Luton Town is a club located in Luton, Bedfordshire, England. They were established in 1885 and go by the nickname "The Hatters" because the town has long been associated with the hat manufacturing industry. Since 1905 they have held home games at Kenilworth Road, their home turf, and the stadium hasn’t been renovated since 1985 causing the layout of the stadium to be off-brand and the entrance of the stadium to be inside houses which have become an attraction after the club was promoted to the premier league. The club has experienced multiple financial difficulties, numerous promotions, and relegations, as well as only one significant prize success, the Football League Cup. Luton Town was able to remain in the First Division between 1983-1995 (Premier League) until their relegation at the conclusion of the 1994-1995 campaign. The team dropped from the second tier of English football to the fifth in each of the seasons from 2007 to 2009 due to financial issues. In the 2008–09 season, the last of these relegations occurred after a 30-point penalty for financial irregularities bringing the team to rock bottom and the worst it’s ever been. Luton ended up playing semi-pro football from 2009-2014 and many people thought Luton Town wouldn't be able to come back from its downfall, but they did, and in this article I am going to show you how they managed to climb they were way back to the premier league.
Fourth Division Nightmare
Luton Town managed to come back to the fourth division in the season 2013-14 where they left the 5th division and managed to return to professional football after 4 years in the semi-pro league. Luton Town in the past two decades had had a nightmare, and the promotion to the fourth division was a sense of hope for the fans. After a long time gone from professional leagues Luton Town was predicted that year to end up in the bottom of the league, but proved everybody wrong when they finished 8th in the first season back to the fourth division, almost making it to the playoffs, only three points off from 7th which would have guaranteed them in the playoffs.
In the next year, Luton looked like they were ready to bump up into the third division again, but that’s not what happened, as Luton ended up still being stuck in the fourth division. The financial issues were starting to become problematic since the team couldn’t reinforce themselves and create a competitive team good enough to give this extra push. In the season 2014-2015, they ended up 7th again and in the 2015-2016 edition, they failed to obtain the goal of being promoted to the third division, as this time they ended up in the 11th position, not even close to making it to the playoffs. The fans didn’t give up though, as they saw their club making it back to the elite of English football. Pelly Ruddock, a current player of Luton Town said in 2015-16: “I believe in this club, there is a reason why I've been in this club since 2013 and I believe in our promotion”.
In the next year, many people expected a catastrophe for Luton Town. They predicted that they would end up in the lower part of the table, but this season Luton was different, and they managed to maintain good results on their home turf and have a good performance away from home which last year was one of the reasons why Luton Town had fallen so far from the playoffs. These good results gave them by the end of the season the 4th position, which was one position away from direct promotion and unfortunately for The Hatters, this meant that they would have to play the playoffs. Even though Luton didn’t get the direct promotion they were the favorites to win the playoffs and would face Blackpool, a team that managed to qualify for the playoffs in the last round, but Blackpool in the first game of the semifinal beat Luton 3-2 and in the second game Luton fought but the end result of the second game was 3-3, which lead to an aggregate of 6-5 in favor of Blackpool, leaving the fans heartbroken and continuing the nightmare. Or did it?
In the 2017-18 season, Luton Town was inspired. After the heartbreak elimination, the team and the fans felt more than motivated, they were ecstatic. The smell of promotion manifested through the club and with this Luton began to strive and accumulate points especially at home in Kenilworth Road the end of the season after many years stuck in the fourth division, Luton Town overcame the nightmare and was promoted directly to the third division in 2nd place, only 5 points away from Accrington Stanley.
Third Division Miracle
In the 2018-19 season Luton Town felt like a massive underdog in the third division (EFL League One), and with the competition only having three promotion spots many predicted that “The Hatters” would be stuck in this division. The opponents were tough: Sunderland, a team that was recently in the Premier League in the 2015-16 season that had dropped to the third division. Barnsley was also a tough opposition that had been close to the promotion to the second division, and the odds were not in favor of The Hatters, but they would try, as the team was already relieved after being back in the third division, so they would play with no pressure and with that a miracle happened: Luton Town started to play the best it’s ever played and outshining clubs which had chances of promotion like Sunderland. Kenilworth Road was one of the main reasons for this success. The Hatters hadn’t lost one game at Kenilworth and looked like they were on track for getting promoted, but no one expected that Luton was going to maintain this steady performance. Away game results started to improve, which caught everybody by surprise. When everybody thought Luton Town was going to slow down they picked up a pace where they would fight for the title and in the last rounds had real chances of winning the third division, this outstanding performance showed the potential and prospects of Luton Town in the English leagues. Luton Town only had Barnsley to compete with for the title, and Luton needed to keep winning to win the title. Over the season, Luton still hadn’t lost in Kenilworth Road and that didn’t change, as Luton kept winning and Barnsley started to draw and lose at the final stages. Luton Town were champions of The EFL League One not losing one game in Kenilworth Road, and the fans couldn’t believe what had just happened. Luton was one of the worst teams in terms of money in the third division. Pelly Ruddock had made history for the club and post promotion to the second division said that he aimed for the Premier League promotion and that he would be there when it happened. Pelly Ruddock was an idol now, he believed in the club from the start when Luton Town was in the semi-pro league and has made it all the way to the second division, as now his face was stamped in the front of the stadium and was seen as a star for the club. With all this hype Luton Town was ready for the new season and even the fans were excited to return to the stadium to support their beloved club, but the pandemic said otherwise.
The climb to The Elite of English Football
In the season 2019-2020 Luton Town struggled a lot in adapting to the second division, and in the second term of the season, they struggled even more because of lockdown. Without their supporters, Luton lost the fire they had and didn’t manage to accumulate significant points, and was almost relegated to the third division. The competition in the second division (Championship) was incomparable to the teams in the EFL League One, as the teams in the Championship were almost elite level proving to be a problem in the limited squad of Luton Town, as the financial issues proved to become a problem now. Because of the pandemic, Luton wasn’t able to gain a lot of income because of the lack of earnings from tickets sold to watch the games which was one of the main sources of income for the club.
In the 2020-21 season, Luton didn’t have the same hype as they had in their last season, as The Hatters would still start the season without their fans. With this, many expected another slow start for Luton as they would struggle with a worse team and no supporters to motivate them. Indeed the start of the season wasn’t the best, but soon Luton started to pick up the pace. Away wins helped to maintain the team in the middle of the table during the season which was a success as the club would reach its objective of not getting relegated. At the start of 2021, slowly, but surely fans started to come back and motivate the team. Luton would go on and have a better season, finishing 12th and showing significant adaptation to the standards of the second division, but this wasn’t enough for Luton Town to be promoted anytime soon, but then something sparked as their biggest weapon had been unleashed, Kenilworth Road.
As Kenilworth Road reopened its doors The Hatters would regain its biggest strength, its fans. Even though Luton finished 12th last season, the supporters were confident, as they saw the sudden improvement from the 19th position to the 12th position last season. The 2021-22 season looked promising as many teams looked fragile. The teams that got relegated from the Premier League had horrible performances in the 2020-21 season. The three demoted teams (West Brom, Fulham, and Sheffield United) were not able to reach 30 points in the entire season. This season was unpredictable, anyone could take the promotion spots. When the season started The Hatters had a promising start being able to surprise opponents and beating strong teams like West Brom. Even though Luton was playing well, teams like Fulham and Bournemouth were having a perfect season winning most of their games throughout the beginning of the season. Other teams like Nottingham Forrest would also surprise as they were finally getting back to their roots, and being able to win unexpected games, all these teams looked strong. But so did Luton as they would have great chances of making it to the playoffs by the end of the season. Luton Town in their last games managed to keep up the form and make it to the playoffs. This was it, Luton Town had made it to the playoffs, the sheer progress they made throughout the last years was all down to this. The Hatters were going to face the strong Huddersfield, another team that had an amazing season and ended up 7 points ahead of Luton.
It was time for Luton Town to finally make it back to the elite of English football after 2 decades. Luton played the first game at home in Kenilworth Road where they were so proficient throughout the season. Even though this was a good sign, Huddersfield was holding the urge of being promoted back to the first division and had a good team that proved that they were more than capable of going back to the elite of English football. This was a tough game for The Hatters. When the game started Luton Town was overwhelmed by Huddersfield and in no time Huddersfield scored the first goal making the score 1-0 for Huddersfield, panicking the fans at Kenilworth Road as they saw their team not react inside the field, but the players of Luton Town didn’t feel any pressure as they responded right back finishing consecutively at the goal of Huddersfield until in the 30th minute of the game where Luton Town scored and made it even. The game soon evened out as both teams had great chances, but not good enough to uneven the scores, and the game ended 1-1 in the first game. The second game was away from home, this time without the fans. The game started and both teams tried their best, and The Hatters were playing a fantastic game, where they were creating clear chances of goal, but because of the unbreakable defense Luton wasn’t able to score as the end of the game was nearing and it looked like it was heading towards penalties until the 82nd minute, where Huddersfield had a foul, as the player crossed the ball it looked like the ball was going out of play, but out of nowhere the leg of the Huddersfield player broke through and he got a slight touch which was enough to put the ball in the back of the net. In the end, Luton had a fantastic run, but by a few wins didn’t manage to achieve glory. However, after this improvement promotion was soon to be achieved.
In the recent 2022-23 season Luton Town was fired up and the fans were confident in the promotion, since after 22 years of dreaming with this promotion fans from all over England would fill Kenilworth Road this season as Luton Town was so close to reaching glory again. The promotion was so important for young fans, especially those who have never seen the team they love compete in the highest division and the toughest league of all Europe. The Hatters still didn’t have one of the best teams of the second division, the team at the start of the Championship was the 7th most expensive due to the financial issues that Luton Town never recovered from, therefore some players like Pelly Ruddock stayed in the club, but had become a club hero. The Hatters had a huge chance, but the only issue was that the Championship was stronger than ever, teams that have been years in the Premier League like Burnley fell to the second division in the 21-22 season, and Watford was another strong team, a team that consistently manages to play the 1st division. With all these strong teams the Championship was going to be difficult this year. Luton Town began their journey in the Championship that year and started with good results, convincing wins that gave confidence to the team throughout the competition. Away games were an improved factor of this new Luton Town, the squad had incredible results away from home which helped in gaining more points in this season. Luton Town looked way better than last year, more confident disposed in games and focused, and looked strong as a team, but Burnley and Sheffield United proved to everyone that they deserved the two direct promotion spots, 2nd place Sheffield United finished with 91 points a campaign worthy of the Championship title, but Burnley did even better and finished the competition with 101 points losing only 3 games out of 46. Luton Town missed out on the direct promotion this year by 11 points, Luton finished in the impressive 3rd position with 80 points and would have to play the playoffs again this season to gain access to the Premier League. It had happened again, The Hatters were only a few games away from glory and in last season the club and their fans were scarred from the elimination in the playoffs last season. Luton was going to face Sunderland in a series of two games to see who would go to the final.
Sunderland Semi-Final Playoffs 22-23
The first game was going to be in the Stadium of Light, Sunderland’s home ground, the team was confident because in the season they had excellent away results. When the game started Sunderland started attacking and created promising chances in the first 10 minutes, but after a good run down the wing by Jordan Clark, Luton was able to get a corner after an attempted cross. To take the corner was Jordan Clark again. Clark crossed the ball and Adebayo managed to head it into the area, but the header was soft and the ball was loose in the box, as the ball came down the player from Sunderland tried to control the ball but missed it and the ball was left with Luton Town striker and after a strong volley defended by the Sunderland goalkeeper the ball rebounded to the prolific striker from The Hatters, Adebayo, who drilled the ball in the net, 1-0 to Luton Town. With the score being 1-0 to The Hatters Sunderland suddenly came alive and so did their key player Amad Diallo. After a good run from Diallo, Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu tackled Diallo giving Sunderland a foul. As the referee blew his whistle it looked like the ball was too far away to shoot and Luton assumed that Sunderland was going to cross the ball, but that’s not what happened. Pritchard, a Sunderland player, rolled the ball for Diallo and with a fantastic strike scored a goal 30 meters away from the goal equalizing the game. With this goal, Sunderland would be motivated for the second half. At the beginning of the second half Sunderland was fearless, they attacked and dominated Luton and created clear chances of scoring. In the 69th minute Sunderland had a corner which was taken short, after a few passes Sunderland was able to find a space to cross the ball, and with that Luton’s defence positioned itself for a floating cross, but caught by surprise the Sunderland player crossed a drilled shot and Trai Hume was able to get ahead of his marker and score, 2-1 for Sunderland. Throughout the rest of the game, Sunderland dominated and the final score was 2-1. This result scared the fans, but it actually would motivate the fans more as the tickets for the second game were sold out.
In the second game, Luton Town was down by 1 goal, and in order to go to the final would need to win by a difference of 2 goals. With this in my mind, Luton was ready to put pressure on and use the amazing atmosphere created by the fans to help them to get to the final. When the game began Luton applied imaginable pressure not allowing Sunderland to breathe and after a loose pass from Sunderland Luton was able to get the ball and get a corner. As the cross came in Adebayo, Luton Town’s striker was able to escape from the marker and head the ball down, and with a bit of luck from a ricochet the ball fell in front of Osho, another striker from Luton who shot it from close range under the legs of the goalkeeper to tie the score in aggregate 2-2 and giving the lead to Luton in the game. Now Luton only needed a goal, but the game started to get insane. After the goal, Sunderland got a corner where the ball was crossed and the striker of Sunderland got ahead of the ball and put it in the direction of the goal where Ethan Horvath, the goalkeeper of Luton saved it off the line. After this scare, Luton put pressure and created many good chances, but after a cleared corner from Sunderland the ball returned to Luton where they put a poisonous cross in the area, and after a flying header from the Luton Town defender Tom Lockyer Luton where ahead in the aggregate 3-2 in the 43rd minute of the first half leaving this moment as the final of the first half. As the second half began Luton kept pressuring, something Sunderland didn’t expect as Luton was winning and getting to the final. Because of this Luton had more clear chances like a 1v1 against the keeper which was wasted by the Luton Town player. Sunderland only responded in the end with two good opportunities but didn’t manage to get through and Luton made it to the final of the playoffs.
Coventry City Playoff Final 22-23
Luton had made it to the final game, one win off the Premier League. They were facing another wildcard Coventry City, and the game was in the most important stadium in England, Wembley. 38,000 Hatters fans came to London to watch their team in the final. It was time, the referee blew his whistle for the last 90 minutes of Luton Town this season. Luton started off putting pressure and scored, but because Mpanzu was offside the goal was disallowed, Luton kept applying the pressure and after a loose ball and Adebayo managed to gain control of the ball with class applying all of his ability to make a fantastic play and supply John Clark with a miraculous pass. Clark with a great touch got away from his marker and drilled the ball to the back of the net to make it 1-0 to Luton. Luton kept pressing after the goal and made another good play and scored again, but the goal was disallowed because of a handball and with that the first half was over Luton looked strong and confident, but this soon changed as Luton would look nervous at the beginning of the second half missing easy passes and giving lots of opportunities for Coventry. In a quick counter-attack Coventry evened the score with a well-placed shot, 1-1. The rest of the second half was even, as both teams wouldn’t create good chances and the game headed to extra time. In the first half of extra time, Coventry started strong, but that was grounded as Luton created great chances after, but nothing that the Coventry defence couldn’t handle. In the second half, it looked the same, but nerves started to affect the players of Coventry as one of the defenders gave the ball to Joe Taylor who was left in a 1v1 against the goalkeeper and with precision placed it underneath the keeper and probably settling the playoff final until VAR appeared and showed clearly a handball of Joe Taylor when he controlled the ball, the score was kept 1-1 and the game went to penalties.
As the penalties started all the players looked well prepared as both teams scored their penalties with precision, one player scored and then the opponent would score. The goalkeepers weren't able to predict their opponent's penalties until the score was 5-5 in penalties. Up to the penalty spot was Dan Potts, the captain of Luton Town. He stepped up and sent the ball to one side and the goalkeeper to the other, 6-5 to Luton. Coventry City was up next with Dabo and as he shot the ball Horvath dived the correct direction and was ready to make the save, the only issue is that the ball was going up and Horvath dived low, but as the ball gained momentum soon it was visible that Dabo had shot the ball out of the direction of the goal, as the ball went over the post, Luton Town players burst into tears and joy as they saw their team make history, after 22 years of fighting in the lower leagues of English Football, Luton Town was finally back to the elite of English Football. Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu was a player that had experienced the whole journey. Mpanzu was the first player to go from the 5th division to the 1st division with the same club, a true club hero, he became a fan of the club throughout this adventure and still wants to achieve more in the club and is ready to face the difficulties of playing the premier league.
In the end, Luton Town was able to gain their deserved promotion after a thrilling journey, and the man who experienced everything Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu was the first player to ever make it from the 5th division to the 1st in the same team and will forever be remembered, as he would represent the club and their fans, a team that never gave up even when the odds were against them. Kenilworth Road will have to be reformed for Premier League regulations which say that stadiums have to have at least 40 thousand seats, but I hope they don’t get rid of the tradition of the stadium and fully rebrand it because a lot of important moments have occurred in that stadium.