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Faith will fuel Jones' attempts to turn Stoke's fortunes around


Nathan Jones has left Luton Town to move up a division with Stoke City Photo: Dave Howarth/PA Wire

Nathan Jones has left Luton Town to move up a division with Stoke City Photo: Dave Howarth/PA Wire


Nathan Jones has left Luton Town to move up a division with Stoke City Photo: Dave Howarth/PA Wire

The previous time Stoke City had prayers on their side the club summoned a miracle run to clinch Premier League status for the first time. Now the arrival of devout Christian Nathan Jones has prompted the Bishop of Stafford to offer his services again.

"We would certainly pray for promotion should he ask us to," said the Right Rev Geoff Annas, who took the unusual step of leading a civic prayer service for promotion in the spring of 2008.

If anyone believes divine inspiration can rescue Stoke's faltering Championship campaign, it is Jones, who has tattoos of Jesus across his body and attends church without fail.

"It's so impressive that Nathan is able to be talk openly and honestly about his faith and it's particularly great that he has found strength from this during times of adversity," the Bishop added.

Jones, 45, who grew up in a small coal mining community in the Welsh Rhondda Valleys, arrives at the Bet365 Stadium as one of the brightest managerial prospects from the lower leagues, having powered Luton against the odds into second-place in League One.

Recent success has not changed priorities for the man who, as a youngster, once attended Sunday School instead of attending trials for his county and the Wales national team.

This Christmas, he insisted on taking some time away from Luton's promotion push to ensure he did not neglect his faith.

Jones' senior playing career began at non-league Merthyr Town and he has never doubted his Christianity for a moment.

He has praying hands and the crucifixion tattooed on his left arm, Jesus Christ on his right bicep, and Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam across his back.

"If you've lived with Christ then it's impossible to turn away really," he told the 'Football League Paper'.

"It keeps you grounded. There are a lot of temptations, a lot of pitfalls nowadays, especially for a sportsman - and I think, through God's guidance, I've been able to steer clear of them.

"Through the hard times I've always had the stability of the Lord in my life, and my family background has kept me on the straight and narrow. I believe everything is God's will."


It is not only Jones' faith that sets him apart from the norm. In 1995, while still forging a professional playing career, he made the plucky decision to join Spanish side Numancia, and then moved on to second-tier club Badajoz where he soon became fluent in Spanish.

The seeds of becoming a manager were sewn by his early 20s. The Spanish focus on nutrition, the perfectionism of manager Antonio Gomes, and the ceaseless focus on technique.

Jones later won a player of the year award at Southend United in 2000, three promotions in five years at Brighton and a run to promotion to the Championship with Yeovil.

Micky Adams, Steve Coppell and Gary Johnson were among his managerial influences. In 2012, Jones lost his starting place at Yeovil and began plotting his coaching career.

"I wanted to run my own team, to get my own philosophy together." he said. "I wanted to coach every day and make mistakes."

Jones eventually joined Charlton's academy and inspired the U-21 side to a clutch of honours.

His success earned him a switch to Brighton as an assistant manager before joining Luton in January 2016.

He guided them to League Two safety in his first campaign, he took them to fourth by May 2017, and then promotion last season.

The Hatters possess a 51pc win rate during his time in charge at Kenilworth Road and are now well among the promotion challengers for a return to the second tier for the first time since 2007.

Jones inherits a team languishing in 14th place in the Championship, well below the expectations of the club's board, who had targeted an immediate return to the Premier League after relegation last season.

At least Stoke fans can be sure their new boss will never lose faith. (© Daily Telegraph, London)