the rest of the season.”

“If you look at where we’ve needed that restructuring, it’s sort of centre-half, central midfield and a wide player.

“We’ve got two of them and if you look back to the summer we actually had them then in (Garry) Richards, (Danny) Spiller and unfortunately James Dance didn’t recover as quickly.

“He (Buckle) hasn’t been wrong, we’ve been unlucky in one or two places but rather than wait for players we’re now bringing more in and that might mean one or two might want to go and if it’s with our blessing then they will do.

“But players also won’t leave this football club unless we want them to.

“We need to strengthen so we see it (the window) as an opportunity and the important thing is we get in there early on this occasion.

“We know what we want. The Jonathan Smith deal has probably been going on since June and Scott Neilson we narrowly missed out on him about three months ago in coming in on loan when we’d just take on Jake Robinson.

“So Scott we’ve actually spoken to this summer and it wasn’t quite right. They’re all players that we know of and we know about them and we’re very comfortable with them.

“We know an awful lot about their histories and their backgrounds and characters and everything, so they fit. And that’s the same with one or two other positions as well.”

And he added: “We want the right players. And what’s as important at least is that players would want to come here and take on the project we’ve got in hand.

“And those that we’ve brought in have done that. We’re left in a very nice position now where actually we give the players a warts and all offer.

“They know what they’re coming into now. Playing in front of a Kenilworth Road crowd against a side a side who are intent on playing 11 behind the ball is not an easy task.

“They need an awful lot of mental character to be able to cope with the conditions that come with that. When we speak to players we delve quite deeply into their characters and we do a lot of research with our to ensure they are the right type and they’ve probably had some of that experience before in the past.

“And we leave it to them. And effectively if they decided Luton is the right club for them, then it’s the right decision. So if they decide it’s not it’s also the right decision for them and us.”

Meanwhile, Sweet confirmed French trialist Thierry Audel has been released while no offers have been received from Notts County for on-loan midfielder Andre Boucaud who is set to return to the club on Sunday.