The Luton Town Story – From Non-League Oblivion to Premier League

Via: Luton Town FC

Kenilworth Road will be a Premier League stadium for the 2023-24 season. The stadium in Bedfordshire, with a seating capacity of slightly more than 10,000 has not seen top-flight football since Luton Town got relegated from the old First Division in the 1991-92 season. This will be The Hatters’ first Premier League appearance since they were relegated from the top flight the season before the advent of the new league.


Luton’s journey since then

 The 138-year-old club, formed on April 1885, became the first to be relegated from the top flight, going all the way down to Non-League, and then make a comeback to the top division. It has been some journey for the Orange Brigade.


What is League and Non-League Football?

The English football pyramid is perhaps the most deeply rooted pyramid in the world, which goes down all the way to a 20th tier. The English Premier League sits at the top, featuring the big guns like Manchester United, City, Chelsea, and Arsenal.

The English Football League (EFL) Championship is the second tier which was the first tier till 1992, when the EPL was formed. Going down the pyramid, it is League One and League Two that make up the third and  fourth tiers. These top four levels of the pyramid make the English Football League, and are referred to as League Football, governed directly the English Football Association.

Down the pyramid, the National League sits at the fifth level of English football pyramid and is the top tier of Non-League football. This system is marked by ‘Steps’, and the National League, the fifth tier, marks the first one in the Non-League structure. Further down the steps, the leagues get divided into counties, and there are several parallel leagues in the same step.

 Since the time they got relegated to the old second division, life has not been easy for Luton. With financial difficulties, during the 2007-2009 phase, Luton suffered successive relegations which saw them go down to the fifth tier from the second.

Luton played Non-League football for five seasons and finally, in the 2013-14 season, The Hatters were back in League Football, winning the National Conference League (5th Tier) with three games to spare. Luton then played three years in League Two, until they finished second in the 2017-18 season, and were promoted back to League One (3rd Tier).

A second successive promotion saw Luton back to the EFL Championship (2nd Tier), after winning League One in 2018-19. They were back in the Championship after 12 years. In the 2021-22 season, Luton came close to a play-off final, but Huddersfield Town got the better of them in the semi-final, and the promotion hopes were gone.

Rob Edwards, the former Wolverhampton Wanderers centre-back, took charge of Luton Town for the 2022-23 season, and made his mark in his first season at Kenilworth Road, guiding The Hatters to the Premier League for the first time.

Rob Edwards (Via: Luton Town FC)

A brief recap of the match

 It was almost a full house at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, May 27, with the official attendance being 85,711, an incredible number for a Championship Final. The stakes were equally high for both sides. Aside from the prospect of silverware and promotion, there were the monetary windfalls; much required one for both the sides.

The Hatters got off to a worrisome start as Tom Lockyer, their star defender, had to be stretchered off after collapsing without anyone near him. He was taken to the hospital immediately for medical assistance, but Luton didn’t let the incident bother them much. Just 23 minutes on the clock, and Jordan Clark, the Luton winger, broke the deadlock with a powerful left-footed finish at the near post. Luton dominated the first half and led 1-0 at the break.

Gustavo Hamer, Coventry’s Brazilian-Dutch midfielder, equalised with a stunning shot from a counterattack down the left wing in the 66th minute. The match was an even contest between the two sides, and 90 minutes were not enough to decide the winner. Right at the end of the second half of extra-time, Luton found the back of the net but VAR came into play and gave Coventry a lifeline.

Penalties! Both teams were determined not to miss and after five shots each, it was 5-5.

After Dan Potts converted the first one for Luton in sudden death, it was down to Fankaty Dabo, the Coventry defender, to keep their hopes alive. But he hit it wide to send Luton to the Premier League for the first time in their history.


About Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu

Just like Jamie Vardy, Mpanzu’s has been an amazing story. Vardy started his career way down in the eighth tier of English Football, at Stocksbridge Park Steels, after being rejected by Sheffield Wednesday, his boyhood club. He then went all the way up to the Premier League and ultimately won it in 2016.

Mpanzu’s story is as unique. The DR Congo international joined Luton on loan in November 2013, when they were a National League [then Conference League] side. He signed a permanent deal with the Hatters in 2014 and has been at Kenilworth Road since.

With this latest victory, Mpanzu became the only player in England to have gone up from the Non-League to the Premier League with the same club.

Earlier, Brett Ormerod, the Blackpool forward, held this record of playing in the top four levels of English football for the same club. If Mpanzu makes an appearance next season for Luton, he would have gone one step further.

Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu (Via: Luton Town FC)

The Monetary Gains

 According to Deloitte, the accountancy firm, Luton Town would receive a sum of £170 million over three seasons, broken down into media and broadcast rights and parachute payments. The sum might go up to £290 million if they manage to stay up in the upcoming season. For a club that has gone through serious financial crises in the past decade, that also cost them a 30-point deduction one season, even the thought of such a humongous sum would keep the boys awake for a few nights.


The Kenilworth Road Stadium

 Perhaps the most unique venue that Premier League fans will experience in the upcoming season. With just over 10,000 seats, Luton’s home ground, Kenilworth Road, needs some serious renovation. Reports say that it would require the Hatters’ management to spend around £15 million to bring the stadium to the Premier League’s safety requirement standards.

The entry to The Oak Stand of the stadium has really made for some viral social-media posts over the last couple of days. It is just adjacent to an array of houses in the Bedfordshire community. Just imagine walking through your neighbourhood lanes, and watching the likes of Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne, Bruno Fernandes, or Mo Salah playing almost on your doorstep.

Views from Oak Stand, Kenilworth Road Stadium (Via: Twitter)

It has been some journey for The Hatters in the last decade, and I, for one, am really excited to see them play their first Premier League game. I remember playing League Two with Luton Town in FIFA 15 manager mode and getting them promoted to the Premier League. Little did I imagine that one day, I would see it happen in real life. Kudos to The Hatters, and best wishes for the upcoming season.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *