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Fans' return: Contrasting managerial experiences from the English Football League


Luton v Norwich was one of six fixtures in the English Football League to take place on Wednesday with a limited number of fans in attendance
Luton v Norwich was one of six fixtures in the English Football League to take place on Wednesday with a limited number of fans in attendance

Wednesday saw fans return to grounds in the English Football League for the first time in more than nine months after coronavirus restrictions were eased.

But the experience of having supporters in attendance proved to be a bit different for two of the managers concerned.

Luton boss Nathan Jones was heartened by his reception in his first game at Kenilworth Road in front of fans since he left to take charge of Stoke in January 2019.

But Charlton manager Lee Bowyer was unimpressed by the ‘noise from the terrace’ directed towards his team as they lost at home to MK Dons.

Jones happy to rebuild bridges

Luton Town boss Nathan Jones received a rousing welcome from their fans as they went on to beat Norwich 3-1 on Wednesday
Luton Town boss Nathan Jones received a rousing welcome from their fans as they went on to beat Norwich 3-1 on Wednesday

Jones’ exit from Luton to join Stoke incensed the club’s folliowers as they were midway through a season which eventually saw them clinch promotion to the Championship.

His stint with the Potters did not last long and he returned to Kenilworth Road in May during football’s hiatus and Wednesday’s impressive victory over leaders Norwich was his first match in front of their supporters.

“I was proud of that and delighted because a lot of stuff has been said and hopefully now the bridge has been built and there’s water under those bridges,” he told BBC Three Counties Radio.

“This is how we move forward and the fans play a huge part.

“Imagine if there were 10,000 in here seeing that kind of performance, the place would have erupted and I’m not sure the foundations would have taken it.”

‘I’d rather the fans get behind the team’

2,000 Charlton fans were allowed in to The Valley to see their 1-0 League One defeat by MK Dons on Wednesday
2,000 Charlton fans were allowed in to The Valley to see their 1-0 League One defeat by MK Dons on Wednesday

In League One, the Charlton fans in attendance at The Valley saw their side miss the chance to keep pace at the top of the table as they slipped to a 1-0 defeat by MK Dons.

Addicks boss Bowyer did not receive the raucous reception that Jones experienced, however.

“I’m pleased to see the fans back in. (But) I would have liked it to have been a bit more positive from the fans,” Bowyer told BBC Radio London.

“They’ve been away for so long I’d rather them get behind the team and try and get them going.

“I’d rather they be back in because we’ve missed them, but I wish they were a little more vocal on helping the lads.”

Despite his criticism, Bowyer conceded that fans do add something extra to the footballing experience.

“Since this virus has come, we’ve missed them [the fans] up and down the country not just at home as well,” he added.

“I expect things to go back to normal soon I hope and even if we climb to 5,000 or 7,500 I don’t know how it will work but we miss them and they are a massive part of the game.

“You don’t realise how much you miss them until they’re gone.”



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