Nathan Jones is following a strong Welsh tradition at Stoke City. Five of the last nine managers appointed at the Bet365 Stadium have been from Wales.
Tony Pulis, the boyhood Cardiff City fan from Newport now in charge at Middlesbrough, had two spells in charge at Stoke, while Mark Hughes, from Ruabon on North Wales, had five years at the helm.
Eddie Niedzwiecki was also in charge at the Potteries club, albeit in a caretaker capacity.
Jones, the boy from Blaenrhondda, has no doubts about his ability to become a success in his new job.
HIs faith as a Born Again Christian plays a massive role in his life and Jones says: “This is not a job for me, it’s a lifestyle. The fans will see that.
“We will put a side out there the club will be proud of. Hard working and talented. We will play in a certain way which we will work religiously on.
“Along the way there will be some ups and downs, hopefully plenty of ups.
“I want to be a top, top manager. I don’t want to be mediocre and scratch around for jobs. I want to be World class.
“I work 10 to 11 hours every day. I’m as highly qualified as it’s possible to be. I sacrifice massive parts of my life to learn as much as I can.
“I want to be a great manager and I won’t stop working towards that until I either achieve it or die.”
Jones has signed a three-and-a-half-year contract at Stoke, moving on from Luton Town after steering the Hatters into second place in League One.
He grew up in a small coal mining community in Blaenrhondda – ‘a Welsh mining community with a post office, a pub and six chapels.”
Jones was brought up in the Christian faith and embraced it.
Left-back Jones came through the youth development system at Cardiff – the Bluebirds were his schoolboy heroes – but did not make a first team appearance and signed for Merthyr Tydfil in 1993.
He then spent a year at Luton before joining Spanish Second Division side Badajoz. After 21 appearances, he dropped a division to join Numancia, helping them earn promotion in 1996-97.
Jones later played for Southend United, Brighton – earning promotion three times with the Seagulls – and Yeovil.
His professional playing career lasted more than 20 years before he called a halt six years ago and moved into coaching with Charlton’s development squad and then Brighton.
Jones’ first management position was at Luton and he enjoyed huge success with his attacking style at Kenilworth Road, guiding the Hatters to promotion from League Two and into they are currently in the League One promotion places.
He has religious tattoos daubed all over his body. Jesus on his shoulder, the cross, an angel, part of the Sistine Chapel across his back; of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam, illustrating the Book of Genesis in which God gives life to man.
“I’m proud of Christianity and I show that,” he says. “Galatians (ninth book of the New Testament) says the marks on my body show I belong to God and that’s why I have them.
“I don’t look back and think, I could’ve been this or that. I’ve surpassed any dream I ever had and I’m blessed, and in God’s will I did those things. If I hadn’t done all of those things, who’s to say if I’d be here?”
Jones is fluent in three languages – English, Welsh and Spanish.
When an opportunity arose in Spain, at Numancia, he turned to God and said, ‘Show me if this is the right move’.
He had a feeling it was, improved as a footballer and learned to speak Spanish.
“Almost 20 years later, he made the first big move in his coaching career, joining Brighton as assistant manager to Oscar Garcia.
“One of the reasons I got the job is because I spoke Spanish,” he says.
“I’ve never made a bad decision in my career. I have made a few in my life, but never in my career.
“I’ve done everything with God and followed his word.
“Others will say it’s your gut feeling. No it’s not: it’s the feeling I get from my faith in God. I believe that he guides me. Kept me safe, blessed me with so much.”
Jones finds that football can make practising his faith harder. The frequent moving from place to place, demands of the game and never-ending nature of being a manager.
“In football, there are a lot of temptations,” he says. “My faith has enabled me to stay somewhat on a straight-and-narrow path or enabled me to come quickly back to the straight-and-narrow if I’ve strayed.
“It’s given me a strength and faith to try and do things and be the best I can.
“To keep a group of 27 testosterone-filled, egotistical footballers happy is nigh on impossible. To keep their respect and to keep their focus, that’s the thing I have to concentrate on. If I’m treating someone unfairly, I can’t ask them to respond to me. Christianity enables me to be honest, have an equilibrium and be a manager they might not like, but respect.”
One of the best days in Jones’ playing career was a 1-0 play-off final victory over Bristol City at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
The match was played on a Sunday and his mother, Margaret, opted to keep the Sabbath holy and stay at home rather than join the 65,000 crowd – even though she lives only 20 miles away in Blaenrhondda.
“My mum decided to stay at home,” said Jones. “She was delighted we won promotion.
“We are a close-knit family and she could have been any not have been any prouder of me.
“My father, David, was at the stadium to watch the game.
Leon Knight’s 84th-minute penalty gave Brighton victory plus promotion and Jones said: “It really was a dream come true for me.
“We played inside a magnificent stadium in Cardiff which is more or less my home town.”
Jones, who puts unlimited amounts of passion and pride into life in management, took his first training session and took his first press conference at Stoke City on Thursday.
He was on a break in Brighton when he first heard from Stoke early this week and drove up for talks, saying: “It was a whirlwind – and that’s an under statement.
“It was not an easy decision. Luton is a wonderful club, a wonderful place. Leaving was a real wrench.
“I knew it would take something special and when this job came up it was clearly too good to turn down.
“It became the right decision, but not an easy one. I have left luton with a heavy heart because i love that club.
“There is a good tradition of Welsh managers at Stoke City and I hope that continues. The fans here are magnificent and my intention is to quickly build a rapport with them.
“I have no doubts Stoke can be a phenomenal club.”